Mike Pence has kept a fairly low profile since a mob of his old boss’s supporters hunted him through the U.S. Capitol.
But he returned to the spotlight on Wednesday to push the conspiracy that inspired a pro-Trump mob to sack Congress in the first place: That the 2020 election was marred “by significant voting irregularities.”
Pence published an op-ed in The Daily Signal, a website run by the conservative Heritage Foundation, that attacks a bill congressional Democrats have proposed that would expand voting access across the country.
And while he never claims in the article that election fraud cost him and President Trump the election, Pence repeatedly pushes the argument that state-level changes to voting rules to make it easier for their citizens to vote because of the coronavirus pandemic marred the 2020 election.
“Many of the most troubling voting irregularities took place in states that set aside laws enacted by state legislatures in favor of sweeping changes ordered by governors, secretaries of state, and courts,” Pence writes. “While legislators in many states have begun work on election reform to restore public confidence in state elections, unfortunately, congressional Democrats have chosen to sweep those valid concerns and reforms aside and to push forward a brazen attempt to nationalize elections in blatant disregard of the U.S. Constitution.”
The piece is Pence’s first in a series of monthly columns for the Daily Signal. The former vice president is an adviser to the Heritage Foundation. Itcomes eight weeks to the day after Pence and his family had to flee the Senate floor and hide out in the Capitol as a violent pro-Trump mob chanting “hang Mike Pence” stormed the building.
That mob had been incited by Trump and his allies, who continue to claim that widespread voter fraud cost him the election. But they’ve been abetted by more establishment-leaning conservatives who, like Pence, argue that the expansion of mail voting access in some states, sometimes ordered by courts or mandated on an emergency basis by governors without a change to state law, violated the sanctity of the election.
That argument is more based in reality than the unfounded lies spouted by Trump, but it helps shore up Trump’s lie that there was widespread voter fraud during the 2020 election, and contributes to the reason why polls show three quarters of Republicans believe the election was stolen from Trump.
The claim that access to voting in 2020 was expanded unlawfully has helped unite conspiracy-theory touting hardliners and more establishment Republicans. They’ve joined together to push a raft of state-level legislation that’s aimed at making it harder to vote in the next elections. These proposals include the elimination of mail voting, cuts to early-voting periods and new onerous voter identification laws—all moves aimed at depressing minority and Democratic turnout disproportionately.
The bill that congressional Democrats are currently pushing would prohibit some of these restrictions and create a more uniform national standard for voting legislation, setting more rules for how states run their elections, limit gerrymandering and preventing state-level attempts at GOP voter suppression. Republicans gripe that this is a violation of states’ rights. The bill will likely pass the House when it gets a vote today, but has almost zero chance of passing in the closely divided Senate, where it would need 60 votes because of the filibuster. Democrats have just 50 seats.
Pence is more than happy to push the flimsy claim that national voting laws would “increase opportunities for election fraud, trample the First Amendment, further erode confidence in our elections, and forever dilute the votes of legally qualified eligible voters.”
Pence refused to plunge America into an actual constitutional crisis when he rebuffed Trump’s demand that he reject multiple states’ electoral college votes for Biden on Jan. 6. That put his life in danger. And he appeared at Biden’s swearing-in ceremony, helping lend credibility to the (somewhat) peaceful transition of power.
But Pence’s op-ed shows how the difference between the pro-Constitution conservatives and those willing to back an all-out coup attempt for Trump can be papered over pretty easily. And it proves that as Pence looks to stay relevant in the modern Republican Party, with an eye on a potential 2024 presidential run, he’s willing to play footsie with the elements of the party that were calling for his head just a few weeks ago.