By Michael Sainato

Vice President Mike Pence has fueled speculation he intends to run for President in 2020 as his Leadership PAC has raised over $1 million so far. The rumors have been further incited by consistent calls from Democrats for Donald Trump’s impeachment; Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) recently introduced articles of impeachment to the House and Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA) has been consistently vocal in calling for Trump’s impeachment. A significant portion of the Trump Resistance has been obsessed with the idea of impeaching Trump, as though his removal would automatically cure the problems facing the federal government and the Democratic Party.

If enough Republicans managed to support impeaching Trump in the House and Senate, Democrats would still be faced with President Mike Pence, who could legally serve nearly ten years as President if Trump resigns or is impeached after his second year in office. Pence has sided with Trump’s rhetoric and driven much of his policies since they took office in January 2017. If Pence took office, they’d have a more civil, predictable version of Trump, with the same exact policies, if not worse ones as he’d face less opposition and turmoil in fulfilling his agenda.

David Brock’s Super PAC, American Bridge, has been conducting research on Pence in anticipation that Democrats will eventually have to run against him. They’ve tried to connect him with the Russia investigation, and are working to align Pence with Trump as much as possible. BuzzFeed reported, “the group, which will simultaneously continue its focus on targeting Trump, has three staffers dedicated to Pence more than three years before the 2020 election. Bridge shared its initial round of research with BuzzFeed News, giving a glimpse into Democrats’ early strategy against Pence — which is focused on denying the vice president an opportunity to distance himself from the administration.”

While establishment Democrats coordinate how to deal with Mike Pence if he ever assumes the role as President, corporate lobbyists have been lining up to influence Pence on healthcare, deregulating Wall Street, infrastructure, and advocating on behalf of the fossil fuel industry. IBTimes reported, “While other vice presidents have been the target of lobbying in the past, Pence has been viewed as one of the most powerful vice presidents in recent history. He is a longtime politician serving a president with no experience in elected office, and during his vice-presidential selection process, Trump was reportedly offering potential running mates a vast policy portfolio to oversee. Pence also oversaw Trump’s White House transition, which shaped the administration’s personnel decisions and many of its policy proposals.”

From documents they obtained via FOIA requests, IBTimes noted that Blue Cross and Blue Shield, Aflac, and United Healthcare lobbied on Pence on Obamacare repeal. Big Pharma has lobbied Pence on several bills, including CVS Health, Amgen, KemPharm, McKesson, BioMarin, and Gilead Sciences. BlackRock, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase, and BMO Financial Corporation have lobbied Pence on repealing Dodd-Frank and other Wall Street deregulating measures. Citgo, Marathon Oil, Lucas Oil, Noble Energy and other fossil fuel lobbying groups have poured funds and resources into influencing Pence’s policy making decisions. Cummins, IFM Investors, and the Associated Builders and Contractors Inc are just a few of the groups lobbying Pence on infrastructure and transportation policy. Nearly every influential industry’s leading corporation has entertained the idea of influencing Pence on policy; even several prominent Democratic Party fundraisers and Democrat leaning lobbyists have turned their focus to influence and lobby corporate backed Republicans and the Trump Administration. These interests would more openly flood their investments and lobbying into a Pence Administration that overtly served a pro-corporate agenda without the boorish behavior and commentary that has made Trump such a risky investment and public relations disaster for a company to be associated with. Bloomberg  published an op-ed on August 16 propagating a liberal case for Pence, dubbing him as “mediocre and conservative.” For the wealthy, corporations, and political elite, Pence poses little threat, and doesn’t provide the same opportunities Trump easily does to manufacture outrage over. The complacency Pence invokes is incredibly dangerous, as it risks furthering the abhorrent policies being pushed by the Trump Administration with only a modicum of the resistance and push back.

For establishment Democrats who are nostalgic for the status quo, Pence is a viable alternative for them to handle. But his presidency would carry with it all the awful policies that are already being pushed by the Trump Administration. Rather than focusing the Trump Resistance on policy opposition, outrage toward Trump has been manufactured in a way that detaches Trump from these policies, when he is very much a symptom of larger forces at work. Democrats need to develop an opposition that takes on corporate power, lobbyists, and the billionaires gradually degrading what’s left of democracy in this country. Trump is not an anomaly, and the easy outrage directed at him needs to broaden out to the components within the current political system that enabled his ascendance or we will wind up with something much worse down the road if those problems continue to be ignored and dismissed.

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