Mike Pence as a Litmus Test for Your Feelings on Trump

I live in Boston, so I get to hear a lot of concerns about Trump as president.

Every president gets flak, often unfair or hyperbolic, from people in the political opposition. 

But there's something unique about opposition to Trump that I haven't heard said about Bush, McCain, Romney, or Rubio/Kasich/Cruz: there is a strong strain of opinion that Trump is fundamentally unfit to be president (that strain is probably reflected in the majority of our readers, but not all). I must admit here that when Trump was elected, ReConsider did not exactly celebrate the moment. 

Here is some common criticism I hear about the President (I will officially neither support nor oppose any of these particular opinions and just say blandly that I have my own opinions about Trump but they are not relevant here):

  • He is childish and emotionally unstable
  • He does not understand what is needed to do his job and does not want to learn
  • He is unpredictable and that is bad for foreign policy
  • He is antagonistic to American allies and is damaging our most important relationships
  • He's a serial abuser of women and sexual assaulter
  • He cares more about his own aggrandizement than the country as a whole
  • He is racist against all sorts of groups and is passing policy that is bad for them
  • He is bad for LGBT people
  • He is generally bad for women
  • He is encouraging racism and other hate in the country
  • He is a puppet of Russia
  • He is going to start World War III with Russia
  • He is corrupt
  • He is a chronic liar
  • He breaks the law in serious ways, including obstructing justice and working with Russian agents to help them manipulate the election
  • He has appointed literal or nearly-Nazis to key positions in government
  • He has appointed other people to key positions in government who are incompetent
  • He is undermining important institutions, traditions, and customs that are critical to making government work
  • He is actively attempting to erode trust in the media and make the case that he is the only trustworthy source of information out there
  • Generally he's a real a-hole and bully

If I've missed something, don't bother telling me, as the point is to show that among some of the left it is pretty popular to malign him as a uniquely, dangerously terrible and an utter disaster in a way that makes people look back on GW Bush and say, "okay maybe he wasn't so bad." Chicken little politics aside, there has been some serious work done trying to make the case that Donald Trump is so dangerous that he really needs to be removed from office for the good of the country.

Enter Mike Pence

When I hear this, I'm typically listening intently, and then I ask, "okay, so if Mueller finds a High Crime or Misdemeanor, Congress can impeach him, so that's a path?" (Turns out you can't impeach someone just because you really really don't like them or think their policy is really really bad.) 

Probably more than half the time, that record-rip sound happens and people say, "oh man, well we can't have Mike Pence."

Now I don't to tell anyone how they should feel about Mike Pence. But surprisingly frequently I do get people starting to struggle with the idea of impeaching Trump and putting Pence in power. When I ask why, I usually hear that Mike Pence has a bunch of opinions or has supported policies (while Governor of Indiana 2012-2017) that were more common among Republicans over 20 years ago, such as defunding Planned Parenthood, opposing gay marriage and civil unions, and supporting "conversion therapy" (though Pence officially claims he does not and "never has" supported it, which suggests he's at least abandoned the policy recently).

The other thing I hear is that Pence is competent enough to actually execute his conservative policies, where Trump is not.

So on the one hand we have someone who, if the above accusations are all correct, is dangerously unfit to hold the office of the President, is degrading the institutions of the Republic, and might kick off World War III if he's having a bad day. On the other hand, we have a guy whose conservative positions are unpopular and represent a dying movement against the expansion of LGBT rights. 

Such a struggle isn't just among people I know in Boston. The New Yorker actively grapples with the problem, and US News highlights that it's a national question for Democrats. The New York Times pleads with Democrats to consider Pence as a viable alternative to Trump.

Here, then, is a litmus test.

Again, you don't have to like either of them--you could really despite both. But if you're really having trouble picking between the two, then you need to wonder how much you actually believe all of the "dangerously unfit" and "will start WWIII" stuff. Because I've not heard any of that applied to Pence. 

If you've been telling others or yourself that Trump is truly uniquely bad and dangerous, but would not obviously prefer Pence at the helm, then it's time to ask yourself: do you believe your own rhetoric?


Erik Fogg

We do politics, but we don't do the thinking for you.