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Analysis: Mike Pence's NFL protest cost police $14,000, but does that matter to Trump supporters?

| Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017, 12:48 a.m.
Vice President Mike Pence reacts to fans before an NFL football game between the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017, in Indianapolis.
Vice President Mike Pence reacts to fans before an NFL football game between the Indianapolis Colts and the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday, Oct. 8, 2017, in Indianapolis.

Despite post-election surveys that tell a different story, many supporters of President Trump say their decision to back the president was not because of "cultural anxiety" — disappointment with societal changes in the areas of race, gender and sexual orientation.

Instead, they claim that "economic anxiety" — a concern that "out-of-control" government spending is hampering the ability to enjoy economic prosperity — is what led them to get on the Trump train.

Priorities USA, the super PAC that works to restore Democrats to power, polled some 800 Trump voters who previously voted for Barack Obama to understand why they chose the GOP nominee. The poll found that Obama-Trump voters, many of whom are working-class whites and were pivotal to Trump's victory, were losing ground economically and skeptical of Democratic solutions to their problems.

So given that so many Trump supporters viewed the president's economic policies as better for taxpayers, it's surprising that Vice President Mike Pence would reportedly spend thousands of dollars to fly from Nevada to Indianapolis for a football game that he left before it even kicked off.

Pence and his wife exited the game after members of the San Francisco 49ers knelt during the national anthem to protest racism in America and police violence, claiming that it was disrespectful to veterans.

"I left today's Colts game because President Trump and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our national anthem," Pence said in a statement at the time. "While everyone is entitled to their own opinions, I don't think it's too much to ask NFL players to respect the Flag and our national anthem."

But the move that Pence claims was in support of soldiers was quite costly to taxpayers, according to the Citizens for Ethics, a government accountability group. The report said Pence's protest cost the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department more than $14,000, according to documents obtained by the organization.

This is in addition to the cost to the federal government for the plane, which is $43,000 an hour to operate. Pence's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the protest cost.

But despite Pence's pricey protest, there hasn't been much criticism of him from supporters. This is why some Americans argue that Trump-Pence supporters were not primarily moved to board the Trump train for economic reasons, but cultural ones.

Most Republicans do not approve of National Football League players protesting during the national anthem. And while some have said they believe the act disrespects veterans, the disgust over the protests may actually be rooted in economics.

The Washington Post's Vanessa Williams wrote about this:

"President Trump has said his fight with NFL players is about respecting the flag and honoring veterans — not race. But the president and some conservative commentators have made wealth a part of the debate, inflaming racial resentment among Trump's white working-class supporters who express no tolerance for black athletes raising concerns about institutional racism while making millions of dollars a year."

Even Trump himself pointed to the economics of the issue, tweeting: If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL,or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect....

And continued on: ...our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU'RE FIRED. Find something else to do!

This shows what may have been true for many Trump voters: Economic and cultural anxiety aren't mutually exclusive, and some of the people most aware of that were at the top of the 2016 GOP presidential ticket.

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