Keep your eyes on Mike Pence, who is emerging as the most powerful veep ever


I have long been ringing the alarm bells about my former governor and now vice president-elect Mike Pence. He is already shaping up to be one of the most powerful seconds-in-command in U.S. history, and his boss' attention-commanding authoritarian proclivities — and theatrics — are allowing him to exercise his influence relatively unnoticed.

During the campaign, I repeatedly warned about Mike Pence's extremism with a particular urgency, given Donald Trump's desire for a vice-president who “would be in charge of domestic and foreign policy.”

And, since the election, I have been carefully watching the role Pence is playing in the emerging Trump administration. He was put in charge of the presidential transition, and, to those who have long been familiar with Pence, his fingerprints are all over the selection of people and policy that is emerging.

In a recent tweetstorm, I detailed the evidence of Pence's outsized influence:

It was Pence who orchestrated the Carrier deal for which Trump is taking credit. It is Pence who is attending the intelligence briefings. It is Pence whose agenda is written all over the cabinet picks so far.

An article in Politico confirms precisely that about which I have been warning. Under the blunt title "Pence's power play," the writers detail his efficacy in building bridges with the Republican Congressional caucus and quote a former Pence aide saying, "He’s going to play a more influential role on the policy front than we’ve seen from vice presidents in recent years."

It is a neat bit of understatement about an already observable fact.

Pence's style has always been less aggressive than it is opportunist — which does not make him any less dangerous. To the contrary, his patience in waiting for effective opportunities in which to implement his extremism, and his willingness to brazenly disregard democratic processes to get it done, makes him all the more toxic.

His stealth is the perfect complement to Trump's theatrical egotism: Pence will exploit every second of being ignored to enact a radical conservative agenda in the long shadow cast by Trump's attention-grubbing megalomania.

Mike Pence would like nothing more than our inattention. Which is precisely why we must keep our eyes on him.