Mark Hanna may have been the first to invoke the “one heartbeat away” theory about the vice presidency when he said of the GOP’s nomination of Teddy Roosevelt for William McKinley’s vice president, “Don’t any of you realize there’s one life between that madman and the presidency?” That fear proved prescient, but personally I would rather be living in fear of new national parks and child labor regulations than LGBT re-disenfranchisement, a new era of big coal, and Planned Parenthood clinics being turned into Hobby Lobbys. Scary as this election was, we’ve never had a more urgent interest in a President staying alive, even though this particular President may have the constitution of a Rasputin.
In most of laundry hampers in America, you’ll still find Tuesday’s outfits ready to be washed of the tears, drool, or expelled beverage a stunned populace stained them with as one after another eastern and Midwestern states fell to the man who was supposed to be back in his carnival barker gig by the weekend. Instead, the White House is looking at a redecoration that is going to combine the worst of Mary Todd Lincoln and Liberace and Hillary is slinking back to Chappaqua, with the smoking ruins of a Democratic party that seemed in ascendance just three weeks ago.
Now that we’re starting to get over the shock that a 2000 The Simpsons joke has become prophecy, we’d all best fall in line and pray for the enduring health of the poster boy for poor impulse control who will have his hands on the nuclear codes and will be the leader of a country he hasn’t paid taxes to in almost four decades. While we have no idea what he has in store for us once he takes the oath of office, there isn’t a doubt what’s next if anything happens to him that triggers the 25th Amendment.
Donald Trump’s stand is incontrovertible on only three things (Chinese imports = bad; vagina and Donald Trump = good) Everything else is a mystery, and a stand of convenience or opportunity from one day to the next. We know precisely where Mike Pence stands. He is a true believer, and he would be so far out ahead of his skis in the Oval Office that he gladly be the unabashed errand boy for Congress, and do absolutely everything they ask, as long they cite a tenuously-related bible verse to sell it to him.
Donald Trump has no ideological foundation, and has never given any indication that he’s a man compelled to stay married to anything (as his three trips to the altar would indicate.) The second that the Republican powers-that-be try to tell him what he has to do, President Trump is just as likely to advocate for single-payer health care or building a mosque in the parking lot of Washington National Cathedral. His compass will point differently on Wednesday than it will on Friday, and differently on Thursday than it will on Tuesday; it will usually only be guided by his mood that day or with whom he’s presently in a pissing match on Twitter.
Mike Pence would be a very different kind of President: A true believer. A rock-solid, man-of-his-convictions acolyte for whom truth and principle are absolute; not inconveniences. Donald Trump’s guiding principle for his entire life has been “because I feel like it.” Given that this is our reality, we stand a better chance of surviving his capricious rule, if only because the GOP is back in full power for the first time since 2005, and they aren’t for a second going to stand for “because I feel like it” from a sideshow ringmaster who they think needs to remember that he works for them. And that’s where things could get entertaining.
What no one wants—except the evangelical right, and every Republican in Congress—is for this mano a Don-O to get so contentious it ends up with Articles of Impeachment thrown at it—or, God forbid, something even less ambiguous and requiring no protracted legislation. Because then we have President Pence (who, unlike his impulsive orange benefactor, who would be happy to have been delivered from a potential losing race in his own state to being the righteously-empowered leader of God’s free world, and be delighted to do the bidding of the most righteous legislative body in the Christendom, especially at the thought that it would mean that he and his family could take the TSA Precheck line into heaven.)
Even though much of America still hasn’t gotten over its incredulity and despondent rage at the improbable, unnatural ascension of a man who thought he would have mustered out ouf the race 13 months ago (and should have), we should all take a step back and view this from a safe distance. The frying pan to the fire is one thing, but you can always jump out of a fire. The frying pan to the tar pits is another matter entirely.
So, it’s not just simple human decency to offer a prost, Godspeed, and wishes of good health to our President-elect Trump.