President Trump had a rather hard day Tuesday. His former fixer pleaded guilty to eight felony counts and implicated him in a criminal conspiracy. His former campaign manager was found guilty of eight felony counts as well. And after that day, bookmakers are giving Trump 45 percent odds of failing to finish his first term. But impeaching Trump and making Mike Pence the 46th President of the United States is far from the salvation Trump’s opponents are looking for.
There’s a real desire to see Trump impeached. Need to Impeach, an advocacy group led by billionaire Tom Steyer, is seeding grassroots efforts to end the Trump presidency even as Democratic party leaders hesitate to even bring up the word.
“Democratic base voters respond strongly to messaging urging public accountability for Donald Trump, including initiating impeachment proceedings against him,” Need to Impeach said in a memo to all Democratic officials.
But in this, the establishment may be right to be wary. Not because President Trump doesn’t deserve to be impeached — family separation alone is arguably a crime against humanity — but because the consequence of removing him from office would be the appointment of President Mike Pence.
You can already see interest in President Pence. CNN recently ran a glowing profile of Karen Pence and her beehive, the kind of treatment typical of first ladies and their passion projects.
But the danger of Mike Pence is precisely that he isn’t Donald Trump. It makes him, by contrast, very likable. He has support from independents which helps him poll better than Trump.
The vice president has been a rainmaker for Republican candidates in 2018, raising $20 million. He was also the tie-breaking vote in the Senate nine times, including for the confirmation of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who once remarked that the separation of church and state belonged in the ash heap of history.
That’s exactly what a President Pence would be for.
A new book, The Shadow President: The Truth About Mike Pence by Michael D’Antonio and Peter Eisner, calls Pence “the most successful Christian supremacist in American history.” The authors also warn about Pence’s “weaponized niceness” and his role as “President in the shadows” already.
Straightforward from here:
1. Indict and impeach Trump
2. President Pence
3. Dark Ages
— Sally Kohn (@sallykohn) August 22, 2018
Mike Pence was an incredibly unpopular Indiana governor before he was Vice President, and no small portion of Indiana Republicans were happy to see him go. This was, in part, the result of a 2015 law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act which launched a firestorm around its license to discriminate against the LBGT community. But that wasn’t the only thing he was criticized for. It wasn’t even the most shocking thing.
Pence wanted to create a website called JustIN, a state-run news service that would “compete” with independent journalism. Long before the media was the enemy of the people, the former Indiana governor wanted to replace it with media he controlled.
His fundamentalist Christianity and hatred of the free press made him a perfect Vice President for Trump. But Vice President wasn’t Pence’s ambition. He was eyeing the Oval Office back in 2015.
“If you’re Mike Pence, and you believe what he believes, you know God had a plan,” evangelical powerbroker Ralph Reed told the Atlantic.
Pence has shown great deference to Trump, but he also believes heaven and earth conspired to put him a heartbeat from the nuclear launch codes. And to go from a controversial governor to the heir apparent of the crumbling Trump administration, it’s easy to see why he thinks God chose him for this path.
And as loyal as he appears (he swears he isn’t trying to replace Trump), his work on the 2018 midterms has given him an impressive network for 2020. And again, it’s not hard to see why. Pence is a Christian supremacist, a man chosen by God. The last time an adulterous liar was President, Pence fumed to everyone that would listen.
For all the danger and bluster Trump represents, Pence represents a quiet, affable danger. Trump has white supremacists with tiki torches and Pence has a VIP suite with an even-more-VIP room filled to burst with billionaires.
“To the GOP, Pence would be a kind of godsend, a president who would be, as the former adviser describes him, ‘a think-tank-talk-news-created Republican robot,’ ” wrote Jason Zengerle for GQ.
And next to the horrifying legacy of Trump, the smiling and friendly theocratic vice president seems like such a welcome monster.
To Mike Pence, to the Republican establishment and to evangelicals, “President Pence” may be the will of God. And that should give Democrats seeking to remove Trump from office pause. Trump’s horrors are clear, which might make them easier to fight than horrors presented as gifts from divine providence.
Katelyn Kivel is a contributing editor for Grit Post in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Follow her on Twitter @KatelynKivel.