Pence, targeting critical race theory, declares ‘America is not a racist nation’

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MANCHESTER, N.H. - During a trip that sparked more speculation that he will run for president in 2024, former Vice President Mike Pence dived directly into the latest battleground in the nation’s culture wars, taking direct aim at critical race theory and declared that "America is not a racist nation."

Headlining a Republican county fundraising dinner on Thursday night in New Hampshire, the state that for a century has held the first primary in the presidential nominating calendar, Pence also shared that he and former President Trump have spoken "many times" since the end of their administration in January.

But the former vice president acknowledged that he and his former boss still don't see "eye to eye" about the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol by right-wing extremists and other supporters of the then-president who aimed to disrupt congressional certification of now-President Biden’s electoral college victory.

Pence also used his speech to blast Biden for "failed leadership" and accused the Biden administration of incompetence, saying, "I don’t think the left hand knows what the far left hand is doing."

WHAT IS CRITICAL RACE THEORY?

Pence spoke out against critical race theory, which aims to combat racism by emphasizing that systemic racism is part of American society and takes aim at the beliefs that allow the nation to exist. It has become the latest cultural flashpoint, as Republican executives and lawmakers across the country move to prevent it from being taught in schools. At least five GOP-controlled state legislatures have passed bans on critical race theory or related topics in recent months, and conservatives in at least nine other states are pressing for similar measures.

"One of the most disturbing developments of the past few months has been the Biden Administration's wholehearted embrace of the radical left's all-encompassing assault on American culture and values," Pence said. "Under the Biden Administration, patriotic education has been replaced with political indoctrination.

"They abolished the 1776 Commission and authorized teaching Critical Race Theory in public schools. Instead of teaching all children to be proud of their country, Critical Race Theory teaches children as young as kindergarten to be ashamed of the color of their skin," Pence argued.

"It is time for America to discard the left-wing myth of systemic racism once and for all. America is not a racist nation," Pence declared, which drew one of nearly a dozen standing ovations from the conservative crowd at the Hillsborough County GOP’s annual Lincoln-Reagan awards dinner and fundraiser.

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The former vice president also used his speech to deliver his most extensive comments to date about the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

Pence, who along with members of Congress, was forced to move to secure rooms while the Capitol was stormed, called the attack a "dark" and "tragic" day in American history. "That same day we reconvened the Congress and did our duty under the Constitution and the laws of the United States."

Pence has since endured the wrath of Trump and some of his most devout loyalists and supporters.

Pointing to his relationship with Trump, Pence shared that "I don’t know if we’ll ever see eye to eye about that day,"

But he quickly added that "I will always be proud what we accomplished for the American people over the last four years," which was met with loud applause by the audience.

And alluding to the unsuccessful push by congressional Democrats to pass legislation setting up a Jan. 6 commission to investigate the insurrection – which was thwarted by GOP leadership in the Senate – Pence said, "I will not allow the Democrats and their allies in the media to use one tragic day to discredit the aspirations of millions of Americans."

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Pence told the crowd that one of the reasons he came was to "bash the current administration."

And he gave the sold out audience of more than 360 people plenty of red meat, claiming that "after 134 days, where the Biden administration and Democrats in Washington have been pushing open borders, higher taxes, runaway spending, more government, defunding the police, abandoning the right to life, censuring free speech, cancelling our most cherished liberties, I came here to say enough is enough. I came here to say the time is now for every patriotic American who shares our ideals and values to stand up and fight back against the agenda of the radical left."

He charged that "we need to defend the police and reject the anti-law enforcement agenda of Joe Biden and the Democrats in Washington."

And he accused Biden of not living up to his pledges during last year’s campaign to seek bipartisanship.

"In 2020, Joe Biden campaigned as a moderate – when he campaigned. But he’s literally governed as the most liberal president since FDR. Even AOC said that President Biden ‘exceeded progressives' expectations.’ That’s saying a lot."

Pence praised the moves by a number of GOP controlled states – including the key battlegrounds of Florida, Georgia, and Arizona - controlled states to pass laws tightening voting access rules, which have sparked an outcry by Democrats.

"It's time we recognize that election integrity is a national imperative, but a state responsibility," Pence said to another standing ovation. "After an election that saw several states around the country literally set aside election laws enacted by state legislatures -- now is the time for states to ensure one person, one vote."

The Republican push in the states has spurred a move by congressional Democrats to pass a wide ranging election and campaign finance reform bill that would stem the GOP moves and increase federal oversight over state elections. Pence vowed to fight against this push to "nationalize our elections."

The former vice president was introduced by a close friend and ally, Republican Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire.

"He’s first and foremost my friend," Sununu said of Pence. "He’s just a good guy. His heart is absolutely in the right place."

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Pence’s trip to New Hampshire is sparking more speculation that he’ll seek the GOP presidential nomination in 2024. It’s the former vice president’s second stop this year in one of the early voting primary states.

Pence in April traveled to South Carolina, which holds the first southern contest and votes right after New Hampshire in the Republican nominating calendar, to give is first post-Trump presidency address.

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