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The GOP’s Loyalty Pledge Targeting Trump Is Ridiculous. Here’s A Better Idea.


“GOP circulates loyalty pledge to box Trump in,” reports Politico, adding “The GOP is taking its most aggressive step yet to force Donald Trump’s hand.” What is the text of this loyalty pledge?

“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,” the pledge reads. “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.”

Really? Really?

Listen, I thought the question at the first debate — asking whether candidates would support the eventual GOP nominee — was more than fair. Donald Trump had already threatened to make a third party run and that’s something Republican voters might want to have clarified during a Republican debate. But Trump already answered the question — saying that he wouldn’t make such a pledge — and there’s no reason to up the ante here. Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol nails one of the real problems with the pledge, though:

It couldn’t be easier for Trump to turn this request for a loyalty oath into an advantage for himself. Kristol said the pledge was counterproductive because Trump could easily respond, “I pledge loyalty only to my country. I hope to support GOP candidate, but it depends what the GOP stands for. Unlike some others perhaps, I’m a patriot, not a partisan.”

Seriously! I actually think maybe all the candidates should say that. At a time when voters are sick of their impotent party, why do RNC leaders think they’d like to hear that Jeb Bush will support George Pataki if he’s the nominee? That’s the whole problem! — a lack of principle mixed with no ability to communicate any conservative principles. Why in the world would it matter at all if other politicians clung to the nominee and the party? It’s actually a liability to express this level of mindless devotion to a party, particularly one that has this massive a disconnect between its Washington insiders and actual voters.

I’m not sure that Republicans quite get the nature of the problem — and their obsessive focus on Trump is giving them an excuse to ignore it.

A few days ago the user behind the Twitter account ThomasHCrown began tweeting out sarcastic explanations for why he votes Republican, using the hashtag #WhyIVoteRepublican. Here are some of them. No, you don’t need to read them all but a good skim is rewarding:

