Former Vice President Mike Pence seems both prouder of Justice Samuel Alito’s pro-life draft decision and more confident in its political repercussions than does his onetime boss, former President Donald Trump.
The difference is surely due to Pence being deeply, personally committed to the right to life, while for Trump, the pro-life position was merely transactional politics.
First, Trump. As the headline in Politico put it, “Trump set the stage for Roe’s demise. For now, he doesn’t wanna talk about it.” Subhead: “A politician who never misses a chance to crow has gone quiet as a signature achievement nears.” After that article was published, Trump continued his reticence. Most outlets that covered Trump’s first big rally after the draft leak noted prominently that he barely mentioned the Supreme Court leak or abortion.
And no wonder. In 1999, Trump described himself as “very pro-choice.” He has refused to answer questions about rumored instances of him paying for others’ abortions. He stumbled during the 2016 campaign to explain cogently his position or any of its most basic ramifications. And, as a politician, he is clearly uncomfortable trying to determine what the political fallout of the decision will be.
Compare that to Pence. He has been vocal, enthusiastic, and confident about both the pending decision and its political ramifications. On May 5, he spoke at a pro-life fundraiser in Spartanburg, South Carolina, saying, “We will not here dwell on the despicable leak of the draft of a Supreme Court decision, but rather, we will hope and pray that that draft opinion soon becomes the majority opinion of the Supreme Court.”
In response to Vice President Kamala Harris’s widely reported criticism of the draft, Pence directly took her on: “I say with the lives of 62 million unborn boys and girls ended in abortion since 1973, generations of mothers enduring heartbreaking and loss that can last a lifetime: Madame Vice President, how dare you?”
And anticipating legislative battles across the country if the justices stand by the Alito draft, he said, "We’ll be working in states around the country to advance the cause of life once they do.”
Perhaps most importantly, Pence refused to buy into the fear in some quarters of the Republican Party that a pro-life decision, while good on substance, might play badly for GOP candidates in the November elections.
“I also have no doubt that the women and men who are standing for public office at every level who have taken a strong stand for the unborn and the sanctity of life will be favorably impacted by this decision, particularly at the state level,” he said. He also emphasized that compassion must be an essential part of the pro-life stand: “I think we’re going to see more and more states make a greater and greater commitment to provide support for women facing crisis pregnancies.”
True leadership entails not just courage of one’s convictions, but also the courage to believe that steadfast and reasoned advocacy of those convictions will change hearts and minds in favor of them.
Trump likes to figure out which way the parade is going and then run to the front of it. Pence is the one who does the hard work of organizing the parade in the first place and insisting that it go in the right direction.