Faced with the chance to be vice president, Indiana Governor Mike Pence worked hard to win Donald Trump over. The 2016 veep candidate went all out to charm Trump and his court of familial advisors. Despite what was reportedly some last minute wedding jitters on Trump’s part with such a conventional choice, Pence won the nod and then proceeded to do what vice presidents always do: reverse any previous positions that might be in conflict with those articulated by the top of the ticket. In doing so, he demonstrated that those who believe Pence illustrates a sea change in the Trump campaign are kidding themselves.

By Friday night Pence, who denounced Trump’s call for a ban on Muslims travel to the United States as “offensive and unconstitutional” was saying he endorsed the latest iteration of Trump’s proposal. In the same conversation, Pence also pronounced himself not only in favor of Trump’s idea of a great wall along the country’s southern border but his new boss’s ludicrous pledge to make Mexico pay for it. If that wasn’t a strong enough proof of fealty to the Donald, he also said he was in favor of reopening the Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade agreement that he formerly favored, adding obsequiously that Trump was “one of the best negotiators in the world.” That’s a position that vendors who went unpaid by the billionaire would perhaps ruefully endorse.

But there’s no point carping about Pence’s newly slavish attitude toward Trump. Vice presidents aren’t paid to criticize or act as a check on their presidents. They are there to do their bidding and that means Pence’s conservative principles will be safely packed away until his time with Trump is over. Which is why all of the talk of Trump’s selection of Pence indicating that he is finally moderating or acting more like a traditional Republican is nonsense.

One thing it does mean is that contrary to those conspiracy theorists and cynics, who even now consider Trump’s candidacy to be something of a prank, are wrong. The reality star desperately wants to be elected president and was persuaded by the wise counsel of his family and whoever else has his ear these days that a safe, solidly conservative pick like Pence was the smart play when compared to the other finalists. Pence won’t generate much excitement, but this move should minimize defections from doubtful Republicans though most of were bending the knee to Trump anyway. They will be persuaded that voting for Trump is justified not only by the unacceptable alternative of Hillary Clinton but also because they’ll think Pence’s presence on the ticket indicates that a Trump administration will be recognizably Republican and conservative in nature rather than a radical departure from what the GOP has always stood for.

But it is on that point that they are deceiving themselves.

Even if you think there’s no significance to the fact that Trump’s rollout of Pence was largely about Trump, think about what will follow. In the still unlikely though quite possible event that Trump is elected, there will be many other Republicans who will take positions in his administration and thus choose ambition over principle and call it duty. But let no one be in any doubt that such an administration will reflect Trump’s views and spirit, not those of any conservatives who think they can influence or tame him. Having achieved power, he will not give it up but will be the same egomaniacal, unprincipled and controlling character he has always been. It will be a government driven by the sort of blood and soil ideas—protectionism and isolationism—that Trump has promoted while giving short shrift to the notion of limited government or protection of the Constitution, a topic about which he still knows little. With the exception of his hostility to immigration, his ideas will remain closer to those of mainstream liberal Democrats and even Bernie Sanders supporters than those of conservative Republicans, and he will govern accordingly. Principled House Republicans may think they can dictate what the next GOP administration will stand for and one wishes them luck in that regard, but if Trump becomes president, it is he who will call the tune.

A Trump administration will call itself Republican and will mean the Clintons and their fraudulent machine and damaging liberal ideas will be out of power. That will be enough for most Republicans, at least until he takes office and starts channeling Nixon and governing from the left. But what many of those who will acclaim Trump in Cleveland and use Pence as an excuse for doing so don’t realize is what cheap dates they have become. Trump has given conservatives nothing in order to consolidate his grip on the nomination in the past two months.

What is remarkable is the alacrity with which the GOP establishment not only fell into line behind Trump but also worked harder and showed more energy quashing opposition to him in Cleveland than it showed while working against him. In return for this, all they got was Pence, who is more interested in flattering Trump than in restraining his imperial and liberal instincts, which is the only kind of person he can tolerate in his inner circle.

In spite of Pence’s bland presence, the Trump campaign and a putative Trump presidency will be a function of the reality star’s attempt to transform a Reaganite conservative party to a populist Peronist cult of personality. The conservative cheap dates who will cheer his triumph in Cleveland will deserve the contempt a President Trump will show them if he makes it to the White House.

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