Donald Trump and Mike Pence
Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr

I’m beginning to get almost exasperated by having to listen to Democrats caution against impeaching Trump because Mike Pence would be worse. The latest example comes from Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota.

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) is cautioning his Democratic colleagues that if President Trump is impeached, Vice President Pence would become president and he “would be worse” on domestic issues.

“He’s ideological, I consider him a zealot,” Franken told International Business Times in an interview published Monday. “And I think that in terms of a lot of domestic policy, [Pence] certainly would be worse than Trump.”

What bothers me about this isn’t the substance of the critique about Pence. What bothers me is the colossal amount of denial Democrats seem to be operating with as if they think they’re in a five-foot hole when they’re actually trapped in a bottomless pit.

This is like complaining to your defense attorney that he only helped you beat the murder rap but you’re still going to jail for eight years on lesser charges. And Franken knows this, as he makes clear:

Franken did say he’d feel better about having Pence as commander in chief rather than Trump.

“If you’re talking about how we handle North Korea or something like that, I’d probably be more comfortable with Pence ultimately making those decisions than Trump, because of Trump’s personality and character,” Franken said.

Franken said Trump’s behavior concerns him because it’s “so outside the norm,” adding that he is worried what Trump would do in the event that he was impeached.

“I don’t know what he will do if he looks like he’s going to be impeached and he wants to deflect,” Franken continued. “I don’t know what he’s capable of, and that really does concern me.”

Astonishingly, Trump’s volatility and obvious unsuitability for handling foreign policy becomes one more excuse for not impeaching him! Yet, it’s clear that Franken understands that Pence is the lesser evil.

I don’t know what gives the Democrats the right to think they can convince the Republicans not only to remove their president from power, but their vice-president, too. The next thing we’d hear is that Paul Ryan would be the worst of all. And, after him, Orrin Hatch, and on down the line of succession to Ben Carson.

The reason to investigate Trump and hold him accountable is not to magically reverse crippling political defeats. The reason is because he is manifestly unfit for office and there is a Constitution to protect. Leaving him in office because Mike Pence is an ideologue who would pursue horrible policies is like refusing to treat your cancer because you also have diabetes.

The problem with the Trump/Russia investigation isn’t that it’s a distraction from what the Republicans are trying to do. The problem is that it allows for magical thinking that prevents the Democrats from coming to grips with how badly they’ve been mauled and what they need to do to avoid becoming a permanent minority party in the vast majority of this country.

That Pence would replace Trump was baked in the cake when the Democrats got slaughtered in rural areas from sea to shining sea. And, you know, we’ve been here before. After the Democrats cleaned up in the post-Watergate 1974 midterms and won the presidency back in 1976, they thought they had their groove back.

They didn’t.

Right now, the Democrats are looking to bounce back in a similar way based largely on educated and affluent Republicans fleeing the GOP because of Trump’s insanity. That might work just as it worked in the mid-1970s, but it won’t reverse the trajectory we’re on anymore than Watergate stopped the inexorable movement from the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago to the loss of the Senate and the inauguration of Ronald Reagan in 1981.

President Trump is a national security emergency that must be urgently addressed. He’s not some magic elixir that can solve the Democrats’ structural problems and loss of appeal in most of the country.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at