I want to begin with a hypothetical. Let’s imagine that on February 5, 2020, almost two dozen GOP senators had done a very, very hard thing. Following Mitt Romney’s history-making break with a president of his own party, they each got up—one-by-one—and declared their intention to vote to convict Donald Trump. After all, many senators knew Trump’s attempt to coerce an allied nation to investigate a domestic political rival and to advance a bizarre Crowdstrike conspiracy theory was an abuse of office. Even more, they knew what Trump’s White House was like. They knew he was an unfit president who was constantly being held in check by increasingly beleaguered aides and allies.
On February 5, the GOP faced a binary choice: Trump or Pence. It chose Trump. What if had chosen Pence? Trump’s most loyal supporters said that removal would destroy the GOP at the polls, but the Republican Party was swept out of power anyway. Trump’s angriest backers said there might be violence. They took the Capitol anyway.
But note the date. If the GOP had chosen Mike Pence, he would have been president throughout the pandemic. He would have been president when Derek Chauvin put his knee on George Floyd’s neck. Does anyone doubt that he would have handled those twin crises with greater wisdom and grace than Donald Trump?
Pence wouldn’t have issued a series of incandescent lies to the American public about COVID. He wouldn’t have given aid and comfort to a masking culture war, and he certainly would have stood in sympathetic solidarity with the suffering.