When Donald Trump chose Mike Pence as his running mate, many joked it was a shield against impeachment. After all, liberals may hate Trump, but when it comes to the man who made is name championing conservative social issues, Pence is even less likeable.
Now that we’re in the middle of ongoing investigations into Russian collusion and the Stormy Daniels saga, there is legitimate—instead of merely hopeful—talk of impeachment. While many on the left are motivated by the idea, there are plenty more arguing that Pence would be even worse.
While it’s understandable that the thought of a President Pence would send shivers up progressives’ spines, it is a better outcome than a continued Trump presidency. Regardless of your feelings about Pence, rooting for a Trump impeachment makes sense.
You might not want Pence to be president, but whether or not you realize it, essentially, he already is.
Leading From Behind
When Trump was still searching for a running mate, he reached out to Gov. John Kasich of Ohio, who had emerged during the 2016 Republican primary as a more moderate and stable voice in a field of contenders who spent much of the time arguing about who had the biggest hands, and who loved war the most.
Trump promised to make Kasich “the most powerful vice president in history,” promising to put him in charge of both domestic and foreign policy.
Why? Because Trump isn’t in it for policy making. He is not an ideologue, and outside of matters of his own power and monetary gain, he couldn’t care less about policy. That is clear in the many conflicting stances he has taken, both before and during his time in the Oval Office.
Further, he has no patience for it. He won’t even read his daily briefings, preferring instead to be given a daily folder full of flattering news about himself.
There is every reason to believe Trump extended the same offer of ultimate power that he dangled in front of Kasich to Pence—but Pence bit.
It helps explain why a man so devout in his evangelical Christianity he won’t even have dinner alone with any woman other than his wife would agree to be the running mate of a man who seemingly never saw an attractive woman he wasn’t married to that he didn’t want to get alone.
When the infamous, “Grab them by the pussies,” Access Hollywood tape leaked, some thought Pence might abandon the campaign, but he stayed on. He stayed because he knew how much he had to gain if Trump could achieve the improbable: election. If Trump won, Pence knew he would get to lead from behind. And if Trump managed to screw up his time in office as badly as it appeared he might, Pence would even get the title and the desk.
Is There A Difference?
For all the talk of being an outsider, of draining the swamp, of fighting for the common, forgotten American, Trump’s presidency—setting aside the lies and chaos-making—has yielded standard issue far-right conservatism.
The blank slate theory that might make electing a non-ideologue tempting proved as fruitless, as anyone who paid attention to Trump’s worldview could have guessed it would be. Trump was elected by a conservative base to lead the Republican party, so he went where the pressure led him: to the far-right.
Finding daylight between Trump and Pence on any issue now is nearly impossible.
During the campaign, Trump said he disagreed with his running mate’s stance on Syria. Pence argued the United States should not rule out taking military action against the country.
Since becoming president, Trump has twice ordered missile strikes on Syria, once in April of last year and once in April of this year.
On economic issues, Trump quickly pulled the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership after taking office, a multi-country trade agreement he once called “a rape of our country.” Now he is suggesting rejoining it. Pence has been in favor of it all along.
Trump and Pence on LGBT and Social Issues
Trump has taken numerous actions against the very LGBT community he promised to protect during the Republican National Convention (though it was only a promise to protect LGBTs from terrorists, as even his words of support had to be wrapped in a message of fear).
The list of attacks against LGBT people is already too lengthy to include in full, but includes firing the remaining members of the HIV/AIDS advisory council after a half-dozen members quit, arguing employers should have the right to fire LGBT people, rescinding Obama-era protections for transgender students and affirming that their complaints will not be heard, and backing baker Jack Phillips in his Supreme Court case arguing being made to provide cakes for same-sex weddings would violate his First Amendment right to free speech.
Trump has also continued to push for a ban of transgender soldiers from the military.
While Defense Secretary James Mattis is officially the author of the report to the president that recommended keeping most transgender individuals out of the armed services and led to the latest version of the ban, Slate reports multiple sources have said Pence, working alongside anti-LGBT activists Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council and Ryan Anderson of The Heritage Foundation, were really behind it.
Pence and his team of religious cohorts is said to have overruled Mattis, believed to be in support of transgender soldiers openly serving, but did not want to use his limited political capital within the administration on the issue.
Last week, on the National Day of Prayer, Trump signed his second so-called “religious freedom” executive order establishing a new faith-based office, the White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative.
Pence spoke in the Rose Garden ahead of Trump, who also signed “religious freedom” order on last year’s National Day of Prayer, allowing the IRS to ignore the Johnson Amendment, which keeps churches and other non-profits from campaigning for candidates from the pulpit or risk losing tax-exempt status.
While Pence was governor of Indiana, he signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law in 2015, giving businesses the right to discriminate against LGBT people. The backlash caused him to back-peddle and sign an amendment protecting the LGBT community.
Try to imagine Trump admitting fault and choosing of his own accord to gut an order he just signed.
But it’s not just LGBT rights.
Trump has taken a strong anti-abortion stance, including going after Planned Parenthood’s funding, and recently promised the NRA he wouldn’t go after their guns, even in the wake of the call for increased gun control after the Parkland shooting.
If we were living under a President Pence instead of a President Trump would anything really be any different?
In fact, the only substantive difference seems to be in their personality.
Trump Increasingly Looks Like As Though He Wants To Be a Dictator
Trump was swept into office in no small part thanks to a cult of personality. It is hard to imagine Pence inspiring the same, seeing as his personality sits somewhere between boring and, “Mike who?”
Trump, on the other hand, continues to thumb his nose at the mere concept of acting presidential, drawing continued fascination as he attacks our institutions. Trump has criticized our allies, threatened and mocked our adversaries, and shown affinity for dictators and strongmen like Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
President Xi Jinping’s dissolution of term limits prompted Trump to publicly suggest the United States should try the same experiment of having a “president for life.” Take one guess who he thinks that should be.
That was just one sign Trump would rather be a dictator than rule under the cumbersome structure of American democracy, joining the list alongside attacking the press, calling for the jailing of his political opponents, attacking the FBI and his own Justice Department, and demanding a military parade.
Say what you will about Mike Pence, as there is plenty to say, but he has never ventured quite that far afield into megalomania crazy town.
Accept It, President Pence Is Already Here
Whatever your thoughts on Pence, it would be an error to allow him to be used a shield against removing Trump from office.
Before that can even conceivably happen, Democrats will have to turn out their own base for the midterms, and will need to maintain the momentum and willpower necessary to toss out Trump if and when it is shown he colluded with the Russians and sold out our democracy for his own financial and egotistical gain.
Don’t think of it as gaining a President Pence, which you already have anyway.
Think of it as losing a President Trump.