Reports that then-President Donald Trump reacted favorably as the Capitol mob chanted “Hang Mike Pence” on Jan. 6, 2021, is a fresh reminder that Trump is, at his core, an aspiring anti-democracy strongman — one who still has a realistic prospect of winning the 2024 GOP presidential nomination. For years now, Republican politicians who support Trump, either tacitly or explicitly, have mastered the art of shrugging off these kinds of blaring red warning signals.
They shouldn’t be allowed to. For starters, every one of the 21 Missouri Republicans seeking the party’s U.S. Senate nomination should face demands from their audiences and the media to respond specifically to this, and to Trump’s continuing refusal to accept the judgment of voters in 2020.
Trump’s fury at Pence, his own vice president, stems from Pence’s refusal on Jan. 6 to invalidate Joe Biden’s election victory. Pence had no power to do so — the notion that a vice president could unilaterally hand the president (and thus himself) an unearned second term is constitutionally ludicrous on its face — but some of the more squirrelly characters around Trump fed his delusion. Pence, to his eternal credit, refused to even entertain this deeply un-American idea, thus drawing Trump’s public condemnation and the mob’s violent chants.