Donald Trump and Mike Pence have an unusually rigid separation of duties in this White House. Donald does the shouting; Pence does the cajoling. Donald appeals to the television-obsessed, the grumps, and the adulterers; Pence pops in later to explain how each new Trump grotesquery can be wedged into an ever-more-dubious definition of Christian values.
Most importantly, it is Donald Trump's job to give winks and nods to conservatism's newly ascendant white nationalist flank, while Mike Pence works behind the scenes to assure the wealthy and corporate wing of the party that its tax cut needs will still be first and foremost. It is this duty that required Pence to wine and dine skeptical Republican megadonors in Pebble Beach on Monday.
The private dinner provides a window into a behind-the-scenes, Pence-led mission: to ensure that Republican givers who never came around to Trump in 2016 are on board for 2020. With Democrats already raking in colossal amounts of cash, Republicans estimate they’ll need to raise around $1 billion — a figure that will require the party’s donor class to be all-in. Party officials also want to deprive any would-be Trump primary challengers of the financial oxygen they’d need to mount a campaign.
Translation: The Trump-Pence administration is willing to let bygones be bygones when it comes to wealthy Republican donors who stood in Trump's way in 2016. But it'll cost them. And it’ll cost them dearly.
So Pence is doing his part to kneecap whatever parts of the party are still not entirely on the Donald Trump Crimes & Adultery Wagon. At the rate at which past and current Trump allies are falling to rape allegations, prostitution stings, campaign finance violations, and whatever else is keeping Republican Committee chair Ronna McDaniel up at night, it's probably smart for Pence to be looking for new donors to replace the ones now having to direct more of their funds toward legal fees.
His pitch to donors is likely straightforward enough: Sure, you may not like Donald. Sure, his racism and ignorance may be abhorrent. Sure, he stands at the center of a half-dozen scandals, surrounded by a team being investigated for selling out the nation on his behalf. And certainly, he is a grotesque, self-obsessed caricature of a man, an embarrassment to his party and country, singlehandedly dismantling our worldwide alliances in fits of pique while cozying up to kleptocrats and dictators.
But if you want more tax cuts—and you don't want to get on Donald Trump's enemies list—you'll keep your mouth shut and write us a check.