Has Pence bitten off more than he can chew?
All political marriages have their ups and downs, be it the rocky union of Bill and Hillary Clinton, or the (literal) war that Bush and Blair went through together, rarely have they stopped before they’d even really begun. In this unprecedented election, pundits are unsure quite how to characterise the Republican ticket, consisting of the career conservative politician, Mike Pence and the unfiltered, unabashed nonconformist businessman Donald Trump. Pence the picture of restraint and Trump the epitome of excess. In recent days, the Trump/Pence campaign has seemed to be in over its head. The question is, is Pence feeling this too? And will he do anything about it?
That said, whilst it is a dichotomy, this oddball marriage is also strangely well matched; racism, misogyny and immigration are areas where the two candidates’ ideologies meet, most notably in abortion access — albeit with some flip-flopping. Trump controversially called for people who have abortions to be punished, and Pence, also courting controversy, signed a bill in his time as Indiana governor that required those who’d had abortions to hold a funeral for the aborted foetus.
Doing nothing to help the rumours of discord is the fact that their personalities are ostensibly antagonistic and so are their views on key recent events, such as the Iraq war, which Trump opposed and Pence supported. Likewise, their views opposed on the bailing out of the banks following the 2008 crisis; Trump saying it was “something that has to get done”, while Pence believed it “would be a disservice to the American taxpayer”. This has magnified doubts that the public have about the unity of the ticket and may do the same for Pence himself.
It is highly unlikely that this will lead to Pence backing out of the ticket — it is something that has never been done before, and for the GOP (which seems to value conformity above all else) would be career suicide. Should it happen, there is a procedure to follow including reconvening the RNC if necessary to vote as before for the candidates. Only two VPs have ever resigned from their position whilst still acting — if Trump/Pence were to win in November, given past numbers, Pence would be more likely to die than resign once in office.
However the improbability of Trump/Pence getting a divorce does nothing to conceal the obvious friction within the campaign; Pence met with John McCain mere hours after his running mate said he wouldn’t be endorsing him because of “the way… veterans have been treated by John”, despite McCain being a veteran himself. Whilst Pence’s campaign stated that the two men “discussed many issues facing the United States” in their meeting, we can’t know the full breadth and extent of the issues discussed and whether it included the non endorsements and increasingly erratic behaviour of Trump. This was mirrored on Trump’s end during an interview; when asked by an interviewer whether he and Pence communicate daily he quickly redirected attention to the Purple Heart he had received earlier.
It remains to be seen how the dissonance within the GOP will be dealt with. Some prominent republican figures, such as conservative journalist Bret Stephens and Rep. Richard Hanna (NY) have slammed Trump for his stunning hypocrisy and called into question his fitness to serve, saying he is “manifestly unqualified” and “profoundly offensive and narcissistic”. To add insult to (internal) injury, various external sources have condemned Trump, with billionaire Warren Buffett echoing Joe Welch’s question to Sen. Joseph McCarthy; “Have you no decency, sir? At last, have you no decency?”, and President Barack Obama encouraging GOP members to retract their endorsements.
After all this, it seems as if Donald Trump just isn’t cut out for politics; while most are career politicians, he is a career businessman, while most like to work collaboratively on improving the country, he consults with himself and for a career politician like Mike Pence, he is just too unorthodox.