On Thursday, Oct. 1, President Donald Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19 to the surprise of actually no one. He has repeatedly disregarded the safety of himself and those around him by failing to wear a mask and practice social distancing in the middle of a pandemic that has killed over 200,000 people in his country.
His wife, Melania Trump, has also been diagnosed with COVID-19, along with a growing list of Republicans he had been in contact with late last week, including three congressmen, his campaign director and the RNC Chairwoman. For many people, it feels like karma; after all, Trump and his party have watched people get sick and die across the country while refusing to do even the basics of wearing a mask.
As the information began to come out about Trump being sick, many people on social media sites like Twitter rejoiced. It seemed almost cathartic to many people who had watched loved ones and family members get sick while Trump treated the virus as no more than a minor inconvenience and repeatedly lied about it to the public, putting the entire country at risk.
Many liberals want President Trump incapacitated or dead, especially those who have watched family members die because of his abysmally poor policies regarding the pandemic. While it is understandable that many people would prefer a country where Trump is no longer in charge, the alternative right now should be even more alarming.
Mike Pence, who has been running the White House Coronavirus Task Force, is in many ways a more alarming version of Donald Trump. Pence has made his career out of harming minorities in his home state of Indiana, where he previously served as governor.
Pence has opposed equal rights and protections for LGBTQ+ people for his entire career. In 2000, when he was in the midst of his congressional campaign, he said “Congress should oppose any effort to put gay and lesbian relationships on an equal legal status with heterosexual marriage.”
Pence’s wife, Karen Pence, works at Immanuel Christian School, a conservative religious school that does not allow any LGBTQ+ students or faculty. Mrs. Pence’s communication director previously said, “It’s absurd that her decision to teach art to children at a Christian school, and the school’s religious beliefs, are under attack.”
Why? She is married to the second most powerful person in the government. She is, whether she chose this or not, a public figure, and the idea that she cannot be criticized for teaching at a school with incredibly problematic views is absurd. Mike Pence has commented on the criticism, saying that “attacking Christian education is deeply offensive” which both proves the issue and is nonsense. No one is attacking Christian education; they are attacking incredibly discriminatory processes in education.
Were Trump to become incapacitated in any way, whether through death or being on a ventilator or due to the effect of some kind of medication, Pence would become the most powerful person in the country, if not the world, temporarily or otherwise. In addition, Pence is not as easy to decide to hate as Trump; he is not someone who is going to stand there and say things that are demonstratively false, that are demonstratively cruel — things that make people hate him for the same reasons why they hate Trump.
Trump is like a bull in a china shop, uncaring of what, or who, gets in his way as long as it leads to money and power for him. Pence’s more subtle cruelty is not as briskly recognizable and the idea that Republicans would be more willing to vote for him than Trump needs to be considered by anyone who is rooting for Biden this election.
Pence is more palatable; we do not sneer when we look at him, we do not see a person who is woefully unqualified and who we believe without question will drive our country into ruins. Pence’s harm is more subtle, because Pence understands the way the country and its political processes work.
While I can understand why people are enjoying the karma that comes from Trump’s refusal to treat the pandemic as the problem it is, I would sincerely caution anyone from hoping it leads to him no longer being in power. Somehow, as impossible as it might seem, the alternative is potentially much, much worse.