Is it safe to say that many, if not most, of us aren’t quite ready to announce who we’ll vote for in a year’s time in the 2024 Republican presidential primary, but we’re more than prepared at this stage to list who we won’t vote for?
With more or less a half-year or the equivalent remaining to vet the various “I’m in” candidates – and maybe even a few who still might enter the fray given the right circumstances – there will be ample opportunity to determine whether each candidate should be added to our individual short-lists, or irrevocably tossed into the pile of “no way” contenders.
Personally, there are only a few GOPers who are even under consideration, and I’d bet I’m pretty typical of the “average” conservative/Republican. Wishy-washy fence-sitters in Iowa and New Hampshire might suggest that they’ll go and see each one of the Republicans speak and do so with an opened mind, but face it, even those folks probably have preferences, which might take the form of, too tall, too short, too old, too young, too inexperienced, too weird looking or… too unlikeable?
Or how about too RINO, too malleable, too phony, too soft, too hard, too swamp-ish or, gulp, too establishment?
It doesn’t matter the reason -- many voters just decide that they don’t like a candidate and they won’t vote for him or her no matter what, come hell or high water. These are the “I wouldn’t vote for Candidate X if he (or she) were the last politician on earth.” What would these negative nellies do if it were required, as a condition of being allowed to vote in the first place, that they support the winner of the primary process?
Such is the dilemma the Republican candidates themselves face, since party poohbah Ronna McDaniel released rules for inclusion in the upcoming debates, one of which demands that all potential participants sign a pledge to support the eventual party winner in the sure-to-be knock-down, drawn-out rhetorical brawl that will be next year’s general election campaign.
No problem, right? In the pre-Donald Trump world of politics, party candidates (on both sides) didn’t always like each other, but it was generally accepted that they would more or less pledge to accept the will of the voters and agree to back the process winner after all was said and done. In 2008, for example, conservatives had major questions about John McCain’s willingness to enforce the immigration laws with a full heart, among other worries, but I can’t think of any of his fellow competitors (save for Ron Paul, who was always viewed as an outlier) who swore they wouldn’t help against the Democrat nominee.
Same thing for 2012, when Mitt Romney somehow convinced the Republican grassroots that he was “severely conservative” and wouldn’t flip-flop on everything, just like he’d done ever since entering politics. Romney was already the party nominee when the recording of his “47% don’t pay taxes and wouldn’t vote Republican anyway” gaffe emerged. By then it was too late to un-pledge to support Romney against Obama’s second run. Obama was awful. Not a hard decision.
Therefore, a pledge from a political candidate only goes so far. In 2023, latecomer (to the race) Chris Christie has let it be known that he wouldn’t vote for Donald Trump for anything, much less to be the GOP’s presidential candidate. Chris has been floating around repeating the line, which means he’ll certainly brush up against the “loyalty pledge” at some juncture. What will he do?
In a piece titled “Chris Christie looks askance at Republican loyalty pledge”, David Cohen wrote at Politico recently:
“’GOP presidential candidate Chris Christie made it clear … he didn’t think much of the requirement that the 2024 GOP contenders agree to support the eventual party nominee in order to appear on the debate stage. ‘I’m going to take the pledge just as seriously as Donald Trump took it in 2016,’ the former New Jersey governor said on CNN’s ‘State of the Union.’
“’As you’ll remember, Reince Priebus had to go up to Trump Tower to get him to sign it, to ask him to do so,’ Christie added. ‘He did and then we went to a subsequent debate and we were all asked if we would reaffirm our support of whoever the nominee was going to be by raising our hand. There were 10 of us on the stage, nine of us raised our hands. The one who didn’t was Donald Trump.’ …
“Christie said the former president has a long history of praising people when he picked them for key positions in his administration and then blasting them afterward when they left his team, mentioning Jim Mattis, Mark Milley and Rex Tillerson, among others. Trump recently lit into former Attorney General Bill Barr after Barr defended the 37-count indictment of Trump. ‘He’s a petulant child when someone disagrees with him,’ Christie said of Trump.”
