Yes, Pence is preferable to Trump

Naturally, the prospect of Trump being impeached has been on people’s minds. It is perhaps conceivable that he could go so far that even the Republicans wouldn’t be able to stomach it. Yet when pondering that potential outcome, people tend to point out that we would then have Pence as president, which may not actually be preferable and may even be worse. I understand where people are coming from and acknowledge that it’s not a clear-cut case, but I think the way the math ultimately comes out is that Pence is preferable to Trump for a number of reasons.

  1. Pence’s agenda would be a known quantity. Pence’s combination of a Tea Party and Religious Right agenda would unquestionably be destructive. It would cause real people real harm, and that should not be minimized. But it is at least a predictable and familiar agenda, and one that ultimately does not resonate with the majority of Americans.
  2. It is easier to change laws and regulations than to restore unspoken norms. Much of the damage that Pence could do would be limited to his own time in office, with some lag time due to the Supreme Court. Reversing laws and regulatory decisions is a relatively simple matter, so the destruction could be contained. What cannot be easily reversed is “breaking the spell” of the conventional norms without which institutions, laws, and regulations cannot function, and that is what Trump is already hard at work doing.
  3. Pence is an uncharismatic loser. When Trump picked him as VP, Pence was on his way to losing in Indiana. He may be a calm and reassuring presence on a superficial level, but that only works in the context of Trump. This is not a guy who is going to be mobilizing mass rallies. And without Trump’s cult of personality, Pence is vulnerable to conventional political attacks and has tons of skeletons in his closet.
  4. If Trump were disgraced and discredited, he would be an albatross around Pence’s neck. Are people really going to turn out to the polls to reelect the toady of the guy we just removed from office and all hate, who didn’t even really win the election in the first place?

None of this guarantees that Democrats would not be able to pull defeat from the jaws of victory once again, but I think the terrain would be much more favorable if Trump were impeached and Pence took the reins. The effect would be bad and destructive, but in a more conventional and fixable way.

14 thoughts on “Yes, Pence is preferable to Trump

  1. I sympathize with the response that this is “centrist triangulation”–it’s one (among several) I’m inclined to give as well.

    Do you have an alternative recommendation?

  2. Why is this “centrist triangulation”? I do not get it — I am responding to one possible alternative to Trump that has been discussed. I am not offering my own final answer. This is the kind of response I absolutely hate because it takes one single post in isolation and expects it to say everything at once. Anyone who knows my writing at all knows that I do not positively prefer Pence. In fact, that background highlights how horrible I must believe Trump to be, if I’m willing to say that even the horrible Pence would be less bad.

    But yeah, go ahead and dismiss and judge me — I’m probably the real enemy here.

  3. One reason that the “centrist triangulation” charge makes no sense is that I literally say nothing about what Democrats should do in this situation. I am focused on the very narrow “is Pence worse than Trump” question. If I said, “Democrats should take the good parts of the Pence agenda and run on it in the Midwest” or some dumb shit like that, then I would be triangulating. But I don’t say anything like that. In fact, I say that most Americans reject Pence’s shitty agenda — so how do you draw the conclusion that I’m trying to triangulate with it?

    I am really angry right now at such stupid fucking responses. You should both be ashamed of yourselves.

  4. Clearly must have touched on something. No need to talk of enemies – was just trying to be pithy, to spare further essays on this tortuous topic.

    To expand on my thinking (but not by much): a preference between bad things is not much of a course for anything except for forward movement in the paradigm of these bad things. Maybe there’s a better word for that than triangulation (there is).

    And honestly, you could just as easily come back tomorrow and argue the other side – here are four reasons that Trump would be better than Pence (for some definition of ‘better’). But when do we get to discussing alternatives – even if they’re not in the immediate realm of the possible.

    The other side is fine changing realities, and this side is fine living within them. Well I’m not fine. None of us are.

  5. I get it, I’m only allowed to write plans for a positive left-wing alternative from now on. Thank you for your input.

    What you “touched on” was my hatred of people being dismissive, judgmental dicks. And my anger at the idea that I’m somehow trying to promote the Pence agenda when I am literally saying it would be easier to defeat and reverse.

  6. “anger at the idea that I’m somehow trying to promote the Pence agenda”
    “Saying that one thing is preferable to another does not indicate an absolute preference”

    You are swinging at phantoms here, dude. None of us would be here if we thought you were promoting any such agenda. We know you’re not – give us some credit.

    We’re just looking forward to the return of Total Kotsko :)

  7. Well, I wasn’t clear, and should have written a longer response in order to be so.

    I was (speaking for myself) talking about working through a thought process within myself. Having the thought “Is Pence a preferable alternative to Trump?” At various points thinking “yes” or “no”, and having emotional responses to both, sometimes one of them being, “goodness, this is the sucky picking-of-the-less-bad of two awful alternatives that we keep getting stuck with”, and having an emotional reaction to that…

    I wasn’t arguing against Adam–and suspect he’s as correct as one can be at this particular time and place. But I should have been clearer about that–my apologies. I was all about sharing a bit of my own conflicted internal process.

  8. To me, Trump is scary, and Pence is scarier. Although, I don’t see how the two main parties we have in the United States can survive much longer. And there will inevitably only be more “big” changes and surprises ahead. The nation cannot continue down its current trajectory for all sorts of reasons.

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