Rosemary Brown doesn't look like she belongs in a basket of deplorables. With her fresh-scrubbed parochial school girl good looks, she seems more like June Cleaver than a soldier in Donald Trump's army of bigots. But that is exactly the problem Brown has: She is a conservative Republican running for re-election to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and despite the sentiments of many voters in her overwhelmingly white district, she can't afford to endorse the man at the top of the Republican ticket. Nor can she afford to diss him.
And so like thousands of Republicans in backwater state and local races around the country, Rosemary Brown hopes and prays (did I say she was a good parochial school girl?) that nobody notices her balancing act. Or twinned campaign signs on lawns in her Monroe County district that infer she is a Trump backer.
Rosemary Brown is running for a fourth two-year term in the Pennsylvania House. Her first three terms have been distinguished by . . . well, we'll have to get back to you on that. Although her kids are named Kennedy and Reagan, which would imply a healthy bipartisan streak, she has pretty much voted with the Republican caucus in a state that, to paraphrase political guru James Carville, is Philadelphia in the east, Pittsburgh in the west, and Alabama in the middle.
She was an enthusiastic supporter of Pennsylvania's notorious voter ID law, which was passed by the Republican-controlled legislature just in time for Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential crash-and-burn, won her no friends in Monroe County's Latino community, and provoked an outbreak of candor from then-House Republican Leader Mike Turzai, who declared that the law would "allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania" by disenfranchising minority voters. (Mr. Romney lost anyway and the law was overturned because it was kind of totally unconstitutional.)
But back to that basket of deplorables.
It is difficult and not a little unfair to make sweeping judgments about exactly who is in the basket, but they do seem to have three things in common that Rosemary Brown wouldn't touch with a six-foot priest's crosier: Basketeers absolutely adore Russian President Vladimir Putin, believe rising in armed rebellion if they don't like the election results in November would be justified, and are convinced that Hillary Clinton has a fatal illness. Some also believe that a pneumonia-free body double is out there campaigning for her.
Mike Pence feels Rosemary Brown's pain.
Mr. Pence was minding his own business being the forgettable governor of Indiana when Mr. Trump tapped him to be his running mate after no one else volunteered to walk that particular plank in an effort to try to insure that George W. Bush is the last Republican president in a generation.
It has been Mr. Pence's job to make Mr. Trump seem more . . . well, we'll also have to get back to you on that.
Mr. Pence took this Mission Impossible up to Capitol Hill this week where he was given the bum's rush by Republican bigs who have the same problem as Rosemary Brown. His difficulties were compounded because while he has criticized Mrs. Clinton over her "basket of deplorables" remark, he resorted to Hoosier circumspection when it came to criticizing David Duke, a white supremacist and onetime Ku Klux Klan leader who has extended his 15 minutes of fame by riding Mr. Trump's coattails in a long shot bid for the U.S. Senate from Louisiana. The best Mr. Pence could manage was to say that Mrs. Clinton did not have "that bad man" in mind when she assailed Mr. Trump's supporters.
Like the last guy in the room to get a joke, the vice presidential wannabe has failed to grasp that an extended discussion over "deplorables" might force a national debate about Mr. Trump's unashamedly racist campaign. And while Mr. Pence is said to be dumb by some people, I happen to believe that he just isn't very smart.
There is a swell life-sized cutout of Mr. Trump in Monroe County Republican Headquarters in Stoudsburg, and when I call Rosemary Brown, I'll suggest that we meet next to the Cardboard Donald. My guess is that she'll say that she has to get back to me on that.
POLITIX UPDATE IS WRITTEN BY SHAUN MULLEN, A VETERAN JOURNALIST AND BLOGGER FOR WHOM THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN IS HIS 12th SINCE 1968. CLICK HERE FOR AN INDEX OF PREVIOUS COLUMNS.
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