In a lengthy editorial packed with biblical puns and character inferences, author McKay Coppins offered readers of The Atlantic his take on Mike Pence's political career, faith, and how the two intertwine. The article, titled "God's Plan For Mike Pence", examines the Vice President's early life, college years, and the start of his political career. It culminates, however, with the suggestion that a Pence presidency being "a heartbeat—or an impeachment vote—away" isn't exactly out of Pence and Washington Republicans' minds.
"No man can serve two masters, the Bible teaches, but Mike Pence is giving it his all," Coppins quipped in his article's opening line. He proceeded to set the stage for readers to find themselves at a September speech delivered by Pence in Anderson, Indiana to share the "Good News of the Republicans’ recently unveiled tax plan." Getting straight to the point, Coppins inferred that when Pence shares that President Trump says "hello" to speech attendees and chuckles about it, that he is actually "sending a message to those with ears to hear—that he recognizes the absurdity of his situation; that he knows just what sort of man he’s working for; that while things may look bad now, there is a grand purpose at work here, a plan that will manifest itself in due time. 'Let not your hearts be troubled,' he seems to be saying. 'I’ve got this.'"
In fact, Coppins stated that Pence's vice presidency itself is a "loaves-and-fishes level miracle". After all, only a year earlier Pence was an "embattled small-state governor with underwater approval ratings, dismal reelection prospects, and a national reputation in tatters. In many ways, Pence was on the same doomed trajectory as the conservative-Christian movement he’d long championed—once a political force to be reckoned with, now a battered relic of the culture wars."
That is, of course, until Trump's 2016 presidential bid. "Because God works in mysterious ways (or, at the very least, has a postmodern sense of humor)," Coppins suggested, "it was Donald J. Trump—gracer of Playboy covers, delighter of shock jocks, collector of mistresses—who descended from the mountaintop in the summer of 2016, GOP presidential nomination in hand, offering salvation to both Pence and the religious right. The question of whether they should wed themselves to such a man was not without its theological considerations. But after eight years of Barack Obama and a string of disorienting political defeats, conservative Christians were in retreat and out of options. So they placed their faith in Trump—and then, incredibly, he won."
In Pence, Coppins explains that Trump has found "an obedient deputy whose willingness to suffer indignity and humiliation at the pleasure of the president appears boundless," referring to the President's many Twitter faux pas and Pence's subsequent mop-ups. All the while, both Pence and the evangelical Christians he leads enjoy unprecedented privileges in the Trump administration. What Coppins suggests, however, is that Pence may not intend to enjoy those privileges as second-in-command for much longer.
"...For all his aw-shucks modesty," Coppins said, Pence's belief in God's sovereignty and intervention, therefore, means that he likely means it is God's plan for him to be at the very threshold of the presidency. "At some crucial juncture in the not-too-distant future, that could make him a threat to Trump. According to Coppins, an anonymous senior GOP Senate aide told him that "it’s not a matter of when Republicans are ready to turn on Trump. It’s about when they decide they’re ready for President Pence.”
Addressing the sharp differences in left- and right-wing speculations about a Pence presidency (either a draconian theocracy or a long-awaited return to America's historical Christian roots, depending on who you ask), Coppins approached the close of his piece with a few thoughts for the reader. "There is, of course, nothing inherently scary or disqualifying about an elected leader who seeks wisdom in scripture and solace in prayer," Coppins said. "What critics should worry about is not that Pence believes in God, but that he seems so certain God believes in him. What happens when manifest destiny replaces humility, and the line between faith and hubris blurs? What unseemly compromises get made? What means become tolerable in pursuit of an end?"