Donald Trump is not a Republican Party outlier: He is its unfiltered id. Nothing reveals that more plainly than the GOP's support of his running mate Mike Pence, despite the fact that Pence plays from the same handbook — including trying to preemptively delegitimize the election results.
This is your regular reminder that Mike Pence is just Donald Trump without the theatrics: As Trump disgorges broadsides about how “this whole thing is rigged” at campaign events, Pence is doing the same thing via his preferred subtler route.
“Look, you know, it’s the old cliché, the only poll that really matters, they finish up on November the 8th,” Pence said when asked about the Clinton’s growing lead in the polls. “I think these polls have been all over the map. I honestly think there’s something missing in the polling these days.”
“What do you mean?” Fox News host Brian Kilmeade responded.
“Well, it’s just, I think Donald Trump has made a connection to the frustrations and the aspirations of everyday Americans like no one in my lifetime since Ronald Reagan,” the Indiana governor replied. “When you see, against this avalanche, present company excepted here at Fox News, but this avalanche of negative media coverage that goes chasing after every potential, every potential negative story about Donald Trump every day, and still you see tens of thousands of people coming out and rallying, there’s a determination out there across the country to change the direction in this nation.”
Noting that their supporters are determined to send a message would sound fairly innocuous — routine campaign stuff — had it not been preceded by Pence questioning the credibility and reliability of the polls. “There’s something missing.”
There is not something missing. The polls are not rigged. The debates are not rigged. The process is not rigged. (Though Trump and Pence don’t seem especially concerned about the possibility of foreign state sponsored interference, which may have something to do with the fact that such meddling would work in their favor.) They are simply laying the groundwork for delegitimizing the election of the nation’s first female president.
Which is familiar territory for Trump, who led the charge in trying to delegitimize the election of the nation’s first Black president.
Trump and Pence are playing with fire. People who lose faith in their governmental institutions can be dangerous. They know this: Indeed, fomenting the rage of perceived injustice among their supporters is the very point. It is central to their platform.
The Republican Party, by virtue of its unwillingness to move even incrementally forward on social policy, is turning itself into a party that cannot win on a level playing field. So Trump and Pence are trying to upend the playing field altogether.
Trump is just more obvious about it.
When you see Republicans wistfully longing that Pence were at the top of the ticket, it is not because he has fundamentally different politics than Trump. It means they like what Trump is selling — they just do not like the way he is selling it.