Pence: Can He Make Old Things New?

When hitching your wagon to a rising star goes bad.

Pence: Can He Make Old Things New?

Many of you know that I have my eyes on the Oval Office. I have for years, although I'm beginning to doubt my prospects. Specifically because I believe that the content of this publication will likely be the very thing that keeps me from said Oval. Alas, I'm happy to stay here on the internet to express my thoughts freely. You know that too because you get me. This is what makes Lorem Ipsum readers so great. (don't forget to sign up for the newsletter if we must call it that).

One guy who wants to be President more than I do is Mike Pence. To pursue those goals, Mike has been playing his hand one card at a time to position himself for the job. Unfortunately, his strategy may have been a branding failure, perhaps guaranteeing he'll never be the Commander in Chief.  

Playing second fiddle is not a good look for a presidential wannabe. What's worse is when the phallic instrument you have to play is Donald Trump's.

Mike Pence, of my home state of Indiana, first made a name for himself as host of his radio show, The Mike Pence Show, from which he launched a political career leading to the Trump Whitehouse by way of rural Indiana.

I imagine it’s tough not being known as someone presidential but now as the guy whose head is frequently examined to see if the infamous fly is still there.

Like most talk radio hosts, he had very little content but lots of commercials, call-in listeners, and plenty of opportunities to repeat himself. In this raw footage of Mike broadcasting in 1997, he's expressing his annoyance about a woman in the military discharged with little punishment for an affair with the husband of one of her subordinates.

Mike was fudging mad (to use a Mike Pence approach to cursing) that she was not "dishonorably discharged," so he made a show of it.

For the record, no insects were harmed in the making of the above video; although it's true that you catch more flies with honey, this was before they were as drawn to him as much as they seem to be today. His denunciation of adultery, a Trump pastime, is a part of his persona. Mike is known for his chaperoned lunches with female colleagues, his clean-cut exterior, and his traditional Christian values. He's known for being not too mean as long as you're straight and don't believe in global warming.

Much like the insects on Mike's head, the stench of his former boss seems to be sticking to him as well, even though nothing sticks to Donald Trump himself – except his hairdo, thanks to a six-figure, top-secret hair care routine.

Mike learned the art of candy coating to get his political career off the ground, through his stint in radio, with listenership largely in rural Indiana. Later, as Governor, he had to candy coat the unpopular RFRA law on national television, which seemed to favor discrimination against gays as a religious right. The intense backlash didn't keep him from getting invited to be the Vice Presidential Nominee under Trump, though, with Trump sporting a love for infamy. After Trump asked him to join his ticket, Mike said let's grab 'em by the ballot after a quick prayer to make sure God wanted him to accept a shot at more fame and the biggest job he'd ever had.

Today, Mike's career is gasping for air. Mike isn't denouncing his former boss nor standing by him; as a result, he lacks a base strong enough to lift a sail. Most Republicans either want to hang him, or they are just plain bored. He's found himself in a land of political irrelevance outside of memes. He's a supporting character inextricably tied to the Trump brand. But not in a good way.

It sucks when the only thing you can say is either (1) I was suckling on the teet of an empowered madman, and I like the taste of it, and so should you. Or (2) I was wrong, and now that my career is on life support, I see that the political vaccination would have saved me. Can I take it now?

I would’ve liked to have been a fly on Pence's head when Trump was chewing him out, calling him a p*s*y for not accepting fake electors or overturning the electoral votes presented to Congress. I picture it this way; when Trump hung up on him, Mike continued to act as though they were ending the call cordially. "Yeah, um, uh... okay. Yes, well, I better let you go then, Mr. President. Yeah...Okay, thank you, Sir. [hangs up] – He's doing great; he just had to go to –another meeting."

But that call didn't end well. Trump has not talked to Mike much, if at all, since. After the call ended, Trump tweeted that “Mike Pence didn’t have the courage to do what should have been done.” and said in a speech this week that Mike "had a chance to be great." Then President Trump's followers were outside the capital, erecting a gallows while chanting "Hang Mike Pence."

Mike, on the other hand, has soft-stepped the issues of his former boss, hesitating to admit there was ever a problem, while Trump continues to tear him down in public. Although in February, Pence said, "President Trump is wrong. I had no right to overturn the election," his tune, more consistently is to sell the success of the Trump-Pence administration as heard in his Juneteenth speech like "Jan. 6 was a tragic day, and I know we did our duty. But I will always be proud of our record,".

Mike Pence's climb to fame reminds me of an influencer spending their days doing reels, hopeful of finding a way to climb to relevance by playing the game by the rules set by the algorithm – even if it requires them to stray from their own brand. Pence has certainly played by the rules set by the algorithm. Even those in conflict with his own.

It's going to be hard for him to achieve much after aligning himself with the Trump brand, a brand strongly contrary to his brand as the evangelical Mr. Right, who won't eat lunch with a woman if his wife is not there to block her advances. But he'll share a table with the CEO of Adultery Against Wives and Countries. And Mike expects us to continue viewing him as a man of integrity because he is proud of their record.

I don't think so, Mike.

This brings me back to the topic of reels. Often people build their brand by doing strange performative activities or lip-syncing to someone else's dialogue in an attempt to go viral. Only to find that their message doesn't resonate with their brand image. While they've built the brand awareness they've been seeking, unfortunately, it's too common for the viral sensation to learn that they are known for the wrong things and fall short of their goals.

As a marketing consultant, my advice to Pence is far too late, but it is this. Be careful which rising star you hitch your wagon to and whose brand you align yours with.