In the winter of 1987-88, Sen. Dan Quayle of Indiana decided that he wanted the VP spot on the Republican ticket as the most “conservative” candidate.  He started his quiet campaign by running the idea by my boss, Sen. Jesse Helms.  After all, if Jesse wouldn’t support him, it would have been pointless to go any further.

With Helms on board, Quayle asked me to be his liaison in his outreach to movement conservatives.  And so I worked as a volunteer right through the summer, reaching out to countless conservative groups and individual leaders, advocating Quayle as a corrective to George H.W. Bush’s natural penchant for the Rockefeller establishment wing of the party that Reagan had defeated eight years before.

Because I wanted to move out of Washington rather than write a book about it, I didn’t keep notes on these hundreds of conversations and meetings.  I didn’t need to, really—conservatives know whether an individual is “one of us” or not.

During the Reagan years, there were many so-called conservatives who were decidedly not.  How this came to pass is interesting.

In 1960, my father published Barry Goldwater’s Conscience of a Conservative because no major publisher was interested in it.  The book had been written to promote Goldwater’s candidacy for the Republican nomination that year.  We sent 500 prepublication copies to delegates and major Republican activists in South Carolina, whereupon the Palmetto State’s delegation decided unanimously to support Goldwater at the convention in Chicago’s Cow Palace that summer.

Our family attended the convention, and I spent a lot of time demonstrating in front of the hall.  My original hand-painted sign read, “Out The Door With Eleanor.”  I was surprised when a fellow from my high school saw me and invited me back to his father’s very plush and private train car.  (Apparently, he was the national committeeman from Kansas.)  It wasn’t very far, because the Cow Palace was next to the Chicago stockyards.

My friend handed me a pass to the convention floor—which was a prize rarely granted to Goldwater supporters at any level.  I dutifully went back to the convention hall and wound up in a cavernous, barely lit room that served as a staging area for the convention floor itself.

There I found about a hundred pretty gals—all young, all blonde, and all attired in matching black cocktail dresses.  They were lined up in four rows, as part of the “demonstration” planned for the floor after Nixon’s nomination was put forward.  (They had real balloons and union bands in those days.)

I went up to one of them and said, in my most persuasive 13-year-old voice, “Please, support Barry Goldwater!  You can’t be for Nixon—he doesn’t stand for anything!”

The gal smiled and casually turned over the shoulder-strap of her dress to show me her “Kennedy for President” button hidden there.

“I’m getting paid for this, honey,” she smiled.

That phrase might well be the epitaph engraved on the tombstone of the Republican establishment.

Twenty-eight years later, when the copyright to Conscience expired, our family gave the rights to Regnery Publishing, operated at the time by our friend Al Regnery.  Pat Buchanan wrote the Introduction to the new edition, and with his usual barbed-wire insight he explained why there had been so many “conservative” opportunists during the Reagan administration, but not in earlier years.

The answer is simple, he wrote, because in earlier years, there weren’t any opportunities for conservatives.  As soon as opportunities abounded, so did the opportunists.

“I’m getting paid for this, honey.”

Well, this was 1988, and opportunists abounded.  Dan Quayle was solidly conservative, but he had styled himself as something of a Lone Ranger; however, Quayle had one asset that many “conservative” senators woefully lacked: a wife who was even more conservative than he was—and Marilyn Quayle was smarter, too, which didn’t bother Dan at all.

And so it came to pass that, in August 1988, Vice President George H.W. Bush chose Dan Quayle as his running mate.  I did not attend the convention—in fact, when Quayle gave his acceptance speech on the floor of the convention in New Orleans, I was watching it in a motel in rural Pennsylvania, where my trusty Ford van, affectionately known as “Vanna White,” had broken down on the Pennsylvania Turnpike earlier in the day.

I never heard from Dan Quayle again.

There is no doubt that Vice President Bush needed the imprimatur of the conservative movement, which by 1988 had become an indispensable ingredient of American politics.  In 2016, many conservatives insisted that Donald Trump name a pro-life, pro-family running mate in the same mold as Quayle, instead of trashing tradition altogether and naming another outsider—you know, like Martha Stewart or Tim Tebow.

And he did.

In 1980, diplomatic historian Charles Burton Marshall observed that “there is no such thing as the foreseeable future.”  Professor Marshall was correct, of course, but sometimes historical precedent does come into play, and so I will conclude by citing some history.

In 1989, I had to staff dozens of nomination hearings for appointees of President George H.W. Bush.  They were a dismal lot, to be sure, but none was so vile as Secretary of State James Addison Baker III.

Until Ronald Reagan chose George H.W. Bush as his own running mate in 1980, Baker had been a three-time loser.  Ronald Reagan made James Baker famous, powerful, and rich.  In return, as soon as Bush was inaugurated on January 20, 1989, Baker, seething with ill-disguised contempt for Reagan appointees, skillfully (nobody said he was dumb) and thoroughly exterminated every Reagan appointee and supporter he could find throughout the administration.  (Of course, there weren’t any in the Treasury Department, which was his bailiwick under Reagan.)

Baker’s henchmen even tried to keep members of Dan Quayle’s own Senate staff from working anywhere in the administration—even in the White House.  And Quayle’s staff director in the White House, one Bill Kristol, endeavored long and hard, in classic Jim Baker fashion, to make his boss look dumb and himself look smart.

Some things never change.

My father taught law at Notre Dame in the 1920’s when Knute Rockne taught chemistry there.  On the side, Rockne coached football, while Dad chaired the Athletic Committee, there being no athletic department in those days.

Dad often offered Rockne Rules, rough-hewn aphorisms that reflected his profound command of common sense.

If there is one Rockne line that nails the James Bakers of the world, it is this: “You don’t spit on a man’s head if you are standing on his shoulders.”  Baker the ungrateful, Baker the spiteful, Baker the ambitious, Baker the consummate apparatchik—the man has done a lot of spitting over the years.

But as Bill Clinton would say, “Hey, so what?  That’s old news!”

Must history repeat itself?  Well, having invoked Professor Marshall’s wisdom, I dare not prognosticate unduly.

So now another Hoosier has been nominated as a running mate.  If the ticket wins, will Donald Trump’s chief of staff sideline Vice President Pence, or will he rely on him as a valuable resource in uniting a profoundly divided country?  Will Pence hide in his office as presiding officer of the Senate playing Pokémon, or will he be a key player in unifying support for Trump’s agenda on Capitol Hill and passing it for Trump’s signature in the Oval Office?

Briefly put, will Pence matter?

Well, as Fats Waller put it, “One never knows, do one?”