Do you remember Mike Pence? Michael Richard Pence? He’s the Vice President. Of the United States. And if the Democrats in Congress (at least, so far, just the Democrats) have their way, Mr. Pence might soon drop the “Vice” from his title. Should Donald Trump be impeached by the House of Representatives and convicted by the Senate, the Constitution makes it clear that President Pence will step into the Oval Office pretty darn fast after such proceedings end.
Who knows whether or not that eventuality will come to pass, but perhaps We the People better start to bone up on Mr. Pence. You know, in the scope of our history, if you’ll recall your Americana lessons in 5th, 7th, and 11th grades, the ascendency of a Vice President to the Presidency hasn’t really been a rare occurrence. To this date, there have been 45 men serve as Commander-in-Chief. (Well, to be accurate, really only 44. Grover Cleveland was both #22 and #24.)
Of those 44, eight have not completed their respective terms in office. That’s 18.8%. Were The Donald to join the mix, that would push the total to just over 20%. Four Presidents were assassinated, three died of other causes before finishing out their years, and Richard Nixon resigned.
John Tyler, Andrew Johnson, Chester Arthur, Teddy Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Harry Truman, Lyndon Johnson, and Gerald Ford were all originally accidental Presidents. We know their names now, but several of them were virtually unknown to the American public when they assumed the mantle of power. Harry Truman was probably chief among them. It’s been noted in some historical documents that not even Franklin Roosevelt was very familiar with Harry. Truman had only been Veep for about three months when FDR died in the initial year of his 4th term.
So, what about this Mike Pence guy? The basics are he’s a lawyer, was Governor of Indiana from 2013-2017, served several terms in the House of Representatives before that (2001-2013), is 60, 5’10”, a native Hoosier (Columbus), has been married to Karen since 1985, and has three kids (two grown daughters and a son in the military).
Although obviously a Republican now, Mike reportedly grew up idolizing John F. Kennedy and was a Democrat (he voted for Carter in 1980). But Ronald Reagan apparently inspired him to switch. He practiced law for a while, then had his own radio talk show. One report indicated he referred to himself as “Rush Limbaugh on decaf” when describing his approach to a conservative agenda.
As Governor, he had a few contentious issues. He signed a deal leading to the largest tax break in the state’s history, funded the first pre-K program in the state, and in 2016 produced a $2 billion surplus in Indiana’s budget. Some folks, however, said part of that latter success had to do with the state’s wages being lower than the national norm.
And then there was the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 2015. It was originally intended to protect business owners who didn’t want their products to be connected to same-sex weddings (remember the cake brouhaha?). Pence met a bunch of resistance from many factions, and ended up altering the Bill to provide exemptions for LGBTQ communities.
It will be interesting to see if the Republican Party thinks a President Pence is a strong enough candidate in 2020 to take on whomever the D’s decide to nominate. He’d probably have time to build up his own case. But some have suggested the GOP might want to use the phrase common to corporations looking to let an individual go from its ranks without much cause: “We’ve decided to go in a different direction.”
Of the eight previous vice presidents to make the leap to the top of the food chain, half of them never went on to win the presidential sweepstakes on their own. If Pence is perceived as a liability for whatever reason, the door might be open for someone such as John Kasich, Nikki Haley, Condi Rice, Jim Jordan, or a host of Republican governors, senators, and others who have run before or might be called into action. Many of them might be formidable opponents who wouldn’t carry excessive Trump baggage.
I guess it boils down to this: If you’re supporting the impeachment, be careful what you wish for. The ammunition is already stockpiled against Mr. Trump. Perhaps it’s better the devil you know vs. the one you don’t. And you never can tell, President Pence might be a pretty good guy. Something to think about as the hearings continue.
©MMXIX. William J. Lewis, III – Freelance Writer