Mike Pence saved American democracy once. Now, he's helped to do it again against Trump.

·3 min read

During an unprecedented national crisis, with his safety and his family's safety in jeopardy, Mike Pence stood firm for what he knew was right. He said no to Donald Trump's attempt to sabotage an election and to overthrow the will of American voters.

None of us who respect the rule of law, the Constitution and our democratic principles, regardless of ideology or party affiliation, should forget the former vice president's courage as a violent mob overran the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

Seventeen months later, Pence took another stand that could help America avoid disaster. He worked against Trump's preferred candidate for governor in the Georgia Republican primary, and by doing so, hindered the resurrection of his former boss' forever-tainted political career.

Trump backed losing candidate

As voters went to the polls Tuesday in Georgia, Pence continued to campaign for incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp, who faced a primary challenge from former Sen. David Perdue.

Trump not only threw his support to Perdue, but the former president also heaped one attack after another on Kemp throughout the Republican primary season.

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But Kemp, with Pence's help, won easily on Tuesday. And Perdue and Trump didn't just lose – they were embarrassed by Republican voters in a state the party will need to win in 2024 to regain the White House.

Kemp's victory is good for Republicans and conservatives. It's even better for America because it signals that Trump's control on Republican politics might be waning.

It also should embolden other Republican leaders, the many who privately know Trump is trouble but who publicly remain silent, to break from following the former president's toxic leadership.

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Beyond Georgia, Pence can help to make that break permanent by running for president in 2024. It's doubtful that Pence could secure the GOP nomination, and I'm even more skeptical he could win the general election.

For the rest of his life, Pence will carry heavy political baggage – he enabled and encouraged Trump's destructive actions and words for four years. Pence finally broke with Trump at a crucial moment in the nation's history – and I'm thankful he did – but that can't fully erase his complicity in Trump's reign of chaos.

Pence could attract evangelical support

What Pence could do as a GOP presidential candidate is to peel evangelical voters away from Trump. If Pence can secure enough evangelical votes for himself, he will open a path to the nomination for another candidate, who almost certainly would be better qualified to serve and more electable than Trump.

Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks about a proposal to provide educational scholarships to Michigan students, during a roundtable in Rochester Hills on May 17, 2022.
Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks about a proposal to provide educational scholarships to Michigan students, during a roundtable in Rochester Hills on May 17, 2022.

Running for president is a heavy load for any serious candidate, especially one with the self-awareness to know that he's not likely to win the nomination. But if Pence does accept that burden, he could once again save the nation from disaster.

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I covered Pence for 16 years while he served in Congress and as governor of Indiana before Trump tapped him as his running mate in 2016. I've written about Pence's strengths and weaknesses, his vision and his blind spots. I've praised Pence at times and been harshly (but appropriately) critical more than once.

Through it all, I never doubted Pence's love for his country. He wanted to do what was right – even, at times, when I was convinced he was terribly wrong.

Mike Pence now needs to do what's right for his country and his party. And this means doing all that he can to stop Donald Trump.

Tim Swarens is deputy opinion editor for USA TODAY.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Georgia election: How Pence again beat Trump to save democracy

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