Can Pence Succeed Trump?

No one can replace Donald Trump.  He is unique.  Of the seven billion plus humans inhabiting planet Earth there couldn’t be another even close to his experiences, personality and skills.  His quirks and his abilities are completely idiosyncratic.  But he will also someday be term limited from serving as President of the United States.  So, it is necessary to consider who could succeed Donald J. Trump as president.

Mike Pence would be the conventional choice.  The Vice President of a successful President should have a leg up.  But Al Gore and Richard Nixon could disagree.  Assuming President Trump continues to preside over a healthy economy chances are Mike Pence would have at least an even chance at winning.  But is Mike Pence the man for the job?

In terms of personality and background it would be hard to imagine a starker contrast than Trump and Pence.

 

Name Donald Trump Mike Pence
Birthplace New York City, NY Columbus, IN
family business real estate tycoon gas station owner
net worth north of 1 billion dollars $700,000 (mostly future pension benefits)
liquid net worth in the tens of millions $15,000
religious convictions doubtful and conflicted devout
total number of wives 3 1
total lifetime number of porn star sex liaisons impossible to know but upper limit in triple figures zero
Ability to withstand cross-examination by George Stephanopoulos infinite zero

 

If you read Mike’s bio, he checks all the boxes for a social conservative.  He’s pro-life, religious, family values, defense of marriage.  He signed a bill as governor of Indiana to protect religious business owners from anti-discrimination law suits by homosexuals.  But he immediately signed an amended version that gutted it when the Media, some big businesses and progressive advocacy groups coordinated their public attacks and threatened to boycott Indiana.  And this latter incident is the troubling sticking point.  Does Pence have the guts to stick to his guns and defy the progressive coalition?

Now, there are some mitigating circumstances that are in his favor.  Being the Governor of Indiana during the Obama presidency doesn’t have the privileges that being President of the United States has.  You can imagine the pressure being brought to bear by business leaders as negative publicity swirled around Indiana during the blitzkrieg that the Media created.  And I’m sure the US Attorney General’s office was probably on the phone threatening him too.  But however, you slice it, the optics were hardly Trumpian.

It is fair to ask if Mike Pence may have learned something in the last three years of working with Donald Trump that improves his case.  I would have to say yes.  It seems highly unlikely that working in close proximity to President Trump hasn’t provided very valuable object lessons in how to triage the almost unending series of crises, both actual and media-fabricated that have confronted the White House since January of 2017.  By the end of President Trump’s second term, I would imagine even Mike Pence will have added a certain understated swagger to his manner when dealing with the media and other pests.  Undoubtedly, he’ll never be able to launch a vindictive tweet at Chuck Schumer or bark out a fake news sound bite the way The Donald can but I don’t doubt he’ll manage to make his points without collapsing into spineless acquiescence to the likes of Stephanopoulos.

Now this doesn’t answer the other important question.  Is Mike Pence the best choice for Trump’s successor?  Frankly, I doubt that.  I think the best man for the job will be another independent businessman or possibly an extraordinary military leader (of course my favorite choice is always me but we’ll leave that for another day).  But for this essay let’s restrict ourselves to whether Mike Pence could carry on the good work being done by President Trump.  I will give Pence grudging approval and say that based on his strengths, weaknesses and opportunities to grow as Trump’s right-hand man he probably could do it.

One last safeguard for Pence is that if President Trump doesn’t honestly think Pence is the right man to succeed him, he has two chances to correct the problem.  He can choose a different running mate for 2020 and in 2024 if he suddenly objects to Pence, he can recommend someone else for the job.

So, let’s say I give Mike Pence a wavering one thumb up.  Here’s hoping he comes into his own in the second term.