For an alternate viewpoint, see “Point: Pence Brandishes ‘Too Honest’ Barb as Badge of Honor.

If reports are believed, Mike Pence is apparently “too honest.” In the aftermath of the 2020 election, Donald Trump reportedly called his then-vice president “too honest” after Pence refused to help Trump overturn the 2020 election results.

Of course, there was nothing dishonest about questioning the legitimacy of the 2020 election. Given rampant voter fraud and the fervent anti-Trumpism of Washington elites, it was a question worth asking then, and anti-Republican voter fraud remains a concern.

Despite FBI and Justice Department efforts to cancel discussions of voter fraud, many American voters still fervently believe there were significant issues in the 2020 election. Obviously, at this point, we will never know the full details of the 2020 election fallout. If Pence was pushed to lie to the American people, he was right to be honest. However, if he is leveraging the illusion of “honesty” for political gain, there is nothing to commend. Honesty can only be celebrated when it is right and true.

With George Washington, who could “never tell a lie,” or Abraham Lincoln (“Honest Abe”) in mind, truthfulness is an aspirational virtue. Republicans competing for votes can and should be honest with American voters, heeding their concerns and addressing them with concrete policy fixes. In 2016, Trump was largely successful because he was honest about many of America’s problems, offering viable solutions to issues that had been on voters’ minds for decades.

On illegal immigration, Trump was clearly honest, explaining that the U.S.-Mexico border is in a state of crisis and advocating for a border wall that could stop the proverbial bleeding. Today, the border crisis is even more critical, making it essential for Republicans to be honest about its existence, unlike the Democrats, who would rather ignore or prolong it. Trump was similarly honest about other issues — from the persistence of media bias (see: “fake news”) to the need for corporate tax reform and NATO’s unwillingness to pay its fair share.

Perhaps most important, Trump recognized the tens of millions of forgotten American voters in Rust Belt states and other parts of the country, too often overlooked by Beltway influencers. He was honest that people in New York, San Francisco and Washington looked down on middle America, deriding it as “flyover country” or some such nonsense. He was honest about Hillary Clinton’s hubris (see: “basket of deplorables”), and voters thanked him for it.

The exact blueprint still applies in 2024. Let’s be honest: The U.S. economy is weak, undermined by inflation and other issues. The border crisis isn’t going away, not anytime soon. Neither are crises like Chinese competition or the Ukraine war.

Let’s be even more honest: The “woke” movement is a stain on the American societal fabric. From race- or gender-based identity politics to blatant endorsements of socialism and communism, wokeness is a scourge that needs to be wiped out at the ballot box. Woke Democrats should be punished by the tens of millions of voters who are (still) grateful to be Americans. Patriotism is alive and well in most parts of the country, especially in the states outside the Beltway.

Whether it is Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, Mike Pence or someone else, the Republican candidate who commits to exposing the left for its radicalism honestly will be successful in 2024. Voters expect nothing less. Tens of millions of them are just waiting for a candidate to echo their disgust and fight back on the public stage.

This does not mean that Republican candidates should kowtow to the demands of the mainstream media. The media has long shed even the semblance of objectivity, and a partial press does not deserve a candid, honest discussion from our political candidates. People should ignore media elites and circumvent them. For too long, Republicans have sought to curry favor from journalists who only want to be liberal activists.

Honesty is a good thing in American politics as long as it means being honest with those who deserve it in the first place — American voters.

Even in today’s changing world, the same rules apply: Be thoughtful, speak from the heart, and give it straight to the people casting votes. Only the voters matter — not the elites or anyone else.