Everyone is interested in impeachment these days. It’s an interesting statement about our present political moment that many right-leaning acquaintances of mine seem genuinely gleeful that Donald Trump has survived five months in office without being impeached. (Granted, one might draw several different morals from this.)
On the liberal side, everyone is interested in working out the sizzling details. Will it happen? When? How? What classic photograph might we get from a Trumpian decampment?
I can sympathize with the underlying angst, but my own views on the Trump administration’s future might presently be summed up by that Mexican-tourist-town classic: Que Sera, Sera. I realize that stoicism is bad for punditry, but at this point, what else is there? I can’t defend Trump, because I genuinely don’t know what he or his people might have done.
In contrast to last spring, however, the job of attacking him seems to be more than adequately covered at the moment. I conclude this is a delightfully opportune moment for a weary NeverTrumper to stop and smell some flowers. (My garden is going to be spectacular this year.) One line gets under my skin, however. Liberals, you lose every shred of credibility when you declare that, “Pence is worse.”
Yes, Trump Makes the Right Look Bad
I understand the argument. Whatever Trump’s egregious failings (both as an executive and as a man), this much at least can be said for him: Thus far, he’s been fairly ineffective. Also, he’s far less ruthless and bloodthirsty than some detractors suspected.
Dystopian nightmares about death camps and immigrant-chasing stormtroopers seem fairly distant at this juncture, and Trump’s actual failings are far more congenial to liberal exploitation. He’s easily baited, and has a gift for throwing lighter fluid on his own scandals. It’s entirely possible that his personal drama could keep Republicans mired in dysfunction until the midterms at least.
Best of all, the fallout for this sorry scene will probably fall disproportionately on the GOP. The liberal press has not conducted itself with credit, but voters will forget that long before they forget The Mogul and his wacky shenanigans. Then, four years from now, Republicans will find themselves faced with an unhappy choice between re-nominating a manifestly incompetent president, and enraging his remaining supporters by trying to put up someone else. That’s a lot of potential pain for the GOP.
In short, Trump might be terrible, but he’s Republican terrible. If you’re a Democrat, there are some bright silver linings to this situation.
On the other hand, if Pence became president, Republicans would find themselves with firm control of the executive and legislative branches as well as competent leadership. They might enact a serious conservative agenda! Voters might even like that agenda! They might start looking back on Trump as a ludicrous but blissfully short humor piece, an “opener” of sorts to a genuinely conservative period of governance. Voters can be maddeningly forgiving that way.
You’re Making Yourselves Look Bad
Let’s start with the obvious. You look fairly ridiculous when you spend months shouting that Trump is fascist, racist, war-mongering maniac… then come back and declare that a staid and sober conservative governor would be worse.
It’s especially foolish to say such things at this juncture, when there’s no clear prospect of the comparison even being relevant. Again, I make no definite prediction about the future. But if Trump survives considerably longer than five months, and if liberals continue to slower him with unflattering superlatives, I will not forget these declarations that “Pence is worse.”
I appreciate that liberals are mad at the political right just now, so it seems outrageous to them that if the liberal press succeeds in its apparent object, the Republicans could just end up with a fresh start. Let’s put this in perspective, though. We had a liberal, democratic president for eight years. When the Trumpian backlash started, liberal media gleefully gave him $2 billion worth of free media coverage, while the Hillary Clinton campaign actively encouraged friends and allies to fuel Trump’s candidacy. Also, the Clinton campaign was the Clinton campaign.
Stop feeling so sorry for yourselves. There’s so much blame to go around these days, the confession line ought to be curling all the way around the block.
Hating Pence More Makes You Look Deranged
What’s really sad about the “Pence is worse” line is that it completely undermines any pretext that the speaker cares about good government. Although I do not believe that a president should be impeached merely for being boorish and bad at his job, I do feel real sympathy with some liberal friends who seem genuinely anguished over the behavior and general character of our present executive. That sympathy only goes to a certain point, however.
It’s bad to have a president who doesn’t seem to grasp fairly basic points about the workings of government or the significance of top-secret intelligence. It’s bad to have presidents who undercut their subordinates, bully people far weaker them, and ignite national controversies with impulsive and inflammatory tweets.
I also believe that it’s bad to have serial adulterers occupying the Oval Office. (I held that same view in Bill Clinton’s day). This is all deeply unfortunate, and when liberal friends complain about it, I don’t come back at them with a list of my own grievances and “That’s how you got Trump.” It may be, but so what? They’re still right. Nobody should behave that way, and presidents definitely shouldn’t. Where does the buck stop these days?
Once you’ve admitted that you regard Pence as a worse option, however, you lose any right to complain about those abuses. Nobody really believes that Indiana’s former governor would have any of these problems. He’s not incompetent. He’s not skeezy. All evidence suggests that he would listen to his advisors, respect his subordinates, and stay off Twitter. If you hate Trump for his offenses against good government, have the decency to admit that Pence is clearly much better.
What will be, will be. Impeachment fantasies will surely go on, but the reality is that most of us just don’t know what’s behind-the-scenes of Washington’s ongoing cloak-and-dagger drama. We should hope that the truth is uncovered, and acted on appropriately. The “Trump or Pence” question is truly the wrong question, and no one is obliged to speculate on this point.
As with your Miranda rights, however, anything you do say can still be used against you. If you’ve already broadcast your view that Trump is a catastrophic incompetent, don’t go on to declare that Pence would be worse. After all, there’s a major benefit to losing an election: You get to claim the high ground when the guy in power screws up. Enjoy responsibly, liberals. Stop wasting it.