August 22, 2023 7:18pm
The Republican National Committee’s demand that its presidential hopefuls pledge to support the winner of the party’s nomination in 2024 to participate in primary debates was always ill-conceived.
It’s an undeniably coercive way to grapple with the GOP’s deep divisions on discrete policy issues, broader philosophical questions and the merits of former president and perennial candidate Donald Trump.
Each candidate is likely to prompt some number of potential Republican voters to sit out the next election or possibly even defect to the Democrats if he or she prevails in the primary.
And there’s little doubt — given their rhetoric — that some candidates’ consciences would compel them to do the same if Trump reprises his role atop the ticket.
Why place artificial constraints on the event that make for a less informative, less entertaining and less honest first debate Wednesday?
The answer doubtlessly lies with the erratic frontrunner himself.
Institutionally, the RNC’s only interest is in taking back the White House.
That means ensuring as many Republicans as possible turn out to vote for the eventual Republican nominee; Trump’s place at the front of the primary pack renders this task more urgent.
The former president boasts a politically frightening propensity for turning off GOP-leaners in the suburbs who play an outsized role in determining the winner in swing states like Georgia, Arizona and North Carolina.
PROOF: Oh, and he’s liable to announce a third-party bid if he’s defeated in the primary.
Indeed, a loyalty-oath requirement would seem superfluous if not downright absurd were the likely nominee not so glaringly unfit for a role at the head of the party, much less the highest office in the land.
But Trump’s decision not to attend the first primary debate in Milwaukee — or any that follow — exemplifies the colossal folly of the demand.
“The public knows who I am & what a successful Presidency I had,” boasted Trump on Truth Social this week.
“I WILL THEREFORE NOT BE DOING THE DEBATES!”
That’s a lot of capital letters to say: “I don’t need to earn your vote, I own it.”
Also: “I’m scared.”
The requirement’s effect can now be summarized thusly: Candidates seeking to supplant Trump must preemptively pledge to support him even as he refuses to commit to do the same for them.
Worse yet, even as he refuses to so much as grace GOP voters with his presence at the primary debates designed to showcase the field’s differences for the entire electorate to see.
If Trump doesn’t have enough respect for the party to participate in these forums, why should Republicans be honor-bound to support him?
For the Republican Party to accomplish its electoral and policy objectives, it must acknowledge it has a higher purpose outside humoring the whims of one particularly fickle muse.
In fact, it must acknowledge Trump is more of an impediment to — rather than a vehicle for — achieving its aims.
Trump has no interest in the GOP’s success beyond what the party can do in helping him pay his mounting legal bills and keeping him out of prison.
And he’s the one Republican candidate with a proven ability to fumble the powers of the executive branch away to President Joe Biden.
Trump state that he won’t be in the debates because the “public knows who I am & what a successful Presidency I had.”
Of course, the RNC should not and cannot throw roadblocks in front of any of the candidates to headline its convention next year.
But it can stop treating Trump’s re-ascension as an inevitability and taking steps to affirmatively facilitate a coronation.
Loyalty is a two-way street, regardless of what the former president may think.
It’s past time the GOP remembered it’s a vessel for furthering the interests of its voters, not those of the rusty anchor weighing it down.