The Republicans’ Foolish Pledge

Picture from Reuters and Fox News
Picture from Reuters and Fox News

When Donald Trump refused to agree to support the eventual Republican Party nominee for president during the first debate, that move upset the Republican Party establishment.  After all, many worried that, given Trump’s current popularity in the polls, he could end up bolting the party and siphoning away enough voters to lead to a Democratic victory in 2016.

As such, many state parties, including Virginia, considered making each candidate sign such a pledge in order to be included as a choice on their primary ballot.  With the deadline to appear on the “first in the south” South Carolina primary approaching, after some tough decisions, or perhaps merely theatrics, Donald Trump ended up signing the pledge.

If case you haven’t read it, here is the text of the pledge:

I (candidate’s 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.

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.

Think about this pledge for a moment if you will.  It doesn’t pledge any of the Republican candidates to a certain set of principles.  It doesn’t even pledge the candidates to uphold the Republican Party platform.  Instead, it encourages unquestioning allegiance to the GOP and whomever ends up being their standard bearer.

The current field of Republican candidates appeal to different and diverse groups of voters, ones that increasingly don’t have much in common.  Are you telling me neoconservatives, like Lindsey Graham, will support a libertarian nominee?  Will constitutional conservatives, like Rand Paul, support a neoconservative nominee?  Will social conservatives, like Mike Huckabee, support a pro-choice candidate like George Pataki?  Will a candidate who has railed against the establishment, like Ted Cruz, end up supporting the establishment choice Jeb Bush?  Does it matter to any of them if their ideological opposition is elected?

Along those same lines, does it matter to you if the Republican nominee is a liberal… or a conservative… or a libertarian…or perhaps an authoritarian?  Is it important if he or she will work to shrink the size of the federal government…or expand it?  Or are you happy so long as a Republican is elected over a Democrat regardless of his or her positions?

When it comes down to it, do principles guide Republican politicians?  Or, like the Mafia, does blind and unquestioning support for the party and their candidates hold the greatest value?  As long as people like Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader McConnell have a willing accomplice in the presidency, is that all that truly matters to RNC Chairman Reince Priebus and the Republican Party?

11951774_10204377543189733_4022918454679309719_nWill the Republican Party win the presidency in 2016 or will it fall for the third election in a row?  Although voters gave the party control of both Houses of Congress, given the GOP’s repeated failures to accomplish anything of substance, the 2014 election is a decision that more and more citizens are coming to regret.  According to Quinnipac, support for the Republicans in Congress has reached a six year low, with a 12% favorability rating and 81% disapproval.

Given this foolish pledge that the Republican Party has forced upon all of its potential nominees, one has to wonder if the party cares about anything other than gaining power for itself?  And, if principles don’t really matter, why would the American people send a Republican to the White House ever again other than as a protest to express disapproval of the Democratic Party?

Goodlatte v. Massie on the TPA & TPP

When it comes to the issue of Trade Promotion Authority and the Transpacific Partnership, there are at least two lines of thinking among Republican legislators in Congress.  Many, like Representative Bob Goodlatte (VA-6), have come out in support of TPA & TPP, while others, like Representative Thomas Massie (KY-4), oppose them.  Although billed “Obamatrade” by its detractors as it is favored by President Obama, it is rather curious that it has more support among Republicans than Democrats.  On June 12th, the TPA narrowly passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 219-210.  Broken down by party, Republicans generally favored it (191-54) while Democrats generally opposed it (28-156).

Rather than outline their positions myself, let me present the two representatives in their own words.