  • So Mitch McConnell can be Majority Leader and help the Democrats to victory.
  • So John Boehner can fund President Obama’s usurpation of power.
  • So Planned Parenthood can continue using tax dollars to butcher the unborn and sell their parts for profit.
  • So Fortune 100 Companies can be shielded from the free market.
  • So yet another Clinton or Bush or whatever can be President.
  • So Supreme Court rulings that clearly exceed any possible basis in the Constitution can be quietly accepted.
  • So that we continue to turn perfectly useful corn into energy-inefficient and starvation-causing ethanol.
  • So the regulatory state will continue to grow without even pausing.
  • So Christians can be forced to materially cooperate with evil as long as Wal-Mart is happy.
  • So my children can be forced to learn how all the heroes of the twentieth century were Democrats.
  • So sugar subsidies can increase.
  • So every bank about the community bank size is too big to fail.
  • So every major investment firm is protected from any downside risk to gambling with shareholder money.
  • So that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac may live forever.
  • So that Iran will be in a position to destroy Israel utterly within a handful of years.
  • So that China will have de facto hegemonic control over East Asia. Or a war. Whatever.
  • So that the world’s democracies will know we’re just around the corner, where we’re damned well staying.
  • So that our immigration laws are merely code for “whatever the Chamber of Commerce wants.”
  • So that we get another minimum wage hike.
  • So conservative Republicans can be called racists basically whenever.
  • So that John McCain will be a Senator until 2136.
  • So that our drug testing regime will be the envy of Togo, assuming Togo is nuked.
  • So that my kids will be forced to learn math with more steps and in a harder way than they would have in 1963.
  • So that one million children, give or take, will be aborted per year, and I’ll learn about it in fundraising letters.
  • So that Ukraine will become a Russian province. Again.
  • So that we can all be embarrassed about using the phrase “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance.
  • So the Federal Courts become our de facto ruling class.
  • So the President becomes the Princeps.
  • So that I can live in fear of the IRS even though I pay my taxes.
  • So that Christians in their most ancient communities in the Middle East will be wiped from the Earth.
  • So the powerful can break the law with impunity.
  • So we can have Meaningful Hearings About Important Things and then get fundraising letters.
  • So that Congress will abandon its historic right to control the purse.
  • So that the “advise and consent” function of the Senate becomes the “yeah whatever” function.
  • So that we can elect more Republicans in order to elect more Republicans in an endless loop.
  • So that Mitch McConnell can have a bigger majority with which to do nothing.
  • So that John Boehner can overcome a filibuster.
  • So we can pretend history didn’t happen.
  • So we can chair the Appropriations Committee.
  • So we can gerrymander.
  • So my children can grow up in a world in which being born in the wrong class matters.
  • So we can have an imperial capital on the Potomac.
  • Because the Democrats are indistinguishable most days.
  • So I can hear about the moral travesty of abortion while those elected to end it treat it as an annoying distraction.
  • So that carried interest remains taxed at the lowest rate possible, by God.
  • So that internet sales are taxed.
  • So that the corporate tax rate is lowered for 4% of all corporations.
  • So American citizenship remains infinitely valuable while we give its privileges away to those who break our laws.
  • So we can enshrine every policy decision by every Democratic President to date.
  • So Hillary Clinton will be the next President. Or Bernie Sanders. Or maybe Colonel Sanders.
  • So that Hamas has its own little statelet to terrorize and brainwash.
  • So that following the rules is for chumps.
  • So that I can see grown men run screaming from cutting a fraction of one percent of the Federal budget.
  • So that I can watch Failure Theater for the rest of my life.
  • So establishment politicians who leave the Party are funded against the Party’s nominee and welcomed back to the fold.
  • So we can all be ashamed of American history.
  • So this just becomes a distraction from important stuff like protecting Ex-Im.
  • So all of our important matters of governance can be outsourced to unelected bureaucrats and judges.
  • So that our Constitution is only as meaningful as nine unelected lawyers want it to be.
  • So there are no checks on the Executive’s power.
  • So the President is never impeached for violating our laws because that might hurt our Senate seat in Florida.
  • So Anthony Kennedy is the Social Policy Minister for the entire country.
  • So we can have even more Supreme Court justices just like John Roberts.
  • So we can waste all of our capital propping up failed corporations and unions forever.
  • So no union member will ever be denied a full, taxpayer-funded, 150% of salary retirement.
  • So no large corporation dies.
  • So that the Speaker of the House can be a shield for a company that traffics in baby parts.
  • So that We Are Always Doing Something.
  • So that our entire economy turns on making sure large financial institutions remain insolvent but alive.
  • So the EPA can be a permanent brake on our economy.
  • So Archer-Daniels Midland never wants for subsidies.
  • So the people who follow the law in coming to our country can be spat upon.
  • So we can have a permanent class of helots.
  • So the children of migrant workers will remain an underclass.
  • So the Federal Government will control more and more of our lives.
  • So my children can be told that accurate descriptions of another human being are hateful.
  • So that no copyright held by a major media company will ever expire.
  • So we can turn to important matters, like NCAA scandals.
  • So our patent system can go off the rails.
  • So I can be ruled by people who only care that they get re-elected and get their payoff after.
  • So we can debate sensible limits on the rights shielded from the government by the Constitution.
  • So the Army Corps of Engineers remains a boondoggle.
  • So no entitlement will ever be in danger of even being means-tested.
  • So that big business always has an ally or two against smaller business.
  • So that the Code of Federal Regulations will soon completely fill the National Archives.
  • So that we fund NPR.
  • So that we fund PBS.
  • So that we fund the NEA.
  • So that we fund the Department of Education.
  • So that we drive up the cost of college tuition forever.
  • So that lawyers remain our de facto mandarins.
  • So they can lecture us on bigotry and hatred for being upset about Americans being killed by foreigners.
  • So that my tax dollars can be spent on abortions and corporate welfare.
  • So that the Senate will remain open to regulate and tax us.
  • So that Christians can be forced to materially cooperate with evil.
  • So that President Obama’s agenda can be enacted.
  • So that Obamacare is fully funded.
  • So that Obamacare is expanded.
  • So that we can save Democrats the trouble of a filibuster.
  • So that energy prices go up.
  • So it becomes more expensive to access and use the financial system.
  • So my country will spend more time rummaging through my life than that of any terrorist.
  • So Catholic hospitals will be required to provide emergency contraception and abortion.
  • So religious liberty can be treated as a distraction from pork-barrel politics.
  • So tax cuts can be scored as costs to the government.
  • So we can all just wait on Russia to voluntarily stop picking on its former satellites.
  • So every East Asian ally other than Japan learns to fall in line with China.
  • So international free trade deals die aborning.
  • So sentencing reform can be a back-burner issue while ethanol subsidies remain up front.
  • So everyone on Team Clinton who conspired to break Federal law can skip even the inconvenience of an indictment.
  • So I vote Republican. #WhyIVoteRepublican

That’s not a Trump voter, mind you. Pretty sure he finds the man to be a joke, in fact. Every Republican might have a slightly different mixture of complaints but this list shows a problem in no way fixed by a loyalty pledge for Donald Trump.

Over at National Review, Charles Cooke has a piece headlined “Trump Has Succeeded in Convincing Conservatives To Discard Their Principles Overnight.” He looks at all the many non-conservative positions Trump holds — from guns to abortion to the economy. And it’s absolutely true. But if you look at Mr. Crown’s list above, why would we think it was Trump who convinced Republican voters that principles didn’t matter? That bed was made by a GOP long before Trump showed up.

