Rich Lowry

Vivek Ramaswamy thinks Mike Pence failed.

The former vice president is a MAGA villain for doing his constitutional duty on Jan. 6, so Ramaswamy has to find a way to wiggle out of endorsing his conduct on that day, no matter how convoluted or inane.

On “Meet the Press” the other day, he went with an alternative-reality critique of Pence. According to Ramaswamy, the then-vice president missed “a historic opportunity.” Pence could have forged “a national compromise” by leading the way on an election-reform package of single-day voting on Election Day (which would become a federal holiday), paper ballots, and government-issued ID.

And that’s what Ramaswamy would have done — forge “national consensus,” whereas Pence missed his chance to “reunite” the country.

As it happens, the only parties to whom Ramaswamy’s posited grand bargain would have been unsatisfactory are a) the United States Congress and b) President Donald J. Trump.

If we indulge this little make-believe, what Ramaswamy outlines would have been a massive federal overhaul of the election system, the kind of change it takes years to build a consensus around — through advocacy, committee hearings, horse-trading, and all the other elements of legislative sausage-making.

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One way or the other, this legislation would have entailed overturning the voting rules in most states in the union. It’s not clear why, say, Republicans in Georgia or Florida would have supported a federal rewrite of their systems on this snap basis, but, of course, Democrats would have been wholly opposed.

What would Ramaswamy’s bargaining chip have been to get them to accept a deal? He would have presumably threatened not to do his constitutional duty. On a matter — certifying electors — that no one before had thought was optional. This would have been considered an act of extralegal blackmail that would have encountered strenuous bipartisan denunciation and opposition.

Rather than creating a national consensus, it would have taken Trump’s post-election scheme to an entirely new level. The Jan. 6 riot was shameful, but there was never any hope of a true constitutional crisis that day because Pence was clear-eyed about his obligation and stalwart in carrying it out. What Ramaswamy is saying is that his role would have been up for grabs, potentially throwing the entire, well-established process into disorder.

And everyone would supposedly have been fine with it, indeed rallied around him as the nation’s healer.

Let’s extend the fantasy further and say that Ramaswamy, from out of nowhere, combined the legislative skills of Lyndon Johnson and Henry Clay and got this electoral package through Congress in a matter of weeks, days, or even hours.

You know who would have been outraged by it? The incumbent president Ramaswamy would have been serving. Trump didn’t want a package of election reforms; he wanted the result of the 2020 election blocked or overturned, and he wanted his vice president to use the leverage of Jan. 6 to do it.

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Anything short of this would have been anathema to him. So, the legislative magician, Vivek Ramaswamy, would have been as dastardly a traitor as Mike Pence and subject to the same pressure campaign from on high.

If Ramaswamy had his current posture toward Trump, he might have agreed with the president and his most fervent supporters: “Yes, sir, I probably do deserve to be hanged.”

All of this is to say that there would have been no middle way, no glib evasions.

In short, Ramaswamy’s counterfactual history is preposterous at every level. But it gives him something to say to keep his distance from Pence, in another piece of insincere salesmanship at which he has so excelled in the 2024 campaign.

In the August Republican debate, Chris Christie, noting how Ramaswamy stole a line from Barack Obama, said he feared we are dealing with the same type of “amateur.”

To the contrary, all the evidence suggests we are dealing with an accomplished professional.

Rich Lowry is a syndicated columnist.


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