Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said this week what liberal writers have been warning about for weeks: Impeaching and removing President Donald Trump could backfire.
The replacement for Trump, as fantastical as it would be to imagine his removal, would still not be defeated 2016 contender Hillary Clinton or a progressive in good standing. It would be Vice President Mike Pence.
Franken told the International Business Times during a stop on his book tour that “everything points” to collusion between Trump and the Russian government during the 2016 election campaign. But he was not exactly enthused about what impeachment would lead to.
"Pence ran the transition and some of the very worst nominees, I felt — [Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott] Pruitt, [Education Secretary Betsy] DeVos, [Health and Human Services Secretary Tom] Price, [Office of Management and Budget Director Mick] Mulvaney — were Pence selections, clearly, I think," he said. "He's ideological, I consider him a zealot, and I think that in terms of a lot of domestic policy certainly would be worse than Trump."
Most Democratic lawmakers have not voiced such concerns out loud. Instead, 27 members of the House or Senate have discussed at least the possibility of impeachment, with some ready to draw up papers right now.
But Franken is far from alone on the Left in worrying that a President Pence would be worse for them.
"Removing Trump would just replace him with someone who is also terrible in his own right: Mike Pence," Alex Bolinger wrote this month on LGTBQ Nation. "While there are legitimate reasons for advocating that Trump be removed from office (to show that Congress still believes in the rule of law, for example), better policy is not one of them."
Bolinger added that, "Maybe it's because Pence actually had a job in politics before becoming vice president that he seems less destructive than Trump. But that's unlikely."
Progressive journalist Megan Carpentier wrote last moth in Dame that Pence would be an improvement on style only:
"Pence may not tweet like a Ritalin-addicted teenager with an impulse-control problem, a deep sense of entitlement, and something to prove, and he probably has the good sense not to yell at other world leaders and constantly publicly praise the most murderous ones … but in terms of actual, actionable policy decisions, the idea that Mike Pence would somehow be preferable to the man who is enacting every policy Mike Pence would himself enact is, and always was, the product of a fevered imagination."
Jeff Alson, an engineer from Ann Arbor, Michigan, expressed similar sentiments at the online magazine In These Times last month.
"Indeed, Pence could well turn out to be a complete disaster as president for liberal-minded Americans."
"If Trump were impeached and convicted, Vice President Mike Pence, a right-wing, evangelical ideologue, would be a much more reliable and competent rubber stamp for the conservative policy agenda," he wrote.
And the liberal hand-wringing over Trump's potential replacement is not confined to the United States. Toronto Star columnist Bob Hepburn last month urged his neighbors to the south to not to impeach Trump — at least not yet.
"Indeed, Pence could well turn out to be a complete disaster as president for liberal-minded Americans," he wrote. "In sharp contrast to Trump, the former Indiana governor is a serious politician with extremist policy views that liberals seriously don't like."
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Hepburn wrote that Pence, with a Republican Congress rallying behind him, would push through a much more conservative agenda than Trump could pass.
"And that's why liberal-minded Americans, and like-minded Canadians, should be hoping the U.S. Congress doesn't impeach Trump — at least not just right away," he wrote.
There is evidence that rank-and-file Democrats are thinking the same thing.
"Democrats should not even pursue impeachment," Brooklyn resident Kenneth Roff wrote in a letter to the editor of The New York Times. "It would be better to run against the presidency of Mr. Trump in 2018 than Mike Pence, a sane, mentally stable, true conservative who would become president if Mr. Trump were impeached and removed from office.
But would that be putting politics before country?"