SOUTH BEND – History will be kinder to Mike Pence than were the hecklers shouting “Traitor!” at him at a conference of religious conservatives last week. Much kinder than the insurrectionists chanting “Hang Mike Pence!” as they stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6.

He may not go down in history at the other extreme either, as the man who “saved American democracy,” as Pence was described in a recent national column.
 
How Pence is portrayed in history books decades from now will depend in part on what he reveals in his own book. He contemplates that now, back home in Indiana in his just-purchased mansion in Carmel. More could depend on revelations in the anticipated book on the 2020 campaign by Bob Woodward and Robert Costa of the Washington Post.
     
Actually, Pence isn’t likely to give himself as much credit as he deserves for carrying out his constitutional duties as vice president, doing so despite Donald Trump’s demand for him to reject results of the presidential election. Pence plans to seek the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, and detailing that one break with the former president could bring such wrath from Trump, still the most powerful figure in the Republican Party, that Pence’s candidacy would be destroyed.
     
So, it seems unlikely that Pence will write with the same strong message about freedom that he delivered as he completed his official duty of accepting certified votes from the states, a task completed after violent insurgents were driven from the Capitol. Pence said then: “To those who wreaked havoc in our Capitol today, you did not win. Violence never wins. Freedom wins.”
     
Pence still was angry at Trump for not quickly calling off pro-Trump protesters and not even checking on the welfare of Pence and his family after they fled the Senate chamber for safety in a secret location.
     
“And as we reconvene in this chamber,” Pence declared as proceedings resumed, “the world will again witness the resilience and strength of our democracy, for even in the wake of unprecedented violence and vandalism at this Capitol, the elected representatives of the people of the United States have assembled again on the very same day to support and defend the Constitution of United States.”
     
Then, however, Pence went silent for months about that role and his differences with Trump over whether to seek to overthrow the election results. Looking ahead to his political future, Pence only praised the record of the Trump administration.
     
In that column hailing Pence for having “saved American democracy,” S.V. Date, HuffPost writer, said his stand “averted, at the very least, a constitutional crisis, and quite possibly open warfare and bloodshed in the streets.” But the writer also noted that “no one wants to talk about it. Not even Mike Pence.”
     
Pence doesn’t want to talk about it and anger Trump. Democrats don’t want to talk about Pence as a hero. They say he only did what the Constitution required. Those in the Trump base refusing to believe that he lost don’t join in talk of Pence as a hero. They call him traitor.
     
As insider accounts are provided, especially in the Woodward-Costa book, by two outstanding journalists, one legendary since disclosures of Watergate, may well clarify the role of Mike Pence in refusing to reject election results, and in other Trump administration decisions as well.
     
Was Pence just a potted plant near the president’s desk, a decoration for conservatives? Or behind the scenes did he talk an unhinged president out of dangerous actions? In history, Pence of course will be no Benedict Arnold. Just how he will be viewed decades hence will be clarified as we learn what real threats he faced, and from whom. Were shouts of “Hang Mike Pence!” just taunts or a real threat to destroy him, literally, along with the certified votes from the nation? 

Colwell has covered Indiana politics over five decades for the South Bend Tribune.