They say that every election in the United States has an October Surprise. This has become more like an October of Surprises, from the revelation of Donald Trump’s 1995 tax return to the latest, audio from 11 years ago in which he smugly talks about sexually assaulting women and getting away with it. A candidate who has called Mexicans rapists, treated refugees as criminals, demanded the execution of innocent Black men, opposed transgender rights, cheated contractors, declared bankruptcy numerous times, called women fat disgusting pigs and slobs, made crude comments about a female reporter’s menstrual cycle, referred to his opponent with a childish nickname, and much, much more has gotten a pass until now. Suddenly, hearing him on tape talking about grabbing women’s ‘pussies’ is apparently a bridge too far, and the Republican Party is on fire this weekend.
Many in and out of the GOP are calling for Trump to drop out of the race.
This would be a catastrophic mistake, and those who are supporting the cries that Trump must go should think very carefully about what they are doing, because the question they should ask first is: If Trump drops out, who will head the Republican ticket?
The answer is Mike Pence, Trump’s running mate, and if you think that Donald Trump is terrible for women — since this is apparently the breaking point — Mike Pence is far worse than you could ever imagine. And if you think that Donald Trump is bad for America, he doesn’t hold a candle to Pence.
Mike Pence has perfected a carefully crafted exterior that makes him seem like a reasonable man — see his relative calm at the start of the vice presidential debate. He’s exactly the kind of man Republicans love: A nice respectable family man with a hardline conservative record. He’s also the kind of man that people who consider themselves progressives but still insist that Secretary Clinton is Satan incarnate can support. He can’t be that bad, right?
Yes, he absolutely can.
While his running mate may be all bombast, Mike Pence has the political experience, record, and connections to put his hateful priorities into action — he won’t flounder at the helm of the White House, especially if Republicans maintain their stranglehold on Congress. Pence is an extremist anti-choicer, going as far as to say that people should be required to hold funerals for foetuses when they miscarry. He abhors LGBQT people and was willing to cost his state millions to make a political point about excluding them from society. His record on the environment is horrific. This barely scratches the surface. The problems with Pence are precisely why so many people were concerned when the GOP named him as a running mate, sensing that he would be the ‘stabilising influence’ and the power behind the throne — not least because he had been a favourite for the presidency in the near future.
As president, Mike Pence would turn America into an unimaginable hellscape for everyone but wealthy white men.
There have been rumblings against Trump from the GOP for months — a few brave people like Mitt Romney and Senator Lindsey Graham spoke out early and often, the National Review ran an entire issue begging people to reconsider their support, and some left the party in disgust over the choice of nominee. That the GOP is only speaking out now is evidence of its contempt for the groups that Trump has disparaged for the last 18 months. It’s also evidence that people within the GOP were fully aware that he’s a misogynistic egotist — women have accused him of rape on the record, so this shouldn’t be news — but they thought he could get away with it because there was no tape. Now, there’s tape.
The reason progressives should be extremely wary of calls for Trump to resign is that the GOP itself is clearly quite eager for him to do so, and that should ring alarm bells. This is a party that loathes women, the people it is ostensibly defending with these condemnatory comments. This is not about helping women, but about making hasty steps to cover their tracks. Many of those suddenly condemning Trump are running for office, and are well aware that downticket races are theirs to lose as the top of the ticket crumbles apart. And the fact that Mike Pence stands waiting in the wings is no accident — a cynic might in fact wonder how much of this was carefully calculated, a series of cards arranged just so to collapse in precisely the right way, with the election one month away, voter registration deadlines coming up hard and fast, and no time to do anything other than slap Pence on the top of the ticket and hand out the VP spot as a consolation prize to whoever the GOP is grooming for president in 2020 or 2024, like Ted Cruz.
There is a compelling argument for leaving Trump on the ticket, as bizarre and horrific as it might sound. If Secretary Clinton trounces him in the town hall debate tomorrow night, which seems highly likely, and if the previously reluctant media can rustle up a few more surprises, it would position not just Trump to lose, but the entire Republican party. Trump’s candidacy could be the turning point that guts the GOP, causing a cascading effect throughout the ballot as people throw their support behind Democratic or third party candidates. A Pence/Cruz ticket, on the other hand, might have just enough time to rally the party, salvage downticket races, and squeak by in the presidential race, a turn of events that could bring about not the downfall of the GOP, but the downfall of America.
Every progressive in the United States must rally behind progressive candidates all the way down the ticket, from Secretary Clinton through congressional candidates to state houses to city councils and boards of supervisors. This is an opportunity for the United States to take control of its destiny, and the destiny it seizes will be predicated by the people who show up. Those who aren’t registered to vote need to do so immediately, with deadlines in a number of states coming up today and early next week. Those who aren’t sure should verify their registration right now. Those who think they might not be near the polls on election day must immediately request an absentee ballot. Voters living overseas still have time to get their votes counted. Those with the wherewithal must be supporting political campaigns by any means necessary: Canvassing, phonebanking, donating skills and experience, donating funds.
31 days from today, America decides its future while the world watches. Those of us who are eligible to vote owe a duty not just to our fellow Americans, but to the entire planet.
Photo: Gage Skidmore/Creative Commons