Beyond the anger, fear, and surrealism that has surrounded the opening months of the Trump presidency, have you stopped to wonder what in the hell would happen if Trump actually DID get impeached? Picture this: special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s current investigation into Trump and his alleged ties to Russia somehow manage to actually tank the big guy’s presidency. Then what?
To be clear, a Trump impeachment is hardly as imminent as some would hope, but whenever the prospect is raised, most seem to land on the same initial conclusion–should Trump get fired, America would have President Mike Pence, and that would somehow be better.
Those people often follow-up with some variation of, “yeah, his policies are terrible, but at least he’s an adult/intelligent/a professional/knows how government works, etc.;” many of them would not bother to dispute this assessment after living through the last five months of Trump.
This perspective offers a sense of comfort–a hope that at least some sense of normalcy and civility would be restored to political discourse under a Pence presidency, albeit with policies a little more far-right than some, if not all, Americans would prefer. Wouldn’t that be nice?
Here’s the thing, though: his voting record is REPUGNANT, and the havoc he wrought on Indiana was so bad that even his fellow Republicans moved to undo his most egregious policies, immediately following his ascent to the vice presidency.
Make no mistake: at a minimum, Pence is just as dangerous as Trump. He would be particularly disastrous for criminal justice reform, which, by the way, is already on the backslide in this country.
Sure, Pence’s time as a congressman from Indiana, and as governor of that state, certainly provided him with experience, and he is capable of stringing together complete coherent sentences on the fly.
The problems, though, start with Pence’s penchant for kowtowing to donors and enriching himself, his ties to the for-profit prison industry and his long-held belief that the state should execute people quickly or lock them up as long as possible.
For example, Pence has very open and transparent ties to an organization called GEO Group, which is one of the country’s three largest operators of for-profit prisons.
In February, USA Today reported that GEO Group and one of their subsidiaries spent at least $475,000 to help cover the cost of Inauguration Day celebrations. This story broke the same day the Department of Justice, under Attorney General Jeff Sessions, put an end to an Obama-era order calling for a halt on contract renewals awarded to private prisons, in an effort to get for-profit prisons off the government’s payroll.
Conveniently, it was announced at the end of May that GEO Group was awarded two federal prison contract renewals totaling $664 million–that’s quite the rapid return on investment.
What does this have to do with Pence? In total, he’s received at least $37,500 from GEO Group, including $20,000 for his gubernatorial run in 2012, and another $17,500 he received last year. Plus, for a guy with a history of using campaign contributions for personal expenses, it’s safe to say it was money well-spent on their part.
So, under a Pence administration, Americans could expect the federal government to work toward filling prisons with more black and brown people, which will be owned and operated by corporations that make bank on that sort of thing, under the watch of a president who has personally taken their money.
To make things worse, Pence has always been a fan of filling prisons with people and keeping them there for a long time, that is, if you just can’t kill them first.
Take a look at a blog he posted back in 1997 as a conservative TV and radio host (yup, that was a thing), following the murder of Franklin College student Kelly Eckart. Her killer, Michael Dean Overstreet, was convicted and sentenced to death in 2000, but Pence thought the whole process took too damn long.
“Beyond the outrage and sheer anger toward the perpetrator of this crime, there comes an abiding sense that something has gone very badly wrong with our system of criminal justice in this country,” writes Pence. “There was a reason that violent crime was scarce in small towns for decades… it was not tolerated. Neighbor looked after neighbor and justice was often as swift as it was certain.”
He then proposes, “…reforming [Indiana’s] appeals process, making justice more swift and certain, filling our prisons only with violent criminals and by passing truth in sentencing laws that give judges more authority to impose lengthy prison terms.”
By the way, by “making justice more swift and certain,” Pence is saying that he wants to fast-track the death penalty. He’s rarely talked about it publicly, save for in an interview with CNN’s Candy Crowley back in 2014, but while his comment was brief, it was concise.
“I support the death penalty,” then-Governor Pence said, when asked if he’d abolish the death penalty in Indiana. ”I believe justice demands it in our most heinous cases.”
By his own admission, under a Pence presidency, not only would perpetrators of less-serious crimes be incarcerated for as long as possible, states would be encouraged to make the death penalty commonplace.
Nevermind how his willingness to support state-sanctioned execution is diametrically opposed to his shiny, happy, “pro-life” stance. Data show, repeatedly, over and over again, that the people on the receiving end of our already-flawed criminal justice system are people of color and members of the LGBT community.
Furthermore, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents are arresting people at a rate nearly 40 percent higher than last year, and while some of those individuals are violent criminals, many don’t even have criminal records. All of these immigrants have to be held somewhere, right? Well, how convenient–seems like Pence’s buddies at GEO Group have it covered.
So, while the mainstream media might be drooling over the next, newer, more baseless Russia narrative that makes them THINK we’re one step closer to a Trump impeachment, the ACTUAL implications of a Mike Pence regime is one that should be viewed with as much fear and disgust as Trump’s fantastical Russian ties. The grass won’t be greener, just more openly racist and discriminatory. Be careful what you wish for–you might get it.