The most horrible part about contemporary political reality is that the 2016 election triggered the eruption of a time-warping black hole, which had previously been quietly building, lying in wait. It shredded all of modernity’s tidy, tepid natural laws and left behind a cultish monument made from the solid stuff of early 20th century history. While only a small subgroup of Americans has been popping the jingoist nostalgia pill since day one, in the minds of many it soon became the only remedy to jumpstart the sickly slow status quo.

And when this addiction grips the brains of the public, it allows dangerous people to reach the heights of power.

Enter Mike Pence, the right-wing radio jockey-turned-politician who represents the perfect foil to Our Dear Leader.[1] His plainspoken Clark Kent-ness and Good Christian Vibes soothed the anxious evangelical conservatives who might have otherwise undergone an existential, partisan reversal. Without Pence, fears about the Republican base splitting itself into irrelevance might have materialized. But there it was! Enough of the old-school conservatives were convinced to make an election-winning coalition with the crazy new guys.[2]

And that’s the bizarre part, because there’s no way Pence and President 45, representatives of very different demographics, see eye to eye with one another, on either policy or approach.[3] So why did Pence do it?

I think he’s a lizard person. The ruthless Frank Underwood-Shakespearian schemer who seizes big-risk opportunities, no matter how high the body count will be. He just got his biggest opportunity before he ever planned on it. The Pence long-game strategy only seemed to be in cocoon mode when President Baby Hands burst it open. He hadn’t had the chance yet to evolve into a super-radical Reaganite Messiah, a dream goal Ted Cruz had an eager first-go at this past election.[4]

Either the cocoon theory is right, or Pence only recently transmogrified into a lizard person. Maybe the temptation of vice presidential power sparked the transformation—though in my opinion, he seems too adept at the high-wire balancing act of being on Team Trump for such a quick shift. His political positioning, both during the election and after, is pretty genius: Get close to the seat of presidential power but stay far enough away to avoid the inevitable, crippling damage of being in 45’s chaotic orbit.

So, while sitting on the couch watching a Mike Pence give a speech in front of some faceless, big-money conservative donor group on C-SPAN, it hit me.[5] Pence played a historic, deadly game of all-in political gambling and won with dignity intact. Many of the emasculated losers of the Republican primary and members of the party leadership can’t say the same.

The only ones now allowed at the top of the mountain are the lizard people, intensely loyal to that cultish monument to the point of near-insanity.

However, Pence isn’t the lizard person I’m most worried about.[6] I’m worried about others President 45 enables through his flabby pliability: the more experienced, power-hungry serpents who slither through the screaming black hole—the Bannons, the Manaforts, the Cruzs, the Cheneys, the Nixons.[7] They understand the system enough to manipulate it, while 45 seems dead-set on never learning how the executive branch (or the Constitution) works.

Take Steve Bannon, for instance. A hypnotic, Rasputin-like president-whisperer with a legion of Neo-Neo-Nazi[8] conspiracy theorists is in the process of carving out a permanent place for himself in the White House. Today it’s a seat on the National Security Council; who knows what positions he’ll take on in four years? Eight years?

I’m not as nervous about the current[9] president himself because America’s time-tested checks and balances are kicking ass, and 45 doesn’t know how to respond other than with a torrent of late-night tweets. We’ve had many presidents seek power for power’s sake on both sides of the aisle, but moments like now are crucial because there seems to be a sudden spike in the power-for-power’s sake population. The arsenal of American presidential power grows every year, from the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution to the NSA, and so the standard for the person wielding that arsenal should be raised, or that power must be clipped. We must start electing Obama-esque philosopher kings and better, because while the Constitution can handle a few Dons, a few generations might be a sadder story.

# # #

[1] Though I’m sure 45 appreciates Pence’s personal brand of showmanship, as a kind of respect among American hucksters of the twin-like Religion and Entertainment industries. I can’t imagine a more perfectly convenient, politically-calculated pair in recent history; even the electoral baldness of Kennedy-Johnson barely stands its own against Trump-Pence.

[2] Despite our two-party system, American politics almost always has dramatic coalition-dealing: the New English-Southern Compromise (Kennedy-Johnson), the Triangulated Left (Clinton-Gore) and more recently, the botched Berniecrat-Clintonite Coming Together.

[3] Key issues pre-election Pence and 45 disagreed on: the Muslim ban (Pence: “offensive and unconstitutional”), the Trans-Pacific Partnership (Pence was a supporter), the Iraq War (depending on whether you believe 45’s lukewarm support for the invasion was actually a “no” vote).

[4] I’m sure Cruz wishes he had the simple, steely, Reaganite charisma which Pence models. There’s no way Cruz isn’t aware of his lack of image appeal, especially after the game-changing reality television candidacy of Our Dear Leader.

[5] Yes, I was watching C-SPAN voluntarily. It’s such a clunky mix of wonky university lectures and political pageantry at times it feels like the American equivalent of some poorly-produced North Korean propaganda channel, designed to be soul-crushingly boring so sheeple will tune out from what’s “really going on.” That’s how I watch it.

[6] For God’s sake, the man used an AOL email address when he was governor. My grandpa has AOL, and he is literally paying every single month to own an email address, which belies an ignorance of technology and susceptibility to scams that’s unfortunate in my grandpa, but terrifying in our vice president.

[7] And the Rubios, if the Florida senator continues to swim in the same compromising waters he did in 2016.

[8] Also known as alt-right/white nationalist/whatever you want to call the newest iteration of an old human impulse.

[9] Who knows, things are moving so quickly these days by the time you read this he might be impeached.

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