CNN | 9/23/2021 | Listen

How Dan Quayle saved democracy. Yes, really.

Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large

Updated: Tue, 14 Sep 2021 22:31:40 GMT

Source: CNN

You probably haven't thought about Dan Quayle in a really long time.

It's OK, I haven't either.

After all, the Indiana senator-turned-much-maligned-vice-president under George H.W. Bush left national politics with exactly one thing attached to his name: He didn't know how to spell "p-o-t-a-t-o." Well, now Quayle is going to be known by history for something a little more positive: Helping to save democracy.

See, Quayle served as a sort-of sounding board for Vice President Mike Pence in the final days of the administration as President Donald Trump leaned hard on him to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

The back-and-forth is documented in "Peril," a soon-to-be released book by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Robert Costa.

Here's the key bit: 

"Over and over, Pence asked if there was anything he could do.

"'Mike, you have no flexibility on this. None. Zero. Forget it. Put it away,' Quayle told him.

"Pence pressed again.

"'You don't know the position I'm in,' he said, according to the authors.

"'I do know the position you're in,' Quayle responded. 'I also know what the law is. You listen to the parliamentarian. That's all you do. You have no power.'"

If you think I'm exaggerating about the role Quayle played, consider how things might have gone had he taken a different tact with Pence, telling him to do what Trump asked.

(Pence and Quayle know one another through Indiana politics. Pence spent years representing Indiana in the House before being elected governor of the Hoosier State in 2012. Quayle also spent time in the House before winning a Senate seat in 1980.)

At best, that would have led to a series of lawsuits contesting whether Pence had the ability to overturn the election. That process would have dragged out for weeks -- if not months -- leaving the country in limbo in ways that could well have spawned further violence.

At worst, we could have seen the legitimate decline of American democracy, with the demonstrated will of the people overturned by a single man.

Consider THAT. And then say a silent thank you to Dan Quayle, yes DAN QUAYLE, for keeping our republic intact.

The Point: The aftermath of the 2020 election showed how fragile democracy can be. So fragile that one man, who hasn't been in national office in decades, may have single-handedly saved it.


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