First, on April 30, 2015, Representative Goodlatte sent out the following letter:

THE TRANS-PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP IS NOT AN IMMIGRATION GIVE-AWAY
Dear Colleague:
No one believes more strongly than do I that our immigration laws should be written by Congress and not negotiated in trade agreements. In 2003, I and other Members sent a letter to Ambassador Robert Zoellick, head of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), stating that:
The Constitution grants the legislative branch of the federal government plenary power over immigration law. As the Supreme Court ruled in Galvan v. Press, 347 U.S. 522, 531 (1954), “that the formulation of [immigration] policies is entrusted exclusively to Congress has become about as firmly imbedded in the legislative and judicial tissues of our body politic as any aspect of our government.” The United States Trade Representative’s practice of proposing new immigration law in the context of bilateral or multilateral trade negotiations cannot be reconciled with Congress’s constitutional prerogative. Even worse, when combined with the grant of “fast track” or “trade promotion authority” eliminating the legislature’s ability to amend such  proposals, USTR’ s practice has effectively stolen this plenary power away from Congress. We cannot allow this to continue and must thus insist that you never again agree to include immigration provisions in trade agreements. . . .
Based on the current draft text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and assurances from USTR, I am confident that we can vote for the TPP and trade promotion authority without violating the enduring principles set forth in the 2003 letter. To its great credit, USTR has stood up to immense pressure and has refused to agree to “temporary entry” provisions in the TPP that would allow foreign workers to come to America outside of the terms of current congressionally-passed immigration law. Whatever other countries participating in the TPP negotiations agree to regarding temporary entry, the U.S. will not be a signatory. In addition, no one has been more vocal than me in their criticism of the Obama Administration’s attempt to unconstitutionally rewrite our immigration laws through the grant of administrative legalization to millions of unlawful aliens. There is nothing in the current draft of the TPP that will in any way advance or facilitate this or any other unconstitutional action by the Administration.
In the TPP negotiations, USTR has acted in good faith and has respected Congress’ constitutionally-granted power to write our nation’s immigration laws. In turn, we should support the TPP and trade promotion authority as a boon to the American economy.

Sincerely,
Bob Goodlatte
Chairman House Judiciary Committee
In addition, on June 11th, Representative Goodlatte shared a link on his Facebook page outlining the “Top Nine Myths About Trade Promotion Authority And The Trans-Pacific Partnership“.
However, another group of Republicans disagree.  On June 12th, Representative Massie offered the following thoughts on Facebook:

I support free trade, but I cannot vote for the ‪#‎TPA‬ bill that will expedite approval of the ‪#‎TPP‬ trade agreement.

(1) I’ve read the confidential TPP. What struck me most was the enormity of it. Two bound volumes that reference other bound volumes of trade agreements. My staff aren’t allowed to read the document, I’m not allowed to take notes from the room, and I can’t access an Internet browser in the room. How could I possibly understand the unintended consequences of this agreement over the next few decades?

(2) The implications of ceding our sovereignty to the World Trade Organization (‪#‎WTO‬) via trade agreements became painfully obvious to me this week. Congress literally rewrote our food labeling laws to please the WTO. The WTO said we can’t require the country of origin to be on the labels for beef and pork. I voted against removing the labels but the WTO-directed legislation passed anyway.

(3) Phone calls from my constituents are running 30 to 1, opposing versus supporting, the TPA. Some are concerned that this agreement gives this President too much additional authority. Some are concerned about the lack of transparency. These are both valid concerns.

And here is what he said on the House floor:

So, given that Goodlatte and Massie seem to be diametrically opposed on this issue, one does have to ask, what is the Republican position on this matter?  Generally, Republicans favor free trade, but is the TPA & TPP a bad deal for Americans?

Like the recent feud over the Patriot Act and the USA Freedom Act, is this another issue which will help tear the establishment and liberty wings of the Republican Party apart?  And could these rather substantive disagreements predicate the GOP’s future destruction?  After all, last week RNC Chairman Reince Priebus stated that “we (the Republican Party) don’t exist as a national party if we don’t win in 2016.”  I guess we will see.

Time for Priebus to Go!

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus
(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

About a week ago, both the Republican Liberty Caucus and the Virginia state chapter of the RLC issued press releases calling for the resignation of the chairman of the Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.  The reasoning for this action revolves around the conflict that took place during the recent Republican Nation Convention in Tampa, Florida.

For many Republican and conservative activists who only heard news of the convention via reports from the mainstream media, much of this article may come as a bit of a shock.  However, behind the cheery exterior in Florida, there lurked a number of troubling accounts.

