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PRAGER: In a Political World Gone Topsy-Turvy, Mike Pence Is the Party Leader

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Posted: December 5, 2017 at 7:00 am   /   by
Originally published on this site

Dennis Prager is off this week. The following column is by Salena Zito.

NEW YORK — When President Donald Trump shook the political world, the epicenter was Pennsylvania, the one swing state Republicans had tried and failed to carry in each of the last six presidential elections. The flamboyant businessman targeted Pennsylvania from the start and addressed the Pennsylvania Republican Party’s signature fundraising event in Manhattan exactly two years ago this week.

Last Friday, the Pennsylvania Society reconvened in New York City, but this time, it was Vice President Mike Pence who was scheduled for the slot of keynote speaker, a role Pence has accepted with vigor across the country since taking office.

Although his speech was cancelled at the last moment, it was estimated his planned appearance still raised nearly half a million dollars, a number essential for a state party apparatus that not only helped place him and the president in the White House but also is bracing for big in-state midterm elections next year for governor and U.S. Senate and to hold all 13 of their GOP House congressional seats.

Pence’s appearances across the country are notable for several reasons, but not because they’re a sign that he’s preening his own political ambitions or creating a shadow campaign as other news organizations have reported. Pence’s appearances are significant because he has unofficially taken on the role as the leader of the Republican Party.

“Without question, Pence has absolutely taken on the traditional role as leader of the Republican Party. The mistake is made when people reference his out-front fundraising activity as a lurch for personal gain,” said Rob Gleason, former chair of the Pennsylvania state GOP. “They could not be more wrong.” Gleason took a lot of personal heat when he invited Trump to headline the party’s fundraiser in New York in 2015.

“Trump is Trump, and part of his uniqueness in American politics is that he is a completely different kind of president in terms of his relationship with party building,” Gleason explained.

And the truth is Trump prefers the rallies to the traditional fundraising dinner scene. Actually, let’s be honest: Trump loves the rallies, and the rubber chicken circuit doesn’t suit him: To do those right you go out and spend your speech bragging about the local heroes, not yourself. That’s not exactly his strongest suit.

And despite Pence’s creation of his own fundraising PAC — an unprecedented move by a vice president in modern American politics — this is not a coup. Instead, it is a smart strategic move by a White House aware that Trump’s strength is not in being a party leader but a man willing to go to places where no Republican showed up before and ask people in his own unique way for their votes. Conversely, Pence shines in the party leader and party builder roles traditionally held by the commander in chief.

The fact that it’s his PAC, instead of the president’s, that gives out the first checks is new territory. The other new thing is that the administration is picking political friends very early. Pence’s PAC often contributes to candidates who will face primaries — such as Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., seeking her state’s Republican gubernatorial nomination in a crowded field. Pence also gave to several Freedom Caucus House members ahead of their primaries across the country and cut a check to Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who has a primary for her bid for the U.S. Senate against a former congressman, Stephen Fincher.

There is a pretty good argument to make that we have three parties in this country: Democrats, Republicans and Trumpians. Currently, the latter two are in a coalition government, and Pence represents the head of the Republican Party.

In truth, in this rapidly de-institutionalizing world, this whole notion of political parties may be silly. We might be in a world where political movements and candidates just rent parties for ballot access.

For a lot of voters, one of the upsides to candidate Trump was that he came from completely outside of the world of Washington and Congress. But that same factor is a downside to President Trump, because it makes him less useful in negotiations.

Pence, then, brings the asset of being well-trusted among Capitol Hill Republicans.

Trump is still the gold standard for the voters. But it’s an odd and ironic situation that in order for Trump to be successful, he’s going to need the help of a seasoned Washington player — and yet at the same time, Trump’s measure of success will have been whether he conquered the seasoned Washington players or not.

It’s a very odd dynamic in a series of years of oddities — but should anyone really be surprised? In a time when the traditional dynamics of culture, media and politics have been turned on their head, that someone is holding on to the norms of political parties is the least controversial thing happening.

