The Impeachment Option
For several months leading up to last month’s Republican National Convention, The Weekly Standard editor William Kristol was all over the airwaves and the Twittersphere about finding a candidate to run as an independent alternative to Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump. But he seems to have gone silent.
Based on a Google search of reasonable diligence, the most recent report I’ve been able to find on Kristol advocating for a third-party candidacy was a July 18 item in The Daily Standard based on a Kristol tweet on July 17.
As it happens, Donald Trump let it be known on July 15 that he had selected Indiana Governor Mike Pence to be his running mate; Trump’s formal announcement came the next day, July 16.
Pence is a standard issue post-Reagan conservative, only more so. FiveThirtyEight.com’s quantitative ratings rank Pence as the most conservative Republican vice presidential candidate in the 40 years for which they have ratings – slightly more conservative than the previous record-holder, the 2012 second banana, Paul Ryan.
It was hardly inevitable that Pence would be Trump’s pick, and certainly not from the point of view of the Republican right. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had been a leading contender, and in any event Trump is erratic enough that he might have picked anyone. For conservatives, Pence was a real reassurance.
It occurs to me – and, if it has occurred to me, it has surely occurred to Republican strategists – that Trump’s selection of a solid conservative vice presidential candidate gives the Republican establishment a new option.
The Republican political establishment – think Speaker Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – have publicly disagreed with, even strongly condemned, various of Trump’s trumpetings, but the political establishment (unlike the Republican foreign policy establishment) has nearly uniformly endorsed his candidacy nonetheless.
Up until the Pence selection, the Republican political establishment had to choose between its principles and its loathing of Hillary Clinton. Formal division of the Republican establishment – endorsement of an independent candidate; endorsement of Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson; or, heaven forfend, endorsement of Clinton herself – would only further the chances of the loathed Clinton presidency. So Republican establishment figures swallowed their principles and went along with Trump, who they had all but unanimously condemned during primary season as unfit, unqualified, incapable, unacceptable.
The Pence selection creates a way for the Republican to adhere to its principles while still supporting Trump: if Trump is elected and does anything as crazy as pretty much everyone expects, Republicans can comfortably join Democrats in impeaching The Donald, removing a president from office for the first time in the history of the Republic.
Mike Pence, the rock-ribbed conservative who makes Sarah Palin look moderate and Bob Dole look liberal, would become the President of the United States.