We Went To Mike Pence’s Rally And Here’s What We Saw

The smell of horse manure was evident.

The pre-written aspect of this article was in noting that the reactive jokes could write themselves: by campaigning in Colonial Williamsburg on a Tuesday in the latter half of September, former Indiana Governor Mike Pence truly was running a campaign of yesterday. He was prepared to have an unpopular opinion on the taking of Fort Ticonderoga. Not only that, he was even prepared to go so far as to tell us that now was time to restore conservative values to the one thing corrupting the youth of America: hoop rolling. He was here. He was ready to introduce legislation to outlaw the X-Men. He was proud of it.

The written aspect of the article disappeared with the ghosts in the rain, with men and women dressed in colonial garb standing either at the edge of the road or quietly on their porches as the PA system blasted through any remaining illusion that one was walking through colonial America. The smell of horse manure was evident.

Over the course of the campaign season, I’d witnessed Martin O’Malley launch his campaign, Carly Fiorina continue hers, seen Donald Trump visit his golf course in Scotland, and taken the temperature of those circulating outside the rally where Bernie Sanders endorsed Hillary Clinton.

But a question continued to linger, and it was why I was walking to the steps of the Governor’s House: what sort of man decides that he will be the Vice Presidential pick for Donald Trump? What goes through his head? If he’s sincere, why is he sincere? If he’s insincere — if he thinks it a decent enough shortcut to get to the front of the line come the next election cycle — why does he think the insincerity is worth the risk? Who can look at every inch of every little thing the man has done and say, “Yeah — that’s for me?”

The answer is a man who was inane and charmless. Even by the standards by which one rated the idea of dominance in relation to political performance, he was inane and charmless. We would have even been curious to see how the idea of “constitutional hardball” could be presented, argued, or defended with something resembling charm — something you’d think a Republican member of Congress would have some interest in defending in an interesting way at some point over the past eight years — but we had no such luck.

Instead, we had Mike Pence. As concerns were floated elsewhere about the possibility of Obama’s Asia pivot failing, as well as the pivot’s link to the TPP — as well as the TPP’s theoretical link to the Paris Agreement — a man who had, until very recently, and meagerly at that, no real campaign positions to work with called Trump the future “Chief Law Enforcement Officer of the United States of America” (as opposed to the Attorney General, who usually holds that role.) He commended Trump for surviving a media that thought ‘they finally had him this time.’ He commended police officers, spoke about rescinding Obama’s executive orders, and made grumbling noises in the direction of Hillary Clinton.

At this, the crowd — perhaps no more than 100 had gathered, though it was difficult to tell from where I was standing — began to briefly chant, “Lock her up,” and for all the publicity the phrase has gotten, it’s worth taking a sidebar of a moment to note how like something out of the cobwebs of a William Faulkner story that phrase sounds like in person, like something that could have been chanted before the beginning of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery.”

“We live in challenging times,” Mike Pence intoned.

‘You’re making it harder!” a protester shouted.

The summer of silent heat lightning echoing its way across the sky as deers and fireflies made their way in tandem out from the spaces between the sides of houses to the edges of Richmond Road had passed. Instead, the rain had gotten so thick that it became difficult to hear the man; the ink started to run on my notebook page, and I thought that — for a moment — the rain was going to wash all of this away. I thought of cupping my ears to see if I could hear a far-off balm, like, “Down By The Riverside,” but I decided to wait. I could wait.

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