Some days I like to reread Neal Freeman’s excellent warning from a September 2014 issue of National Review about the poor treatment of one of the only things the GOP had going for it in years. A relevant portion:

Imagine if you would a prayer breakfast in Washington attended by the leadership of the GOP — Messrs. Boehner, McConnell, Priebus, and their associates. They drop to their knees, bow their heads, and invoke divine intercession in the country’s troubled affairs, and in the party’s parlous condition. Would it be too much to ask Him to deliver unto them a mass political movement, self-financed and benignly led, God-fearing and well-mannered, almost all of whose members believed in the literal version of the Republican platform and almost none of whose members wanted anything from the federal government but constitutional restraint?

Yes, it would have been too much to ask, but, yes, it has been given unto them, anyway. The Tea Party arrived in vast, friendly numbers and said to the GOP, “We’re not from the federal government and we’re here to help.”

What happened next was not pretty. Or smart. The GOP brass responded with insults, attack ads, collaborative media trashing, and, finally, over the past six months, the charge of McConnell’s geezer brigade seeking to “crush” the Tea Party. And here we thought congressional Republicans were too prone to compromise, too quick to split the difference.

Sometimes when you repeatedly tell someone to get lost, they actually take you up on it. And while everyone’s focused on Trump, they’re not noticing that many other people have lost interest in the party as well.

Useful Pledges

I think most Americans are smart enough to understand that no political party will be ideal. Parties represent a coalition of interests, some of which an individual might care deeply about and some of which said individual might be apathetic about or even somewhat hostile to. Parties exist to advance general causes or groups of interests and people work together to get as much done as possible.

Instead of asking Rand Paul to support Mike Huckabee if he’s the nominee, what about a pledge that the leaders in Congress pick one thing to work on and actually get done. I’m not sure people would even care what it was, so long as it wasn’t, you know, “once again help out crony corporate interests.” Just pick one thing. One thing to show that there is a reason to be loyal to the GOP. Maybe something worthwhile on foreign policy. Maybe something worthwhile on the budget. Immigration. Maybe something to do with the harvesting of human organs from federally funded Planned Parenthood. I don’t think it matters what it is. But it should be something of note. Maybe it’s simply communicating a message about conservatism and the threats posed by the expanding administrative state. Or standing up to President Obama. Or standing up to a media establishment more or less completely aligned with the Democratic Party. They can take their pick!

If the GOP leadership wanted to stop Trump and the other hemorrhaging, they wouldn’t enact a pledge, they’d do something to make voters want to stay. There’s simply no substitute for actually doing something or communicating something conservative.

Let’s say, however, that House and Senate leaders are truly incapable of doing any such thing. Here’s another, somewhat counterintuitive idea for the GOP. Stay with me for this as I tell a quick story.

A few days ago some friends were discussing Sen. Marco Rubio’s support of sugar subsidies (GOP support of which would make an excellent addition to Mr. Crown’s list above, I’m sure you’ll agree). One friend didn’t like that Rubio had this position. Another friend asked who could possibly do anything to change the subsidy situation? Still another said Rubio should be pressed on the topic. On the one hand he’s expressed support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would ever-so-slightly free up the sugar market, but then he turns around and endorses “price supports, import quotas, loan guarantees, and other anti-market contrivances” that cost U.S. taxpayers $1.9 billion annually.

The second friend says he doesn’t see the point in harassing Rubio over his stance, particularly since other candidates such as Bush, Cruz, Carson, Trump and Walker might have it as well. The first friend says “all candidates should be held accountable because if their stated intentions are to maintain the status quo, what’s the point?” He added that he knew some people have hope more in “slowing the car” than “hope in the GOP.”

Well, the third friend says in response, “Maintaining the status quo is a pretty good idea if the status quo involves inertia rather than forward momentum off of a cliff.​ Or even just into a ditch.”

See, the problem with the GOP is that they’ve been micturating in our mouths and telling us it’s raining. They promise us over and over and over again that they’re going to actually do something about the administrative state and its many encroachments in our lives. But then they never do. They actually make things worse — if less worse, sometimes, than other people do.

But what if instead of telling us that if we vote for them just one more time, this time they’ll be better, they just got much more honest with us about what would actually happen.

What if they flat out admitted they were too incompetent, inarticulate and cowardly to effect any real positive change, but they could pretty much guarantee a slower roll off the cliff than the one offered by more ardent progressives? I think voters might appreciate the simple honesty of it. No, it’s not as inspirational as actually giving voters a contrast to progressivism, but could it really be worse than whatever the pledge-writers are doing now?