And even if Pence qualifies, in some minds, as a normal Republican, he is not a particularly inspiring one. Activists hated it when he gave wide berth to Common Core education standards. And in his one brush with the national spotlight — a 2015 fight over Indiana’s proposed law modeled on the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act — he managed to screw it up. He could have paired religious liberty protections with LGBT-backed non-discrimination measures, like Utah. Or he could have fought the business and media pressure, likely winning. Instead, he fought for a few days, earned all the bad press, and then backed down. Along the way, he seemed, well, rather dim-witted about it all. He gave the impression of a politician that could deliver a well-scripted line, but would be lost writing one of his own.
And the ways in which Pence is a “normal Republican” will reflect badly on him. For instance, there was his humiliating obeisance to tobacco lobbies. Or his long history of taking deeply socially-conservative positions that will be used to humiliate him during the campaign. As in his RFRA battle, the safe bet is for Pence to just look vacant and go blank when challenged on them. Pence is not even particularly popular in his own state.
But looked at symbolically, it is a fitting match. Mike Pence represents the Republican Party’s slow-witted, mercenary, and substance-free style; he embodies its mediocrity, greed, and cravenness. And his selection as Trump’s running mate is like an arranged marriage in which no one expects real happiness, but instead comforts themselves with the hope of proximity to money and a whiff of power.