Tag Archives: Loyalty Pledge

DONEGAN: RNC Loyalty Oath Goes Too Far By Asking Candidates to Endorse Unknown Nominee

Donald Trump’s refusal to rule out an independent presidential run during the first GOP debate of the 2016 election season put Republican Party officials in a legitimate bind. What happens if Trump or another candidate uses the GOP’s political infrastructure, donor funds, and primary debates as a launch pad for an independent run against the party’s eventual nominee, ultimately spoiling the race in favor of the Democrats?

If that were to happen, Reince Priebus’ Republican National Committee chairmanship would be viewed as an epic failure.

However, in using the party’s sponsorship of and control over officially-recognized Republican presidential primary debates as leverage to pressure all candidates into signing a loyalty pledge, the RNC has set a dangerous precedent. Now, the expectation is that in order to get into the Republican Party’s official presidential debates, each candidate must sign an oath promising not only to swear off an independent run, but also to blindly pre-endorse any of a long list of candidates prior to even debating all of them on the same stage and determining what their positions are. That should be alarming considering the fact that there are 17 announced candidates in this season’s primary.

[RELATED: Trump Signs RNC Loyalty Pledge Promising to Endorse Nominee “Regardless of Who It Is”]

In fact, in circulating the loyalty pledge so early in the election season, the RNC has asked Republican candidates to sign an oath promising to support the party’s nominee at a time, with candidate filing deadlines still looming, when it might still technically be possible for another candidate to enter the race. In a crowded field, a candidate whose views do not speak for large segments of the party could prevail, forcing single-issue activist candidates to endorse a nominee that on day one of his or her presidency would begin working against them — and conceivably the entire party — on issues. Also, a candidate like Donald Trump, who was a Democrat just a few short years ago, could in theory change his mind on positions at the last minute.

The loyalty oath as a concept will offend Tea Party and libertarian activists who see it as a tool by establishment figures to put the party’s brand over its issues. “Republican in name only” has become a commonly-used pejorative among center-right leaning activist circles to describe brand-focused Republicans who ditch their principles for whatever position polls well after they stealth into office by bamboozling the GOP base into carrying the election for them.

Above the broader concept of the loyalty oath dangles the RNC’s bigger mistake, including language in it that effectively bullies candidates into pledging that they “will endorse the 2016 Republican presidential nominee regardless of who it is.

During the 2008 and 2012 Republican presidential primaries, candidate Ron Paul said from the beginning that he had no intention of running as an independent if he were to lose. There was no need for a loyalty oath because even Ron Paul, with his near-total disregard for political expediency, realized that he had to rule out an independent run to have any practical shot at winning the nomination.

However, former Congressman Paul likely would not have signed a promise to endorse the nominee because not doing so was essential, not only to his principled approach to advocacy, but also to his strategy of collecting delegates that would go on to influence the party at the Republican National Convention. This is often a crucial step in reconciling the party when it is struggling internally with major debates over important issues.

Put simply, if the RNC had made the signing of a similar oath a condition for being a participant in the party’s debates in 2008, Ron Paul would have never signed it and his historic debate performances that inspired an entire generation of activists never would have taken place.

Promising to support the eventual nominee no matter who it is forces candidates to marry themselves to their own attack ads. What kind of schizophrenic message does it send when a candidate spends months warning about how dangerous another candidate will be only to then endorse them months later?

As a former elected county-wide Republican Party official on what is effectively Nashville, Tennessee’s subsidiary of the RNC, I understand the importance of the brand-building job that comes with being an official on a Republican Party executive committee. However, is this loyalty oath going to create a bigger Republican Party or will it create a smaller, more obedient one while, over time, systematically pushing issue-focused and principled conservatives and libertarians out and into the arms of a rising third party?

Also, out of respect for independents who are the fastest growing voter segment in the U.S., it is important to consider the fact, pointed out by Ben Swann in the below-embedded CBS46 Atlanta Reality Check video, that independent taxpayers themselves are forced to invest in the primary system yet do not have a way to get candidates into debates. By limiting the ability for right-leaning independent candidates to participate in the Republican primary process and its debates over issues, which either directly or implicitly tying a loyalty oath to debate participation will do, the RNC is disenfranchising them and giving them no choice but to work to create a third party.


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Trump Signs RNC Loyalty Pledge Promising to Endorse Nominee “Regardless of Who It Is”

Ever since candidate Donald Trump refused to promise not to run as an independent at Fox News’ first Republican presidential debate of the 2016 campaign season, state and national level Republican Party organizations have been scrambling to find a way to force him to sign an oath pledging his loyalty to the party.

On Wednesday, the Republican National Committee distributed a loyalty pledge to all 2016 candidates and asked them to sign it prior to CNN’s September 16 Republican presidential debate at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, Calif.

According to The Guardian, Donald Trump signed the pledge on Thursday after a meeting with RNC chairman Reince Priebus and said at a press conference, “I have no intention of changing my mind. I see no circumstances under which I would tear up that pledge.” It is worth noting that his comments after signing the pledge seem to have left open the possibility that some type of unforeseen circumstance could in theory motivate him to tear up the pledge.

According to Politico, the RNC pledge reads, “I [name] affirm that if I do not win the 2016 Republican nomination for president of the United States I will endorse the 2016 Republican presidential nominee regardless of who it is.

It continues, “I further pledge that I will not seek to run as an independent or write-in candidate nor will I seek or accept the nomination for president of any other party.

Virginia and North Carolina’s Republican Party organizations are considering forcing candidates to sign a loyalty pledge in order to obtain ballot access, and South Carolina’s GOP announced last week that candidates must promise that they “generally believe in and intend to support the nominees and platform of the Republican Party in the November 8, 2016 general election” prior to September 30 in order to appear on the party’s ballot.

Former Virginia Governor and 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jim Gilmore told The Washington Post, “If someone is going to go to the party and ask for their support, if they’re going to ask the rank and file for their vote, that comes with an obligation for loyalty, in my mind. Generally speaking, if you want the party’s support, that loyalty should be there.

Former RNC chairman Michael Steele said, “I appreciate what [RNC chairman Reince Priebus] is trying to do [by circulating the pledge], trying to bring some level of order to this situation. The expectation should be if you’re running to be nominee of the party, you should support the nominee of the party.

Though the RNC’s circulation of the pledge appeared to be motivated primarily by the desire to get Donald Trump to swear off an independent run, asking candidates to pledge to support the party’s eventual nominee without knowing who that might be or what positions that person might be championing at that time goes even further. In the 2012 Republican presidential primary, candidate Ron Paul said that he would not run as an independent but ultimately refused to endorse the party’s nominee.

The Republican Party can use its powers to deny candidates the use of its voter information database and to strip them from RNC-sanctioned debates to pressure them into falling in line. However, there is nothing stopping a candidate like Trump from signing the pledge and then backing out of it later on, other than the political reality that voters do not typically support candidates who break promises.

In the below-embedded CBS46 Atlanta Reality Check video, Ben Swann discusses the implications of the Republican National Committee’s power to ban candidates from Republican presidential debates.


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