“It is my considered judgment that my oath to support and defend the Constitution constrains me from claiming unilateral authority to determine which electoral votes should be counted and which should not,” Mike Pence declared, in a statement Wednesday.
His remarks came just minutes after Donald Trump told a crowd that he would “never” concede to Joe Biden and that Pence “has to come through for us.”
Alas, Pence did not — “come through for us,” that is. Or at least not if “us” means the minority of Americans and handful of lawmakers who suggested the vice president could effectively override voters and choose the nation’s leader himself.
In the lengthy statement (above), Pence explicitly rebuked Trump. “Vesting the Vice President with unilateral authority to decide presidential contests would be entirely antithetical to that design,” he said, referencing the Founders’ vision for the country. “As a student of history who loves the Constitution and revers its Framers, I do not believe that the Founders… intended to invest the Vice President with unilateral authority… and no Vice President in American history has ever asserted such authority.”
By all accounts, it’s astounding that it came to that — that the vice president had to issue a statement affirming that the Founders would not approve of a scenario where the president’s deputy was allowed to unilaterally decide the outcome of an election. In addition to being wholly contrary to the spirit of the Revolution itself, an election to decide the next occupant of the White House is no “election” at all if the current administration can simply declare it void.
And yet, at the same time, it’s astounding that Pence mustered the courage to issue the statement that he did. Just Tuesday, Trump insisted Pence was on board with the notion of deciding the election unilaterally. “The Vice President and I are in total agreement that [he] has the power to act,” Trump claimed. “Our Vice President… can decertify the results or send them back to the states for change and certification.”
He reiterated those sentiments in front of thousands of fans, huddled on the Ellipse south of the White House Wednesday. “I hope Mike is going to do the right thing. If Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election,” Trump said.
That’s a strange definition of “win” vis-à-vis an “election.” It’s not an “election” if one person decides it. You can’t “win” an “election” by reference to your own decree. That’s a contradiction in terms.
On what was a truly historic day for the world’s foremost democracy, it’s imperative that everyone, no matter your party affiliation or your affinity for Trump and Trumpism, acknowledge that the president attempted to institute an autocratic regime in America following the election. It’s now impossible to suggest otherwise. It’s also not accurate to call that a partisan assessment. It’s just a fact.
Trump dropped all pretenses over the past several weeks. He directly pressured state legislators, he called Georgia officials on a recorded line and demanded they “find” enough votes to flip the state in his favor, and, finally, he explicitly asked the vice president to unilaterally overturn the election, and boasted about doing so before a crowd of thousands gathered in the nation’s capital. See for yourself (video below).
“Mike Pence, I hope you’re gonna stand up for the good of our Constitution and for the good of our country,” Trump boomed, as Pence gathered with Nancy Pelosi to begin the certification process for Biden’s win, which was delayed Wednesday for debate thanks to objections from lawmakers loyal to the president.
“And if you’re not, I’m going to be very disappointed in you, I will tell you right now,” Trump added, in a veiled threat to Pence. “I’m not hearing good stories.”