Whenever a conversation starts about the path to impeaching President Donald Trump, some smartass inevitably chimes in with, “But then we’d be stuck with Mike Pence!” It’s the new “Bernie would’ve won;” obnoxious, unhelpful and designed to end a conversation rather than to start it.
Pence would make a terrible president and would lead this country’s regression back to antiquated, bigoted social mores. His record proves that he wants religious law to be the law of the land, doesn’t oppose electrocuting gay people and wants to force women to carry every conception to term, regardless of whether they’ve been raped or are carrying a fetus that would die shortly after birth. But while a Pence presidency would surely be terrible, it’s also our best option.
Pence is not a loose cannon. He wouldn’t rule by executive orders that he wrote late at night in response to cable news punditry and signed without review from the appropriate government agencies. He wouldn’t use the presidency to boost the profile of his international business interests, compromising American geopolitical standing, diplomacy and security in the process. He wouldn’t use his position to blast companies that disagree with him or to market his daughter’s clothing line. He wouldn’t taunt foreign leaders on social media or hang up on them mid-call. Pence would be a bad president, but he would be a president we could manage—one who would play by the rules so that we had a chance at actually beating him in the game.
We’d be able to fight him through the legislative branch and he might actually abide by the decisions of the judiciary. And we’d know what to fight him on. In the mere few weeks since Trump’s inauguration, there have been suspicions of a foreign government interfering with our election, an unconstitutional ban on people of a specific religion, increased tensions with Iran, immoral condemnation by the president of private companies and individuals and the firing of a federal judge who opposed him. Activists are wondering how to keep up with each new offense and focus their energy on one cause when so many need attention. While Pence’s desire to strip women of their access to healthcare and LGBTQ people of their basic rights is despicable, at least we would know which causes to rally around. Under President Pence, the resistance would be more straightforward.
Yes, learning to hope for this unsavory man to end up in the most powerful office in the world is a hard pill to swallow. But the stark reality we live in is that, right now, he’s our best hope. And as we (hopefully) learned during the election, holding out for perfection is self-defeating, dangerous and stupid. Some people refused to vote for Hillary Clinton because she wasn’t Mother Theresa and we ended up with Trump. Now we need to think strategically and choose an adversary we can beat in a (relatively) fair fight over an unpredictable, overgrown man-child with a short fuse.
Minority leader Nancy Pelosi insists that we don’t have grounds to impeach Trump, but at this rate, it’s only a matter of time. More than 800,000 people have already signed a petition urging Congress to begin impeachment proceedings, and this great piece in the New York Daily News runs down all of the possible avenues that could lead to a successful impeachment, highlighting Trump’s violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which states that the president can’t “accept any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatsoever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.” If Trump’s foreign business interests haven’t yet put him in violation of this clause, they’re likely to soon enough. Just yesterday, New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler intiated a formal inquiry into Trump’s business entanglements, which could be the first step on the road to impeachment.
Of course, a Republican-controlled Congress is extremely unlikely to do the right thing here (as we’ve seen in the confirmation hearings for Trump’s cabinet picks), but a post-midterm, Democrat-controlled Congress might, especially if we constituents repeat loudly and often that we want impeachment without silencing each other with the looming threat of Pence. Coming to accept that Pence is actually part of that goal, not a reason to scrap it, will only let us fight with more fervor, and offer us a potential road out of this mess.