Former vice president Mike Pence spoke to a crowd of college students on Tuesday as part of the Young America’s Foundation National Conservative Student Conference, which Cockburn attended. Pence appeared alongside others, including Kirk Cameron, Ted Cruz, and Ben Carson.
When Pence eventually came out, he received a standing ovation and cheers, as warmly welcomed as Cruz had been the night before. He then proceeded to lay out his “freedom agenda” which toed the line between caricature and pander. In a world of sharp wit and cutting remarks, Pence is more like a club.
It was not that Pence’s speech was ineloquent, but rather that he trod on old ground that conservatives were already well acquainted with. Pence wanted “sanctity of life at the center of law once again” and to “purge Critical Race Theory and reinstate patriotic education.”
He touched upon Ukraine, fiscal responsibility, and tax cuts. Eventually it began to sound more like a campaign speech than anything relatable to his college-age audience.
Pence also advocated for his political 501(c)(4) organization, Advancing American Freedom, which he said helped implement the policies that improved the economy during the pre-pandemic years.
Despite this effort to resurrect those policies, though, Pence made sure to repeat one line in particular throughout his speech: “Elections are about the future.” Cockburn can’t help but think this was done to deflect from the 2020 election and Pence’s controversial decision to certify the votes on January 6, a choice that Trump and his voters take umbrage with to this day.
When the brief Q&A segment arrived, one of the only two questions that were asked (the other was about Taiwan) concerned his and Trump’s differing outlooks. He replied, “I don’t know if the president and I differ on issues. We differ on focus.”
Even though the man walked away with a standing ovation, Cockburn can only hope Pence learns a thing or two from Ronald Reagan. Because as much as cookie-cutter conservatism might work for some, he needs an edge if he wants to seriously prep for a 2024 run.