From the day Donald Trump descended that escalator in Trump Tower and declared, between xenophobic slurs, that he was running for president, Democrats have been wondering: What will it take for his supporters to dump him?
Now we know. Well, maybe. This is “Teflon Don” we’re talking about.
But as word spread Thursday about Trump’s tentative agreement with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer to protect DACA recipients from deportation and delay talk of funding the border wall, he also became “Amnesty Don.”
Some of his supporters were so apoplectic that they were burning their “Make America Great Again” gear and posting videos of it to social media. Even far-right provocateur Ann Coulter, who penned the book “In Trump We Trust,” was disgusted enough to unload in a tweetstorm:
“At this point, who DOESN’T want Trump impeached?”
“If we’re not getting a wall,” she continued, “I’d prefer President Pence.”
As a former Indiana resident who lived through Mike Pence’s soul-sucking time as governor, the notion that the vice president could become president is something I try to pretend could never happen. But with Trump alienating his base, and Pence trying to curry favor with Republican donors, running what’s essentially a shadow presidential campaign for 2020 while sucking up to Trump, it’s something to seriously consider.
President Mike Pence. Would he be better than President Donald Trump? The answer depends on your politics.
If you’re a conservative Republican who doesn’t mind the church being in your life, every minute of every day, then Pence is probably your man.
His agenda would consist of making abortion and same-sex marriage illegal again; bringing prayer back to schools and encouraging the teaching of creationism over evolution; shredding the social safety net and probably privatizing it; letting people buy as many guns as they want; giving corporations huge tax breaks and letting them pollute as much as they want; and putting a stop to criminal justice reform and any momentum to legalize marijuana.
And he’d do all of this efficiently, with an aww-shucks smile, and a patronizing wave of his hand and shake of his head. He’d pour on the earnest Midwestern charm, while somehow never actually answering a single question. He never answered any of mine when I interviewed him.
Pence isn’t a loud-and-obnoxiously-proud white nationalist like Trump, but he is very much for the advancement of white people – particularly straight, white, Christian men.
As governor, he supported a push for a Sheriff Joe Arpaio-style crackdown on undocumented immigrants – until it was declared unconstitutional, that is. So beware, Dreamers.
During the campaign, he categorically dismissed any role of racial bias in policing. “Enough of this seeking every opportunity to demean law enforcement broadly by making the accusation of implicit bias whenever tragedy happens,” said Pence, the white man.
And transgender people? I’m honestly not sure he knows even that they exist – and if he does, he thinks they’re just “confused” people who need to “commit” themselves to the Lord.
So that’s why, if you’re a liberal independent or a Democrat, President Trump is by far the better option than President Pence.
Sure, the current administration is a dysfunctional dumpster fire. The White House is packed with people who are just fine with alternative facts, willful ignorance, incompetence, impatience and hubris. There’s rampant nepotism, sexism and racism. Conspiracy theories are entertained in the Oval Office and scientific facts are dismissed.
But it’s because of this that Trump has yet to enact a single major piece of legislation.
On tax reform, I’m not holding my breath and neither should corporate America. And on immigration, Trump might have an only-Nixon-can-go-to-China moment. But at the speed the president is backpedaling from this supposed deal with Pelosi and Schumer, that’s rather uncertain.
Sure, Trump is the hothead president most likely to get us into a nuclear war with North Korea, and he’s lazy and uninterested in details enough to let members of his cabinet roll back Obama-era regulations at their prerogative.
But as I wrote back in July 2016, when Trump was still considering Pence as his running mate, both men are “really just two sides of the same crazy coin.”
I said it then, and I’ll say it now: Like Trump, Pence is tone deaf. He is uninterested in learning what he doesn’t know. He’s an ideologue who surrounds himself with people who tell him what he wants to hear. His bubble is so airtight that differing opinions often come as a shock to him.
Today, we know exactly how crazy Trump is. We know his weaknesses as a president, chapter and verse. We know how dangerous he is. And so many of us here in California, a.k.a. the headquarters of the resistance, might wish he were gone.
Be careful what you wish for.
Erika D. Smith is a columnist for The Sacramento Bee. Connect with her at 916-321-1185, @Erika–D–Smith.