A Pence presidency is not great, but it may be better

By James Mazarakis

President Trump, first lady Melania Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Karen Pence during a prayer service at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)
President Trump, first lady Melania Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Karen Pence during a prayer service at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017. (Olivier Douliery/Abaca Press/TNS)

In a disturbing Facebook post last week, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich detailed a conversation he had with a former Republican Congressman. “[Vice President Mike] Pence is their guy,” he reportedly said. The Republicans “think [President] Trump is out of his mind.” After Trump does “something dumb,” he claims that they will “pull the trigger,” betray, and impeach him.

While this anecdote is unsubstantiated, the notion points to a fear among liberals that any hopes of an impeachment of President Trump could lead to the rise of Mike Pence—an extreme right-winger whose unpopularity would have made it difficult to elect him under normal circumstances. The Republicans, in some respects, are holding America hostage.

This effectually demoralizes his opponents into avoiding Trump’s removal—after all, Pence could enact an administration that could rival Trump’s but have an easier time convincing traditional Republicans to go along with his vision.

Women and the LGBTQ community have been under attack in Indiana under Pence with anti-choice policies and support for “gay conversion therapy,” a witch hunt practice that preys on sexual minorities.

Pence already has the power of being Vice President. And if more light is shed on Trump’s ties with Russia, possibly revealing impeachable offenses, or if the 25th Amendment must be invoked due to his unhinged manner of governing, we are obligated by our Constitution to hold him accountable. As bad as Pence is, it would be wildly irresponsible to obstruct the impeachment process.

At a time when international politics are on pins and needles, voters are forced to ask questions about whether Trump is protecting American interests or his own business interests. His seemingly cordial relations with Russia and past skepticism of the North Atlatnic Treaty Organization could help break down the current liberal order. He has provoked China over Taiwan and the South China Sea. These are actions that Trump has taken effortlessly, doing so over the course of debates, press conferences, and on Twitter alike.

He has defended his ability to tweet what he wants to the bone, leading some of his staffers to consider “taking away his telephone or cancelling his account.” This is alarming. We should not have to worry about our president starting a war because of a temper tantrum.

Recent leaks from inside the White House have described Trump’s behavior as “childish.” His advisors reportedly noted that “his frenzied if admittedly impulsive approach appeals to voters because it shows that he is a man of action,” which suggests he is pushing the envelope for the showcasing. To what limit will he flex his muscles? Will he crack down on protests? Go to war?

This is not to defend Pence’s own hawkish attitude. A fervent supporter of the Iraq War in 2003, he is adamant in his position of “policing the world” and has defended U.S. responsibility in the rise of the Islamic State, calling for more intervention. As obscene as that is, it is a lesser evil than reckless, provocative exceptionalism—one that will probably result in similar, but more explosive blunders.

The Grand Old Party might not understand how deeply unhinged President Trump is capable of being. This is a man who has espoused fascist beliefs, hardly acknowledges the Constitution and aligns himself with big businesses that have interests abroad. Individuals close to him are trying to break down the public image of “facts” in a deeply disturbing manner close to what is warned about in George Orwell’s 1949 dystopian novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four”.

The Republicans have been working to achieve these authoritarian ideals for years—their most successful endeavor being voter suppression through gerrymandering and voting right restrictions—but they were never able to win the presidency with this much potency.

Now it may be out of their control. They made the crucial mistake of giving the controls to Donald Trump, an egomaniac who is as loyal to the Republicans as a third-party candidate. They have no control over Trump. If he is savvy enough, and has the will, he could turn on the Republicans himself. Worse, he could turn on the Constitution.

The prospect of a Pence administration is grim, but choosing between the two is a fate that was set in stone in November. Pence appears to be a figure that could wrangle more legislation through the Republican-controlled Congress. But the existential dangers of our president’s temperament is not the answer: remaining vigilant during a Pence administration is.

If the question is how we can protect our democracy, and if there becomes a definitive need to impeach Trump, we must see that process through.

If that happens, and Pence really is worse, then we have work to do.

James Mazarakis is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]