Don’t Be Comforted by the Prospect of Pence

As I stated in my previous article, the possibility of President Pence is gently weaving itself into the delicate fabric of American consciousness. While there is absolutely no guarantee that Trump will be impeached (and even less reason to believe he would actually be convicted if impeachment were to occur), the ongoing Russian hysteria renders one virtually incapable of at least not considering the possibility. When examining this hypothetical, I’ve observed a number of reactions from liberals; perhaps the most popular being that, as detestable as Pence is, he possesses a stability that Trump does not, and would be a welcomely mundane relief after the tumultuous excitement of Trump.

But do we have any real reason to believe that this would be the case? Or are we guided by the belief that any future President would have to be of a calmer manner than Trump by default?

In terms of social policy, Pence is objectively more conservative than his superior, who has vacillated greatly in the greater social justice landscape. Pence, on the other hand, has a long and well recorded history of deeply conservative social views. He infamously advocated for federal funding to go to sexual reassignment therapy, or, as it is frequently referred to nowadays, gay conversion therapy. He was a vocal opponent of the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. He opposed a law protecting LGBT Americans from workplace discrimination. He said same-sex couples and their marriages were indicative of a greater “social collapse”. As for women, he worked to blocked Indiana funding to Planned Parent to such a degree that a devastating HIV outbreak occured as a result. In fact, Pence stated in 2000 that funds dedicated to preventing HIV/AIDS should be reallocated to fund conversion therapy. He unsuccessfully attempted to prevent Syrian refugees from entering Indiana. In 2001, he penned a thoughtful essay titled “Global Warming Disaster”, where he opened with the proclamation that “global warming is a myth.”

A photo from Pence’s congressional campaign. Via Congressman Philip R. Sharp Papers.

From a social perspective — which is a perspective we mustn’t neglect, even in the desperate times of Trump — there is absolutely no reason Democrats should be relieved by the possibility of Pence. Still, the general consensus I’ve heard from a lot of liberal folks is that despite his odious and documented political history, his even temper could spare us from nuclear war. While I certainly agree that Pence possesses a core of maturity that Trump lacks, his attitude toward war isn’t necessarily encouraging. He voted in favor of the Iraq War and authorizing U.S. military force in Iraq. He has also issued some very explicit ultimatums to North Korea, issuing threats like “the sword stands ready” and “the era of strategic patience is over”, and promised that the United States “would make an “overwhelming and effective” response to any use of conventional or nuclear weapons.” If you’re looking for a president who will adopt a patient and non-interventionist policy toward North Korea and nuclear war in general, Pence isn’t your guy.

Pence in the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ). AP Photo/Lee Jin-man.

So really, there’s no reason to be particularly be relieved by the prospect of Pence. While he does carry about him a sense of presidentialism, his beliefs are of little dissimilarity to Trump’s. If anything, his values are more severe, and judging by his track record, we have reason to be believe he could be more effective (many of Trump’s social policies have been blocked or halted) in carrying out policies that reflect those values. That said, President Pence would be an alliteration (the third after only President Pierce and President Polk), so that could tip the scales a bit.

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