The first two nights of the Republican National Convention felt like festivals of freedom dedicated to the re-election of a president who loves the spotlight. Night three focused on Vice President Mike Pence, who, while an admirable wingman for President Trump, seems like the kind of guy for whom a raging party means an extra slice of pie for dessert.
So it is no surprise that his night was the most solemn and subdued so far.
The theme was “Land of Heroes,” meant to celebrate the sacrifices of our military and first responders. It is a timely message as law enforcers across our nation face the triple threat of increased violence and riots, a radical left that demonizes them and political leaders like Mayor de Blasio who throw them under the bus and then back up over them a few times for good measure.
Touching on themes beyond the home front, Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw, a combat veteran and rising star in the GOP, spoke out in defense of Trump’s foreign-policy record: no new wars and soldiers home. That’s unlike recent presidents of both parties. As Crenshaw said, “The cowering of Iran and the restoration of the deterrence once lost is the result of America believing in her own might again,” but, crucially, without going abroad on utopian democratizing missions.
But heroes aren’t just men on the battlefield. The evening also celebrated women like Susan B. Anthony, who fought for women’s suffrage. Karen Pence gave moving remarks about military spouses on the front lines of the home front.
As with other nights, everyday Americans played a powerful role, whether it was a disabled veteran, a Minnesota logger fighting for his industry or a special-needs mom who was told to abort her Downs syndrome child but instead fought for his education through school choice.
Trump told her that her “son was amazing.” As Kellyanne Conway, an architect of Trump’s 2016 victory, who is departing the White House to care for her family, put it, “these everyday heroes have a champion in President Trump.”
Pence took the stage at Fort McHenry, the birthplace of the national anthem. There was no kneeling. The veep might not be the guy you want to have a beer with, but he can give a powerful speech, and his love of America and its values never fails to shine through. All of that sparkled in his aw-shucks way.
Pence joked that he was perhaps his Irish immigrant mother’s second favorite member of the GOP ticket; the cut shot to her was adorable, and it solidified the fact that Trump chose wisely. Pence described a president who is capricious but keeps his promise in a Washington full of talkers; Trump, he insisted, is a doer.
And for his part, the notoriously fame-seeking Trump gave Pence his moment. His unprecedented decision to appear each night of the convention was upheld, but only to join his partner in governance after his speech. By the standards of Trump, this was an enormous sign of respect.
He actually stood in Pence’s shadow, if only for one night.
Pence is the stand-up family man who sets up the president to be his wild self. It is a political team that works. Rarely has a vice president been as an effective counterpoint to his boss as he is. Was this Pence’s first speech in the 2024 campaign? Maybe. If so, it was effective. If Trump was the disrupter America needed, Pence may be the steady hand she will need to steer his wildness.
Night three, while well-produced, wasn’t the rollicking reality-TV-show style production that we saw earlier this week. Don’t worry: Tomorrow belongs to the Donald, and we can expect fireworks. But this night was important. At a time when so many have lost faith in our institutions and our nation, it reminded us that heroes still people the greatest nation on earth.
David Marcus is The Federalist’s New York correspondent.
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