The three-week impeachment trial of President Trump came to a close last Wednesday as the Senate voted to acquit him of abusing power and obstructing justice.
The outcome wasn’t unexpected; In December, Senate-majority leader Mitch McConnell publicly announced his plans to work closely with White House lawyers, dissolving hopes for an unbiased trial.
While foreseeable, the proceeding’s results have left many troubled with the consequences. This is best exemplified by reactions of late-night hosts, such as Samantha Bee: “ … the Senate has set a devastating precedent. Future presidents can solicit foreign interference in an election; they can investigate private citizens. There are no rules.”
Nevertheless, whether one is left disappointed by a muddied due process characterized by a tilted system of check and balances, those hoping to see a Democratic alternative to Trump in 2020 may actually find comfort in his acquittal. A Trump-free Oval Office would mean, potentially, a Mike Pence candidacy, whis is a reality that would threaten the likelihood of a liberal presidency.
In such a hypothetical situation, Pence, the current vice president, would have every reason to campaign once in office. History has revealed a pattern of vice presidents running after their term in office. Following Nixon’s resignation, Gerold Ford ran against Jimmy Carter in 1976. So did Al Gore after Bill Clinton’s impeachment, contesting against Bush in 2000.
Some have already laughed at the prospect of Pence in such power, his inflexible religious views and spouse-obsessed lifestyle being the center of ridicule. Bee said, “It would have been fun seeing Pence try to figure out if he wants to call his wife ‘first lady mother’ or ‘first mother lady,’” referring to a 2017 Rolling Stone claim that Pence calls his wife “mother.”
The idea of Mike Pence — who has remained largely out of the scandal spotlight throughout Trump’s reign — as the nation’s top executive feels so foolish that there’s even a satirical website for his campaign, proclaiming, among other things that Jesus Christ is his running mate.
Yet, whatever his caricature, a Pence candidacy would overturn much of the current Democratic drive against Trump. Most of the competitors run on the promise of dismantling President Trump’s provoking policies — in essence, a promise to bring the nation back to a familiar normality.
A normality Pence represents.
Even during the 2016 election, Pence’s status quo persona provided much to appreciate. In an New Yorker article, Steve Bannon, a former White House chief strategist, said, “Trump’s got the populist nationalists, but Pence is the base. Without Pence, you don’t win.”
As a politician with experience and a cool temperament — an immense contrast to Trump — Pence would spell trouble for those Democrats who pride themselves on being just that. One example is Joe Biden, who has proven to be the most conventional of the runners.
In addition to President Trump’s base, Pence could rally the few on the right who disapprove of Trump but feel uneasy or at odds with the Democratic campaigns, especially the more progressive ones. For instance, in the words of a Politico article, “as long as Pence is perceived as having restored… honor and dignity, to the White House, Warren’s crusade against corruption might feel outdated.”
Moreover, though less obviously, president-want-to-be Pence would have the financial backing to jump-start his campaign, something of significance in modern elections. In the same New Yorker article mentioned previously, much was also revealed about Pence’s profound ties with the Koch family, for whom he pursued certain policies in exchange for financial backing.
The two are so deeply connected that, “in 2014, a Republican strategist told Politico that ‘the whole Koch operation’ had become ‘the shadow headquarters of Pence for President,’” according to the New Yorker.
With the impeachment trial wrapped up and President Trump continuing on with his first term, Democratic candidates have sustained their increased chance of placing one of their own in the oval office. Though upsetting to many, Trump’s acquittal means avoiding a greater threat — that of candidate Pence, a would-be serious runner with far-reaching financial backing and a far less stained past. Democrats can now safely continue with their arranged objectives.
At least until 2024.
Filip De Mott is a sophomore Journalism and International Affairs major. Contact Filip at email@example.com.