Salena Zito is a CNN political analyst, and a staff reporter and columnist for the Washington Examiner. She reaches the Everyman and Everywoman through shoe-leather journalism, traveling from Main Street to the beltway and all places in between. To find out more about Salena and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at


Last Updated: Monday, Dec 04, 2017 17:56:04 -0800

Dennis Prager

"An amazingly gifted man and moralist whose mission in life has been crystallized -- 'to get people obsessed with what is right and wrong.'" -- Los Angeles Times

"As profound a thinker as our nation has at the dawn of the 21st century -- Jack Kemp

"One of the three most interesting minds in Jewish life." -- New York's Jewish Week

"One of the ten most powerful people in Los Angeles ... a moral compass." -- Buzz Magazine

Dennis Prager is one of America's most respected radio talk show hosts. He has been broadcasting on radio in Los Angeles since 1982. His popular show became nationally syndicated in 1999 and airs live, Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. to noon (Pacific Time).

In 1994-95, he also had his own daily national television show, and he is often seen on such television shows as Larry King Live, Politically Incorrect, The Late Late Show on CBS, Rivera Live, The Early Show on CBS, Fox Family Network, The O'Reilly Factor and Hannity & Colmes. Mr. Prager has been the main subject on CSPAN several times over the past years.

His most recent book, "Happiness Is A Serious Problem," was published in February 1998 by HarperCollins. This long-awaited book, about which Mr. Prager has lectured worldwide for 10 years, appeared on the Los Angeles Times bestseller list the week of publication and appeared 15 consecutive weeks, rising to No. 1.

His 1996 book, "Think A Second Time," 44 essays on 44 subjects (HarperCollins), was described by Bill Bennett as "one of those rare books that can change an intelligent mind." USA Today columnist and professor of law Susan Estrich called it "Brilliant, a tour de force."

He has also coauthored two major works about Judaism: "The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism," now in six languages, and "Why The Jews? The Reason For Antisemitism," regarded by many as the most persuasive explanation of anti-Semitism written.

Mr. Prager has engaged in interfaith dialogue with Catholics at the Vatican, Muslims in the Persian Gulf, Hindus in India, and Protestants at Christian seminaries throughout America. For 10 years, he conducted a weekly interfaith dialogue on radio, with representatives of virtually every religion in the world.

New York's Jewish Week described Dennis Prager as "one of the three most interesting minds in American Jewish Life." Since 1992, he has been teaching the Bible verse-by-verse at the University of Judaism. All the lectures are available on audio and video tape.

From 1985 to 1995, Dennis Prager wrote and published the quarterly journal Ultimate Issue. From 1995 to 2000, he wrote The Prager Perspective. Harold Kushner, author of "When Bad Things Happen to Good People," said, "It is the only journal I read cover to cover the moment it arrives."

His writings have also appeared in major national and international publications including, Commentary, The Weekly Standard, The Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times. His newsletter essay on homosexuality and civilization was awarded the $10,000 Amy Foundation First Prize.

Mr. Prager was a Fellow at Columbia University's School of International Affairs, where he did graduate work at the Middle East and Russian Institutes. He has taught Russian and Jewish history at Brooklyn College, and was appointed by President Ronald Reagan to the U.S. Delegation to the Vienna Review Conference on the Helsinki Accords.

He holds an honorary doctorate of laws from Pepperdine University and has lectured on seven continents, in 45 U.S. states and in nine of Canada's 10 provinces. He has lectured in Russian in Russia, and in Hebrew in Israel.

He has made and starred in "For Goodness Sake," a video directed by David Zucker ("Naked Gun"), shown on Public Television and purchased by hundreds of major companies. His two latest films are on character and race.

Mr. Prager periodically conducts orchestras, and has introduced hundreds of thousands of people to classical music.

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PRAGER: In a Political World Gone Topsy-Turvy, Mike Pence Is the Party Leader