Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Mike Pence Temptation

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore

Just like clockwork, every time there is a general feeling among the DC swamp creatures that they finally have the goods to end the Trump presidency, articles appear declaring that Republican leaders are much more comfortable with Mike Pence as president. That the GOP establishment would be more comfortable with Pence is not news to many of us who objected to his selection as Trump’s Vice President. Among the reasons I was rather unhappy with Pence is that I feared he would create an irresistible temptation for the GOP leadership to remove Trump from office – and thus far my fear has proven to be well founded. For nearly a year now we have seen several efforts to, first, force Trump off the Republican presidential ticket and, later, from the Oval Office.

The steadfast refusal on the part of the GOP establishment to accept Trump is a direct result of their failure to understand their own voters and, frankly, their own Republican president. If they had been more attuned with their party activists they would have noticed that the policies of free trade, mass legal immigration and endless foreign military engagements had lost their appeal. They would have detected there was little appetite for another Bush administration and putting an attractive, young Latino face on the failed policies of the past was not going to make them more palatable. They also failed to detect that Trump is not the kind of person who would ever give up in the face of opposition - quite the opposite. Fierce opposition seems to make him more determined to defeat his opponents. Sweeter victory, I suppose. Had the party leadership been more in touch with reality, they might have been able to prevent a Trump candidacy in the first place.

By pursing the removal of Trump, GOP leaders have done tremendous damage to the party and now to the country. Imagine how many more seats the Republican Party would have in Congress if the leadership had decided to fully support their nominee instead of fighting him at every turn and trying as late as few weeks from election day to force him out with the Billy Bush tape. Joe Heck and Kelly Ayotte in all likelihood would be in the Senate today. A united Republican Party would have enjoyed greater victories up and down the ballot; instead the establishment decided holding on to their policy and candidate preferences was worth risking a Hillary Clinton presidency and the loss of the Supreme Court for a generation, if not longer. After the inauguration, their continued effort to remove Trump has created uncertainty, stalled major legislative initiatives on healthcare and taxes in Congress putting at risk greater economic growth. Moreover, one has to wonder whether foreign leaders may also be tempted to adopt a wait and see approach and stall any progress the president could make to advance American interests abroad.

For argument sake let’s say that Pence were to become president; does the GOP establishment believe that the political forces that propelled Trump to the White House would magically disappear? Do they believe they can go back to the old policies as if nothing happened in 2016? Is it possible that they are so far removed from reality that they believe that Trump voters would simply throw their hands up and say “well we tried” and happily support a return to pre-Trump Republican Party? If Trump is removed from office, it will not be due to his ideas being discredited. The objections against him have largely centered on style over substance. They attack his word choices, tweets, failure to follow norms under the umbrella of “not being presidential.” To this day there has not been a persuasive, substantive rebuttal to Trump’s "America First" agenda. The criticism largely amounts to hysterical assertions that the world will plunge into another Great Depression, accusations of racism, xenophobia or comparisons to Neville Chamberlain. Unless Trump’s ideas, policies are discredited in the eyes of his voters, Trumpism will not go away through the simple act of removing Donald Trump from office. The DC swamp creatures must realize that they are playing a dangerous game. Our democratic system can only endure if Americans continue to have faith that change can be affected through the ballot box.