You probably have these debates with your friends, too: Do we want Donald Trump to resign, or be impeached, which would leave us with Vice President Mike Pence in charge? Do we think Pence is better, or worse, than Trump? Is Pence more formidable politically? Will progressives’ chances still be better with the Orange Menace in the White House? Or would the low-charisma Pence, who looks like a B-movie producer’s idea of a president, be easier to defeat, especially given the GOP fratricide that would commence with Trump’s departure, however it came about? (I guess I tipped my hand in that last sentence.)
I try never to care about the political implications of whether Trump should stay or go. He should go, because he’s a racist authoritarian who got help from a foreign adversary to become president. He should go, because he’s more likely to stumble into war than Pence is.
But I never let that obscure the truth, either: Pence is a far worse person, because of his creepy Handmaid’s Tale patriarchal approach to women’s equality. But also because he usually knows he’s lying about Trump, and their administration’s agenda, and he lies anyway.
Exhibit A, for today anyway, is the way he defended Trump’s reaction to Charlottesville on Tuesday morning. It’s a perfect encapsulation of the way Pence appropriates American decency to defend his own indecency, and his boss’s. Here’s what he told NBC’s Today show about why he supports Trump’s call to keep Confederate monuments standing.
“I’m someone who believes in more monuments, not less monuments. What we ought to do is we ought to remember our history,” he began. Monuments, he then argued, served to “celebrate the progress that we’ve made since that history.”
I don’t know exactly what history Pence is comparing to “that history,” since it’s all history, but let’s let him continue:
You know, when I walked, back in 2010, across the Edmund Pettus Bridge with John Lewis, arm in arm, and we remembered Bloody Sunday, and the extraordinary progress of the civil rights movement, I can’t help but think that rather than pulling down monuments, as some are wont to do, rather than tearing down monuments that have graced our cities all across this country for years, we ought to be building more monuments.
What does that even mean? The Confederate monuments many of us want gone haven’t “graced” our cities; they blight them. Is Pence suggesting there should be a statue of 25-year-old John Lewis in the fetal position, with Thomas Merton in his book bag, trying to protect himself from the blows rained down by the sheriffs commanded by Selma’s Jim Clark, the brutal segregationist who died insisting he’d done the right thing on “Bloody Sunday”? I don’t think Pence is suggesting that, though maybe he ought to.
Maybe the whole bridge should be blocked by statues of the human bodies that were beaten to the ground that day, to grind Selma traffic to a regular halt, to force contemplation. Maybe it should no longer be a bridge at all. Personally, I’d prefer that we renamed Edmund Pettus Bridge the “John Lewis Memorial Bridge,” but I don’t have a say in that. (Anyway, first I’d want to know what Lewis thinks about it, and I don’t know that yet.)
But I don’t think any of that is what Pence is suggesting. I think he spewed Word Salad à la Sarah Palin, only with better grammar. I don’t think he gives a damn about the folks who protest these shameful statues. What was most galling about Pence’s comment, though, was that he used his bond with Lewis to clean up Trump’s despicable equation of Nazis and white supremacists with their opponents, who are the modern-day incarnation of John Lewis. (Oh, and by the way, who are supported by John Lewis.)
There it is again, that brazen Republican attempt to duck the reason Trump is president: that the GOP has played on racial fear and resentment for 50-plus years—all the way back to Selma. That’s why we have Trump, and Trump is why we have neo-Nazis and white supremacists trying to march through our streets. “Trying” is the operative word, as Boston showed last weekend, after the tragedy of Charlottesville. We are stronger than they are, and we will push them back. Everywhere.
A few Republicans will join us. Apostate conservative Jennifer Rubin, who is coming alive to the ways her party has used racial division to conquer, tweeted this about Pence’s sad effort to cover up Trump’s Charlottesville idiocy:
how many are tired of Mike Pence gaslighting the country, just flat out lying about what Trump says?
— Jennifer Rubin (@JRubinBlogger) August 22, 2017
Gaslighting is the right word, though no progressives will fall for it. Pence doesn’t care, though. He plays to an audience of one, and that one is Donald Trump. If we are ever lucky enough to have a President Pence, let’s hope that the mainstream media, congressional Democrats, and anti-Trump Republicans remember what a stooge he was for an incompetent, belligerent, popular-vote-losing president. If they do, we’ll never have to worry about Mr. B-movie president ever being elected to be the real thing.
If they don’t, we’ll remind them. Early and often.