In August 2017, after deadly violence broke out on the streets of Charlottesville, Donald Trump publicly defended the “very fine people” among the racist activists. The Republican president also expressed his deep affection for monuments honoring Confederate leaders who took up arms against the United States during the Civil War.
It was against this backdrop that Ronna McDaniel, the chair of the Republican National Committee, traveled to Detroit for … wait for it … an outreach event for African-American voters, encouraging the community to support Republican candidates.
As the Detroit News reported at the time, “The timing couldn’t have been more awkward.”Nearly two years later, a similar dynamic is unfolding.
Vice President Pence is traveling to Florida on Tuesday to launch a national “Latinos for Trump” initiative in a bid to bolster support for the Republican ticket at time when new polling shows large majorities of Hispanics favoring the election of a Democrat next year.
Pence is scheduled to appear later Tuesday morning in Miami, the city that is hosting the first of the Democratic presidential debates this week. Florida, home to more than 2 million Hispanic registered voters, is a key state for Trump’s reelection fortunes next year.
To borrow the Detroit News’ phrasing, the timing couldn’t be more awkward.
Indeed, the far-right vice president will be in south Florida to make his pitch to Latino voters the week after Trump promised to dispatch federal agents to “begin the process of removing … millions of illegal aliens.” The president later put that plan on hold, for two weeks, and he said he agreed to the delay “at the request of Democrats.”
Or as Rachel put it on the show last night:
“Over the last few days, the president has crowed to the country – and in particular, to all the millions of immigrants living in this country – that the house-to-house, church-to-church, school-to-school, mass round-ups are about to begin. And maybe it’s going to be for millions, or maybe it’s going to be for thousands, but then, no, whiplash, he’s only staying his hand in stopping that for now because the Democrats asked him to. And now, Vice President Pence, would you please go to Miami and kick off the launch of ‘Latinos for Trump.’
“Presumably, the thinking here is that they would like to goose the Democratic presidential field into expressing more outrage over the Republican Party’s treatment of immigrants and President Trump’s ever intensifying performative cruelty toward immigrant families in particular. The more shocking the better. In the Trump-era Republican Party, I think the calculation is that the more upset and vocal Democrats get in defending immigrants, and denouncing the Trump administration’s treatment and demonization of immigrants, the more the Trump Republican Party and the Trump White House can excite his base and solidify this idea that Republicans stand with white people against immigrants and the Democrats are for people who aren’t from here.
“That seems to be the calculation, particularly around the political timing of their performatively cruel policy announcements.”
It’s against this backdrop that Mike Pence is headed to Miami. I wish him luck.