And what do you do when someone disagrees with you, Chris? The dish-it-out-but-can’t-take-it New Jersey native didn’t just lie down and laugh it off when fellow 2016 Republican Marco Rubio criticized his work as governor. It was the back-and-forth in New Hampshire that led to Christie destroying Rubio over the now infamous “25 second speech”. The exchange destroyed Rubio’s candidacy. (Note: I loved it at the time since I was a big Ted Cruz fan.)
It's a well-known fact Christie cut his professional teeth as a trial lawyer. And give him his due – he’s sharp on his feet, gets to the heart of the question and speaks fairly eloquently. But Trump a “petulant child”, Chris? You’re not exactly viewed as someone who gets along with everyone.
The fact that Trump blistered his former administration members who took every chance to go on TV and savage Trump like a Democrat or establishment media talking head is something to admire, not gripe about. If Trump is a “petulant child”, Washington DC could use a whole daycare center’s worth of crying toddlers in his mold.
But is Christie right about the pledge? Can he feel free to sign it and then to ignore it? Everyone knows there’s only one purpose for even asking candidates to sign a “pledge” and that’s to put it on the so-called “record” that candidate X promised not to run on a third party ticket if they didn’t end up the favorite of the voters. The powers-that-be are terrified – maybe petrified is a better way to put it – that Trump will say “the heck with you and I can win without you” and flush the party’s chances of doing anything down into the public sewer with the million tons of waste products and secrets that perpetrators seek to lose forever.
These fears are fanned by those who say “Trump is only in it for himself” and “Trump doesn’t care about the party”, Trump’s an ego-man, Trump’s this, Trump’s that… and won’t even acknowledge the obvious truth that the outsider candidate turned former president has repeated this pattern of statements and behaviors since he first jumped into the political ring.
Is Trump sincere? The old saying goes, “Take Trump seriously but not literally.” There’s nothing in his history to indicate he won’t keep his word on this topic. Trump has made no attempt to hide his animosity towards the establishment media and the stodgy do-nothing status quo perpetuators in the Republican Party. Would you make a pledge to support Mitch McConnell for another x number of years as senate leader?
Likewise, if Asa Hutchinson – or Chris Christie – or some other ruling class defender presidential candidate defies logic and wins the party nomination, would you sign a written pledge to do everything in your power to get him or her (Nikki Haley) elected? The alternative – senile Joe Biden, is positively horrible, so even if you’ve been caught swearing that you won’t vote for Trump or DeSantis or a conservative – would you really go through with the vow?
Formerly (somewhat) reputable Ohio governor John Kasich made a domestic ass of himself by acting like a petulant child in 2016, not accepting that Donald Trump was much, much more popular than himself. Then, in 2020, to accentuate his turn to the donkey side, made a video for senile Joe Biden’s handlers to play at the Democrat “virtual” convention.
How’s that workin’ for you – and America – now, John? Looking back, should Donald Trump pledge to support a turncoat similar to John Kasich for president? As I recall, Kasich signed the 2016 “pledge” when he figured someone like Jeb Bush was destined to win.
Maybe Christie was right – that signing the pledge is one thing, honoring a meaningless promise is quite another. Will each candidate cross his or her fingers behind his back while wielding the pen? Will the ink suddenly disintegrate if the wrong candidate wins? What’s the enforcement mechanism?
It’s clear that Christie has secured the featured spot in the establishment media’s favorite Republican category. Normally, common sense would indicate that a candidate polling in the low single digits (or not even registering) wouldn’t be given much credence by the story-scamming journos, but Christie is different. Not only is he swinging above his weight – and that’s no small accomplishment – Christie is getting more than his fair share of the spotlight.
The RNC’s loyalty pledge ain’t worth the spit it would take to read – and then sign – the thing, and Chris Christie stating that he wouldn’t take it seriously isn’t much of a news event. Frontrunner Trump hasn’t indicated whether he’ll even take part in the upcoming debates, so only the media is making a big deal of the “pledge” right now. Talk about a nothing-burger.
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