In the first Republican debate of the 2016 season, Senator Rand Paul and Donald Trump got into a mini-debate of their own after Donald Trump refused to guarantee that he would support the eventual nominee of the GOP. Although this maybe the only time I utter these words, I agree with Mr. Trump…on this point.
The Republican Party hasn’t been particularly adept at advancing the principles of limited government nor taking to task their elected officials who repeatedly and often flagrantly violate these supposed values. Even worse, both in D.C. and in Richmond, they often reward the most unscrupulous politicians with positions of leadership.
If we rewind the clock to the 2008 and 2012 elections, there is no question that the GOP treated several of their candidates unfairly. In 2008, Senator Rand Paul’s father was often excluded from the process and ended up endorsing the Constitution Party candidate, Chuck Baldwin, in the general election. In 2012, the Republicans shunned former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson and so he left the party and ran as the Libertarian Party nominee.
If the party nominates a candidate who stands in stark contrast to a person’s values, then no one should feel compelled to support him or her. No one. And yes, even though I think Trump is just playing the Republican audience, he shouldn’t be forced to blindly support the Republican nominee either.
Senator Paul is right to criticize Trump for being on both sides of almost every major issue. However, at a recent campaign stop in South Carolina he was wrong to say “Ross Perot gave us Bill Clinton” or “are you ready for Donald Trump to give us Hillary Clinton?”. President George HW Bush lost to Clinton because he misled the American people when he pledged that there would be “no new taxes”. The voters who cast their ballot for Perot in 1992 aren’t owned by the GOP and so they couldn’t be stolen by Perot. Using that same logic, did Ralph Nader steal the election from Democrat Al Gore in 2000? Wouldn’t most Republicans have considered this theft a positive development? In the same way, if Donald Trump ends up running as a third party candidate and Hillary Clinton is elected, that doesn’t mean that Trump stole the election but rather the GOP did a poor job advocating its message, rallying their base, convincing undecided voters and/or likely nominated a poor candidate to be their standard bearer.
If the Republicans lose in 2016 as they did in 2008 and 2012, maybe, just maybe it is because they had a bad candidate, ran a poor campaign, or both. I don’t blame Trump for not blindly pledging support for the GOP nominee no matter who he or she is or what he or she stands for. At this point, I have no plans to support a few of the Republican candidates if they make the general election ballot and many of my liberty-minded brothers and sisters have said likewise. As one example, so far Donald Trump hasn’t convinced me that he is worthy of the support of conservatives or libertarians.
Principles are and must be more important than unquestioned party loyalty. I hope all the candidates, including Rand Paul and Donald Trump, remember this point.