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A Time for Choosing?
Will anyone heed Mike Pence's 'Time for Choosing' Moment?
Earlier this month, former Vice President Mike Pence made a rousing call for the Republican Party to abandon what he called the “siren call of populism” earlier this month. The fact that Pence had to make the speech at all is a sign of just how far away from conservatism some elements of the Republican Party have moved.
Pence said that if the "new populism of the right seize and guide our party, the Republican Party we’ve long known will cease to exist and the fate of American freedom would be in doubt.”
He later spoke about the role of the Republican Party as the "party of limited government, free enterprise, fiscal responsibility and traditional moral values." And he took a direct swipe at Trump's movement, stating that populists on the right and socialists were "fellow travelers on the same road to ruin."
Despite his efforts against the faction he said is dominated by "personal grievances and performative outrage," it appears that Pence's speech may not make a major impact in the primary process. However, remembering the evolution of the MAGA movement can give us some further insight into just how right Pence was.
The right-wing rush to Trump is often viewed as a response to the Obama era. However, so many of those who are now the chief enforcers of the Trump cult were former backers of either Obama or Bernie Sanders. It becomes tiresome to see Trump sycophants who voted for Obama once or twice to call people like Mike Pence RINOs.
It might be clear that the old school of the Republican Party may not return anytime soon. This is especially the case if Trump can win his way back into the White House. However, the toxic populism that Pence described does not have to remain at the center of GOP politics for decades.
The angry, ill-informed populism of the Trump movement already placed Pence in harm’s way once. The former vice president knows firsthand that if Trump was given the keys to the White House a second time, the odds of a constitutional crisis would increase dramatically.
Just as Ronald Reagan stole the show during Barry Goldwater’s 1964 campaign with his ‘Time for Choosing Speech,’ Pence may be laying the groundwork for a longer-term victory of the conservative wing of the Republican Party. It took sixteen years for Reagan to turn that speech into election to the White House. Perhaps Pence’s words, even if rejected today, may ring true well into the future.