There are two main reasons why we should all hope that Donald J. Trump recovers from COVID-19.
The first is that we should never wish death on people, even people we may dislike intensively for all the evil they have done. (Similarly, we should condemn those who seek to dehumanize their opponents. This is why I condemn the practice, common in certain parts of the Internet, of referring to Trump as ‘the Trumpanzee’.)
The second is that were Trump to die, Vice-President Pence would become the Republican candidate for President in the next election. I am aware that this is not a legal inevitability, but it is, from what I know of the convoluted mechanisms by which the party would have to replace him, a practical certainty.
Trump is losing this election, and I cannot imagine that some great national bounce of sympathy for an irony of Sophoclean proportions will change that. But Pence, for all that he was a failed Governor and remains a religious zealot, is largely a blank slate to most voters. Maybe the upcoming Vice-Presidential candidates’ debate will substantially change that, but probably not. And a blank slate is a chance to reboot. If nothing else, it would be a chance to peel off the voters who were voting against Trump as a person rather than Trumpism as a program.
It might be that many people would say Pence was compromised by his years of silence and sycophancy. Others might view it as loyalty, misguided or not. And the right-wing evangelical vote would flock to the polls.
Ask yourself this: what would Never Trumpers like the Lincoln Project do if Pence were the candidate? Would they shift targets or fold their tents? I don’t want to find out.