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To Impeach or Not to Impeach

Slatesters debate the worst “would you rather?”: Trump or Pence.

U.S. President Donald Trump (R) is introduced by Vice President Mike Pence
Scylla (left) and Charybdis.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

As the Russia scandal progresses and murmurs about impeachment grow louder, some liberals are beginning to contemplate the dispiriting possibility of a Mike Pence administration. Would a “normal” right-wing Republican be better or worse than the inept would-be autocrat currently occupying the West Wing?

We asked Slatesters to play a game of presidential would you rather:

  • Choice A: Trump is impeached in late 2017, and Pence serves out his term.
  • Choice B: Trump serves out his full term.

They chose impeachment five to three, for a variety of reasons. The three Never Pencers had one thing in common: their gender.

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Voting to Impeach

Sam Adams, senior editor

The 4-D chess answer is it would be better to keep Trump in office, since a presumably more stable Pence administration would increase the chances of Republicans holding the White House in 2020. But every day Donald Trump is in office does damage to our democracy and increases the chances of it being permanent. Pence would be a bad president, but he would be ordinarily bad, and we’ve survived ordinarily bad Republican presidencies before. It’s hard for me to imagine what this country will look like after a full four years of Trump, and I’d just as soon not find out.

Rebecca Onion, staff writer

I’ll take Pence. Because I can’t stand worrying for three more years about whether Trump’s complete lack of any foreign-policy beliefs or commitments will cause some kind of nuclear incident. At least with Pence in charge there would be, presumably, some kind of a strategy governing our relationship with other countries. It’ll probably be awful, but at this point I’d prefer something to nothing.

Jeremy Stahl, senior editor

If Trump has committed high crimes and misdemeanors in office, as appears very likely to be the case, he needs to be impeached. It doesn’t matter who’s next in line, be it Mike Pence or anyone else. Failing to enforce the rule of law would have disastrous effects for our democracy and the future of the country, and that should be a constitutionalist’s only real consideration. If thorough and fair investigations show Trump to be guilty of many of the things he already appears guilty of, the only reasonable answer is impeachment.

Evan Urquhart, comments moderation czar

The prospect of President Pence is one I’ve taken seriously from early in the Trump presidency, when it was clear that he was going to keep doing the sort of impulsive and unprecedented things that might get a president impeached. Then and now I’ve held the consistent opinion that Donald Trump must be impeached if at all possible.

As a member of the LGBTQ community I don’t say that lightly or without any personal stake in the outcome. Pence would/will be a disaster for my community. Throughout his career he has shown a dogged and implacable animus toward people like me and will take any steps possible to make the laws of this nation reflect that animus.

Trump, however, is so unstable, so petty, so unhinged, that the longer we allow him to remain commander in chief, the greater the possibility that he will make an error of judgment that could bring about a nuclear war. Short of that, having someone so poorly suited to the job harms and endangers every one of us in countless ways, and every day he is in office that harm grows. Pence would represent a first step toward returning to something like political normality, and in the long run that would even be worth taking on the odious burden he’d place on LGBTQ people like me.

Jeffrey Bloomer, video producer and associate editor

Impeached, because nuclear codes. The Supreme Court is already fucked.

Sticking With the Devil They Know

June Thomas, managing producer, Slate podcasts

I answer B with some shame. I am not modeling good civics when I say that I would prefer four years of bungling paralysis and constant low-level danger of an emotional meltdown that could cause lasting damage to planet Earth over three years of a not very bright but intensely conservative and narrowly religious man living in the White House. Right after the election, Outward asked our readers to articulate the fears triggered by Trump’s victory. A surprising number answered “Mike Pence.” Well, it surprised me then. Now it makes perfect sense.

Christina Cauterucci, staff writer

I would rather Trump serve his full term, because if a hateful, incompetent dimwit is able to cause this much damage, imagine what a hateful, experienced politician could do. I think Trump has no animating political ideology; he’s just doing what the furthest-right, most sadistic Republican elements are telling him to do. Pence would be no more or less conservative, but better able to get things done.

Susan Matthews, science editor

I would prefer Trump serve his full term, mostly because I think that in this scenario, Trump’s general incompetence and unpleasantness has the greatest chance of turning people off of Trumpism. As evidenced by his performance in the vice presidential debate, still one of the only times I can recall hearing him speak at length, Mike Pence has a vastly greater ability to sell lies as reality. If Trump stays in, there’s a larger chance America wakes up and gets ourselves out of this mess, which is a better scenario than if Trump is impeached, regardless of how satisfying that might be.