First, as mentioned in a previous article, the changes in the convention rules greatly upset a number of conservative activists including Virginia Republican National Committeeman and president of the Leadership Institute, Morton Blackwell.  Rather than using proportional voting in early state primaries, which would allow for greater development in the GOP primaries, this switch means that an exceedingly small number of voters in places like Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina will likely dictate future party nominees.  In response, Blackwell warned that these changes would “concentrate and centralize more power at the top of the party, and to shut off opportunities for power in the party to flow from the bottom up”.  Video of the vote on this matter shows that the result was not decisive, but Speaker of the House John Boehner declared in a dictatorial fashion “in the opinion of the chair, the ayes have it.”

Along these same lines, rather than unify the party behind Mitt Romney, the convention further drove a wedge between the Ron Paul and Romney supporters.  For starters, early in the convention, many delegates from Maine who supported Ron Paul were stripped of their voting power.  To make matters worse, although a candidate and elected official in the Republican Party, Representative Ron Paul was not allowed to speak on the convention floor.  Lastly, in a move which must have been done out of spite, when delegates from each state cast their votes, the officially announced totals made no mention of Paul’s total.

Here is a video which outlines all of the objections raised in this article:

Therefore, as stated at the beginning of this article, as a result of the events that took place under the leadership of RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, the Republican Liberty Caucus and many state chapters of the RLC have issued a resolution calling for his resignation.

The text of the RLC-VA resolution is as follows:

September 17, 2012 (Staunton, VA) – The Republican Liberty Caucus of Virginia Board approved the following resolution in response to the events at the Republican National Convention in Tampa:

Whereas, the management of the Republican National Convention in Tampa displayed a blatant disregard for the rules under which the convention committees and convention’s general business session were supposed to be conducted;

Whereas, national party leaders and agents of the Romney campaign worked to disenfranchise legitimately elected delegates, silence dissent and disregard legitimate motions and the results of votes during the national convention;

Whereas, fraud and coercion were used to pass new rules which reduce the power and autonomy of state and local party organizations, allow future rule changes without proper oversight by the body of the party and impose a top-down structure of governance in place of the party’s traditional bottom-up structure;

Whereas, most of the factional problems at the convention could have been resolved through reasonable negotiation in ways which promoted unity and cooperation, but were instead dealt with by a heavy handed incompetence which has led to greater divisions, a weakening of the party and loss of support for the presidential nominee;

Whereas, responsibility for the mismanagement and abuse of process at the national convention ultimately rests with the national Chairman;

Whereas, it is to the benefit of the party to protect the rights and interests of party members and preserve the traditional and unique practices of the state parties;

Therefore be it resolved that:

We call for the immediate resignation of Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus;

We reject the validity of all of the revisions to the party rules passed at the Tampa convention and consider the 2008 rules to remain in effect;

We commend the efforts of the Republican National Committeeman from Virginia, Morton Blackwell, to prevent adoption of these odious rule changes;

We condemn Ben Ginsberg, John Sununu and John Boehner for their leadership of and complicity in these activities;

We assert the primacy of the state parties in determining policy for conducting party elections, nomination of candidates and apportionment of delegates within their states without the interference of the national committee or any campaign or outside entities.

We urge the Republican Party of Virginia State Central Committee, our State Chairman and our Republican National Committee representatives to act on this resolution and vote to return control of the party to the state parties and the body of party members.  We urge members to take this resolution to their local unit committees for passage by said committees, and for Virginia Republican activists to endorse it.

The unity of the Republican Party is in a sorry state due to the leadership, or lack thereof, of Reince Priebus and his confederates.  Conservatives and libertarians have been demoralized and disenfranchised and his actions have harmed the party and its candidates in not only the 2012 elections, but for elections in the years to come.

Partially as a result of the devious actions which took place at the convention, most Ron Paul supporters I know are unifying behind Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson and, try as I might, I can’t say that I blame them.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  Nothing defeats the Republican Party quite as well as the Republican Party.  We should never forget that Reince Pribus bears a considerable portion of this blame.

It is time for Priebus to go!