The arguments against beginning the impeachment of Donald Trump keep getting worse.
The latest from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi posits something like: We can't impeach because some people think that means removal from office - and if we impeach they'll quickly figure out that's not true. It's like arguing we shouldn't take a cruise to Zanzibar because Flat Earthers think we'll fall off the planet.
One argument does ring true for many on the left, especially those who enjoy the significant advances in rights for LGBTQ people under President Barack Obama. It goes like this: If we got President Mike Pence, we'd be begging to have Trump back, as former White House aide and Trump apologist Omarosa Manigault Newman insisted.
This could be the worst argument against holding the president accountable for the many high crimes and misdemeanors documented in the Mueller report, Trump's Twitter feed and wherever anyone still cares about the rule of law.
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Pelosi chooses politics over principle on Trump impeachment. Just like Mitch McConnell.
This shallow fallacy ignores a reality that too few have recognized: When it comes to the issues that matter most to the religious right, we already have President Pence. The danger is now we have President Pence plus Trump's criminality, obstruction and aspiring authoritarianism on top of the extraordinary costs and shame of subsidizing Trump's businesses and family.
Pence's domination of our domestic policies became even more obvious last week when the administration escalated its assault on science. The Department of Health and Human Services imposed new restrictions on the use of fetal tissue from abortions for research - research that has led to vaccines for rubella and rabies and that scientists say is still needed to develop other life-saving treatments.
HHS also canceled a contract to find new treatments for HIV. This makes sense because ideological decisions that lead to an increase in HIV risks are Pence's trademark move. As governor of Indiana, his opposition to Planned Parenthood and needle exchanges helped lead to the worst HIV outbreak in the state's history. This malign neglect echoes the shadow president's well-documented antipathy to LGBTQ rights and existence.
While Trump has positioned himself as a nontraditional Republican when it comes to gay rights with a few token gestures, Charlotte Clymer, a "queer army vet," masterfully undressed Trump's "cynical propaganda" by documenting the administration's sweeping and systematic attack on LGBT rights.These efforts range from deleting pages of LGBTQ rights from the White House website within hours of Trump's swearing in to banning transgender people from the military, the first resegregation of the armed forces in American history.
Gorsuch, Kavanaugh are perfect Pence justices
Both Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh look like they stepped out of the same factory that produced Pence. Both could easily have been among his top choices if he had a chance or two to fill a Supreme Court opening and gut Roe v. Wade.
Likewise, Trump's capture of the federal judiciary, probably this administration's most enduring accomplishment (besides eagerly destroying the climate), is something Pence and the religious right dreamed about back when Trump was still telling people to climb over walls.
Nowhere has President Pence been more effective than in how he has remade the Department of Health and Human Services in his image. Appointees continually favor right-wing faith and the ability to discriminate over science and measures that actually reduce abortion, such as birth control.
"There has never been anything like it," Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List told Reuters about her working relationship with Pence. "The policy I believe can't get done without Vice President Pence and his team."
LGBTQ and reproductive rights activists would agree.
Pence is living his dream, from tax cuts to abortion
Pence has made a deal with the devil and is living out his dream agenda without any accountability. Sixty years of progress are evaporating while fat tax cuts for the rich and their corporations rack up deficits that Republicans will suddenly care about the moment they lose power. And the sitting vice president gets to hide in the eye of Trump's never-ending tempest of abuse, whining and race baiting, without having to getting too much mud on his hands.
When Trump makes a D-Day speech, he does so surrounded by the fog of his constant alienation of his allies and his defense of "very fine people" who marched with neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia. When Pence delivers his invocation commemorating the turning point of World War II, he does so with standard almost wooden dignity.
This would be a welcome relief to many dismayed by Trump. But would the policies be much different?
We have no idea if Mike Pence would be as effective at implementing his policies as Donald Trump has been. But we do know the difference would be in tone and not substance. President Pence is here; removing Trump would only make that clear to the world.
Jason Sattler, a writer based in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors and host of "The GOTMFV Show" podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @LOLGOP
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Impeach Trump and don't worry (much) about President Mike Pence. We already have him.