Mike Pence is in distress. According to the New York Times, the vice president faces a personal and professional dilemma heading into Wednesday’s pro forma counting of the Electoral College vote in the Senate:
One person close to Mr. Pence described Wednesday’s duties as gut-wrenching, saying that he would need to balance the president’s misguided beliefs about government with his own years of preaching deference to the Constitution.
Oh my God, you poor thing. Is Mike Pence going to be okay? Does he need some Tylenol? A hot bath?
The vice president’s task here is easy: opening envelopes certifying the winner of an election in which one candidate won 74 more electoral votes and 7 million more popular votes than the other. It is an astonishingly straightforward task, like looking at the scoreboard and trying to determine if Alabama beat Notre Dame. There’s nothing especially unusual about this year’s election results, other than the fact that lots of people are pretending there is because the results made them sad.
But because Trump is both stupid and deeply cynical, he has tried to overturn the election results in a slapstick but persistent fashion—sometimes by trying to stop the counting of votes and sometimes by imploring others to “find” votes and sometimes by trying to throw out whole batches of already-counted votes because they were not cast for him. His allies argued in court that the entire commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s votes should be tossed—citizens there would just have to sit out this election so the results could have “integrity,” sort of like how they restarted the NBA season last summer without the Knicks. Now, having exhausted all other avenues with such authoritarian flatulence, Trump wants Pence to magically conjure a different result on Wednesday.
This situation has nothing to do with “balance.” It’s a choice between the routine and the unconscionable, between getting on the train or pushing someone onto the tracks. It’s true that Wednesday’s situation is complicated by Pence’s own desire to be president, but perhaps someone who finds this situation at all complicated should reconsider that line of work. Some person close to Mike Pence told the New York Times this is a gut-wrenching moment for him, and the harshest thing I could ever say about the vice president is that it genuinely is.