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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.