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A good man exits the arena

Mike Pence leaves the presidential race

Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition on Oct. 28. Associated Press/Photo by John Locher

A good man exits the arena
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In the late 1970s, the vice president of the United States was campaigning in Indiana for re-election. His motorcade happened to pass by a filling station where a young man was working a summer job. The boy’s wave was met by a brief glance and wave back from Walter Mondale. Within one generation that young man, Mike Pence, would occupy the same constitutional office.

On Oct. 28, former Vice President, former Indiana Gov., former Congressman, Mike Pence, announced his withdrawal from the 2024 race for the Republican nomination for president. In a speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition, he said, “The Bible tells us there’s a time for every purpose under heaven. … I came here to say it’s becoming clear to me, this is not my time. So after much prayer and deliberation, I have decided to suspend my campaign for president effective today.”

Born the son of a Korean war veteran and small business owner, Pence had a long and distinguished career in public life that began with three failed runs for Congress in the 1980s. He then began hosting a political talk show that he labeled “Rush Limbaugh on decaf.” In his memoir, So Help Me God, he admits that he thought his political career was over. But it was just beginning.

In 2000, he won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, representing Indiana’s second congressional district. He served six terms, becoming a leader of the conservative faction of the Republican majority, known for his commitment to fiscal restraint and the sanctity of human life. In 2012, he won the race to be Indiana’s 50th governor. His term was marked by fiscal discipline and education reform but also by his handling of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which ignited criticism first from liberal groups and the business community and then from social conservative allies who criticized his attempts to soften the legislative language.

When the nation needed him most, his integrity mattered.

In 2016, an embattled Donald Trump, facing criticism for his personal and moral character and a deficit of trust to his commitment to socially conservative issues, chose Pence as his running mate, helping to solidify the evangelical vote. Pence proved to be a wise choice, serving as a powerful vice president and often appearing as a stabilizing force in an oft-chaotic administration. At times, he was criticized for his loyalty to Trump, though in his memoir he admits to many private disagreements. As Trump’s presidency wore down, this alliance fractured, as the vice president consistently refused Trump’s appeals to overturn the election, reaffirming his commitment to the constitutional process of the transfer of power. For this, a man who was already derided for his Christian faith by the left was rewarded with disdain by many on the right.

Americans should appreciate the public service of Mike Pence. A man of deep and genuine faith in Christ, he was often mocked by the late-night hosts and media establishment for his piety. Even some Christians scoffed at his following of a modified “Billy Graham rule” for meeting with women alone. But in an era where both parties feature men and women of duplicitous moral character, perhaps we should not so easily dismiss a leader who unapologetically protects his marriage. When the nation needed him most, his integrity mattered. He valued his fealty to the Constitution over his loyalty to the president he served. This likely cost him his political future, which is its own sad indictment on our culture.

As he exits this stage, we should recognize Mike Pence’s public service, his public faith, his integrity, and his unswerving commitment to the sanctity of life. And we should welcome, not discourage, those who are unafraid to be unapologetically Christian, even when such devotion is mocked by the satirists or feared by the secularists. Americans in 2024 will choose someone not named Mike Pence as their next commander-in-chief, but his influence is not over.

The young man who 50 years ago waived at a vice president passing through town is now waving goodbye to this chapter in public life. But let’s hope that Vice President Pence continues to have a voice of moral authority in America. We still need that, and so we’ll still need him—regardless of the office he holds or the office he is pursuing.

Daniel Darling

Daniel Darling is director of the Land Center for Cultural Engagement at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. His forthcoming book is Agents of Grace. He is also a bestselling author of several other books, including The Original Jesus, The Dignity Revolution, The Characters of Christmas, The Characters of Easter, and A Way With Words and the host of a popular weekly podcast, The Way Home. Dan holds a bachelor’s degree in pastoral ministry from Dayspring Bible College, has studied at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and is a graduate of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife Angela have four children.

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