The Right Resistance: Donald Trump, the GOP’s loyalty pledge and the uniqueness of 2024
Does it make one disloyal if he or she refuses to sign a loyalty pledge?
Almost eight years after former president (and then candidate) Donald Trump created a stir by initially refusing to sign a pledge paper offered by the higher ups of the Republican National Committee demanding that every candidate support and vote for the eventual winner of the 2016 GOP primary race – and seven years after Trump refused to pledge to accept the establishment media-declared winner of the 2016 general election – the outsider private business/celebrity-turned-commander in chief is again earning buzz by not committing to be “loyal” to the Republican Party in 2024.
Of course, a couple months after he first said he wouldn’t go there on loyalty in 2015, Trump did indeed sign then Chairman of the RNC Reince Priebus’s loyalty pledge. But it didn’t seem like a big deal at that moment. Was it?
There’s a saying, “No news is good news”, but is that really true here? Where Trump is concerned, it’s more like “old news is not news”, because the lifelong real estate developer and reality show TV star has hardly deviated from anything he ever said or promised to do last decade when he shocked the world by defeating Hillary Clinton for the title of leader of the free world.
No one understands what motivates Trump to regularly diverge from standard party practice, but it appears the more they ask him to commit to something the establishment wants so desperately – the words “I will not run as an independent in 2024” – the more likely he is to tell them to go pound sand.
The real dilemma here is, can Trump be trusted to refrain from sabotaging the whole Republican effort if he somehow loses in next year’s intra-party contest to nominate a new presidential nominee? It’s obvious that the very people who affixed words to a page containing a “pledge” dream of something they’re not getting anytime soon. So why the big fuss?
Is Donald Trump untrustworthy? In a piece titled “Trump won’t commit to the Republican National Committee’s loyalty pledge”, Seth McLaughlin reported at The Washington Times:
“Former President Donald Trump refused to commit to signing a pledge to support the GOP’s ultimate presidential nominee, setting up a potential clash with the Republican National Committee. RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel has said candidates will have to sign the pledge if they want to participate in RNC-sanctioned primary debates.
“But Mr. Trump, the front-runner in the race, told reporters at CPAC that it depends on the candidate. ‘I’m just hearing about it for the first time, about the loyalty pledge but there are probably people that I wouldn’t be very happy about endorsing who are running,’ Mr. Trump said. ‘So we’ll see.’
“’I think some of them, I won’t use names, I don’t want to insult anybody, but some of them I would not be very happy about,’ he said. Republicans have long feared the prospect of Mr. Trump leaving the party to launch an independent candidacy if he loses the 2024 nomination race.”
Yes, the fear is tangible among the Trump detractors in the Republican party, a sizable group that’s seemingly grown larger with each establishment media created scandal or decorum blip the former president generated. Every time Trump does something considered outlandish – which happens a lot – they come out of hiding to accuse him of intentionally impairing the GOP effort due to narcissism or ego, as though the man would be wasting all his time, energy and personal fortune to promote a Democrat for president.
I think Donald Trump does a lot of things to further his own legend, but disloyalty to the GOP – or open rebellion -- isn’t one of them. The fact Trump has never been particularly fond of either party throughout his life doesn’t make much of a difference. Trump always names his enemies by name, and Democrats aren’t even close to an entity he wants to aid.
A large percentage of Trump’s most loyal (forgive the repetition) supporters aren’t even Republicans – they’re first-time political system participants, disgruntled working class former Democrats, system disruptors, discouraged “forgotten” Americans and those who simply can’t accept and don’t believe that anyone other than Trump will bring the kind of change to Washington that it must have. It’s not that these traditional-minded folks don’t like any other Republicans, they just won’t accept that said pols will be far enough removed from party politics to do what it will take to defeat the establishment.
Trump is their guy, and to them, he’s earned the kind of support outside of anyone else.
In the above quote, it was curious how Trump mentioned folks he wouldn’t be happy with winning the nomination. Considering there are only a handful of announced candidates thus far and a pretty limited group of possible contenders (as rumored by the media), which Republicans would he not approve of?
Trump could be referencing someone like Liz Cheney, since the ousted former Wyoming congresswoman has repeatedly stated she would do everything in her (limited) power to ensure the 45th president would never serve again, though we haven’t heard much lately about Cheney forming an exploratory committee or anything of the sort.
Just recently Cheney accepted a position at the University of Virginia (Charlottesville) to teach or something like that. Don’t send your kid there now!
There are other Trump-haters at rumor central who are said to be contemplating a run, such as former Maryland governor Larry Hogan. But, even if Hogan got into the scrum, he would have no natural Republican base of support and isn’t regarded for much other than trying to govern as a “woke” RINO do-gooder in a bluer than blue state. If Las Vegas were attaching betting odds to Hogan’s presidential delusions, they would come in at greater than a thousand-to-one.
So, if anything, Trump has common sense on his side by not pledging a vote for anyone who’s outwardly criticized the MAGA agenda, or even worse, harangued Trump’s voters themselves. The GOP establishment doesn’t yet have a true RINO horse in next year’s race, though Nikki Haley probably qualifies for the designation. But there’s no way she would win anyway. Haley’s running to be vice president.
Besides, we’ve all been through this “loyalty pledge” nonsense before, haven’t we?
In 2016, Trump likely surmised he had more to gain by signing Priebus’s pledge than he would lose in credibility with his base by holding out. At the time, you may recall, there were the beginnings of an open rebellion against Trump in the upper echelons of the DC swamp establishment, and practically every other party presidential candidate expressed misgivings about backing the nominee if Trump accomplished the impossible and actually won enough convention delegates to be crowned the winner.
Put more simply, Trump figured he wasn’t committing to something he wasn’t prepared to do anyway – support the winner – and, at the same time, got sixteen other candidates to declare their intentions to back him if he won. For anyone who’s observed the political portion of Trump’s career, it never entered his mind that he would lose. So basically, he got everyone else to commit to him ahead of time just for the price of a signature on a pledge.
Yes, that’s right – Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, and the rest of the 2016 hopefuls swore to support the eventual nominee. The fact that a good selection of them subsequently reneged on their promise made them look bad, didn’t it?
The establishment media’s over-the-top hype-fest in those days helped publicize Trump in a way he couldn’t have anticipated prior to the stupid overreaction to the pledge and the same phenomenon is occurring this time around, fueled by newly reelected Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel’s insistence on another written non-binding vow.
I can’t speak for her, but here’s thinking McDaniel wants to stave off a 2024 version of John McCain or Mitt Romney or John Kasich – or Paul Ryan – who will decide, somewhere down the road, that they’re not going to back Trump if/when he wins the nomination. It could very well be that Trump himself is not the center of this strategy.
Can you imagine Liz Cheney signing a party pledge to support the nomination winner now when most current signs point to a Trump victory? Or Larry Hogan doing the same? Or New Hampshire’s Chris Sununu (though I believe the latter has indicated he would support Trump)? Things aren’t always as they seem; perhaps Ronna dreamed up the loyalty pledge knowing Trump would balk at the outset, fully intending to get the others to commit to him down the road?
Regardless of what happens with the “loyalty pledge”, Donald Trump is committed to the Republican party. He wouldn’t back someone like Mitch McConnell or Adam Kinzinger for the nomination, but the true Trump-haters are not in position to win the nomination in the first place. Loyalty is often in the eye of the beholder. This whole thing is much ado about nothing.
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