Who Really Inspired Mike Pence To Defy Donald Trump?

Even nine months and counting since ex-President Donald Trump bid his reluctant adieu to the White House, it's been somewhat hard to discern where former Vice President Mike Pence, Trump's evangelical-flavored, (comparative) GOP traditionalist has fallen within the dyed-in-the-wool Republican MAGA subset. For many political spectators, it can be difficult to figure out whether Pence would rather be grouped with the Lindsey Grahams and other Trumpers of his party, or if he'd prefer to distance himself from the circles of his former boss.

Following the end of the Trump administration — one which occurred only two weeks after the January 6 Capitol Hill insurrection, which began soon after Pence ratified the November 2020 election results — Pence seemingly sent himself into a self-imposed exile in his home state of Indiana. He rarely made public appearances (compared to the seemingly constant rallies that Trump has done). And he's sent mixed messages regarding the imminent threat of danger the January 6 rioters personally posed. Perhaps a better indication of where Pence's feelings fall could be gleaned from an answer he gave during a Q&A following his latest public address, which the one-time VP delivered in November at the University of Iowa. In his response, Pence also indicated a figure from U.S. history who, per Pence, has been a guiding light since the twilight of his White House term.

Mike Pence cited former U.S. President James Madison as an inspiration

As USA Today reported on November 2, Mike Pence was quick to answer a question lobbed by an Iowa City speaking event attendee who, under the auspices of Donald Trump's widely debunked election fraud misinformation campaign, asked Pence the identity of the person who had persuaded Pence "to buck President Trump's plan and certify the votes." Wasting no time with conspiracy theories, Pence indeed gave a name — albeit an unexpected one. 

"James Madison," answered Pence, a response which was, as USA Today noted, received with cheering. Pence then launched into a succinct explainer. "I understand the disappointment in the election," Pence continued. "You might remember I was on the ballot. But you've got to be willing to do your duty. And the time may come that some of you are in that position, or one like it. And I just have a feeling based on the shining faces I'm seeing around here you're going to be men and women who do your duty in that time as well." 

Pence's answer could have feasibly referred to Madison's role as the drafter of the Constitution. However, it also could have been a nod to Madison's authorship of the Virginia Plan, which structured the three-pronged bodies of national governance: the legislative branch, the judicial branch, and the executive branch — all of which came into play as an electoral fail-safe on January 6 in some way.