Since November 8, there has been a theory in liberal and #nevertrump circles that the best course of action for the country and our democracy would be to advocate for the impeachment of Donald Trump (or, perhaps, secretly pray that adding unfathomable stress to his weight and age would have the health effects about which the rest of us are warned by our doctors) and deal with a Mike Pence presidency. That theory, such as it is, rests on the premise that, while the effects of a Christian conservative right-wing ideologue of a president might be bad for America, having one in charge would be less bad and possibly less nuclear-war-y than leaving the codes in the hands of a man with no perceptible ideological leanings or government experience who is driven by little other than the deep urge to be popular (in the worst, high-school-derived-sense of the word).
The passage of the Affordable Health Care Act (AHCA) last week ought to put an end to that theory. Though nominally called Trumpcare, the legislation—which must still pass the Republican-controlled Senate to earn a signature from one of Trump's expensive gold pens—is nothing if not a manifestation of precisely the wing of the Republican party embodied by Pence, givebacks for the rich and letting Republican states fuck over the poor and all. And that adherence to the worst of hidebound Republican ideology that has never met a reality it couldn't deny is why Trump made the man his vice president in the first place.
Trump doesn't have a coherent political school of thought outside of whatever seemingly will make him the most popular and/or benefit himself; he is the Cher Horowitz of presidents without any of the underlying empathy for others or need to prove herself less shallow; the Frank Cross of leaders, constantly chasing ratings, without the intervention of a trio of ghosts or the reappearance of a kind-hearted ex-girlfriend to show him the error of his ways. There is no redemptive arc to come, and his sidekicks have seemingly been chosen by him, like ugly bridesmaid's dresses, to keep him permanently in the center of his own firmament.
Pence, however, is slightly different: He was chosen to make Trump shine by tying him more deeply to the Republican party's most ideological base, the one that thinks there's no tax cut too big, and no government program too important to keep from utter evisceration. Pence, who infamously never eats dinner alone with a woman who isn't his wife lest he trip over the fish course and find his penis deeply ensconced in her vagina (which is the more polite, Christian version of "And when you’re a star, they let you do it … Grab them by the pussy, you can do anything") is of the view that freedom of religion means the freedom to impose it on others through government policy—be that by restricting reproductive rights or allowing discrimination against LGBT people—and that America's role in the world is to be at perpetual war.
In fact, the sole issue in which there is arguably some daylight between Pence and and Trump is on trade policy: Whereas Trump has said he plans to renegotiate or abrogate any of a number of trade agreements, Pence has a long track record of promoting and voting for free trade agreements.
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—though, frankly, the latter was on-again-off-again U.S. foreign policy for several decades, so let's not count him out on that—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.
Look, people: We're screwed. There's no way out of this administration but through. If Trump goes, it's Pence; if not Pence, it's Paul Ryan; if not Ryan, it's Orrin Hatch; and if not Hatch, we're down to Rex Tillerson, who will arguably be judged the worst Secretary of State since Bainbridge Colby. None of these men is going to increase the minimum wage, stand up for reproductive and/or LGBT rights, figure out a peaceful end to our military endeavors abroad … pick your pet issue as a liberal, and these dudes are on the opposite end of it. Literally, at this point, our best hope is that the Trump administration continues in and, with the diminution of its own power as a supposedly co-equal branch of government, expands its utter incompetency and that the Goldman guys with which Trump stocked his administration keep the economy from the worst excesses of the 1920s and thus spares us the worst of that decade's end.
Praying for Pence to come save us is like praying that the school bully's sidekick will take over your swirlies and the wedgie-patrol: Maybe he can't hold your head in the toilet quite as long or pull your underpants up quite as high, but your head's still gonna be stuck in a toilet bowl and your asshole's still going to be chapped.
We've got a solid three and a half more years of chapped assholes to come, regardless of whether a bombastic narcissist or a smarmy ideologue is in charge. What does a marginally less-chapped asshole feel like anyway? Can you even tell? The question we ought to be focused on is what to do after that.