Rand Paul and Rick Perry yesterday became two more in a long line of Republican elected officials that have (reluctantly) announced they will support Donald Trump in the general election. Later in the afternoon, Paul Ryan announced he was “not yet ready” to support Trump. An orderly and totally reasonable debate ensued over the propriety of elected officials supporting a nominee they don’t like, and that in some cases has personally insulted them.
I’m kidding, of course. There is nothing orderly and reasonable about this election! Really, Twitter blew up with massive amounts of name calling, vows to support primary challenges and (probably) death threats. The Trumpers called for Ryan’s exile, and the #NeverTrump crowd was equally incensed with Perry and Paul.
I despise Donald Trump. I’ll never vote for him for a whole bunch of reasons that I’ll happily cover at some other time. I will never forgive the pundits and politicians who lined up behind him early on in this election cycle. I dislike him so much that I may very well cast a vote for the only-marginally-less-loathsome Hillary Clinton in November. But, Perry and Paul are right about this, and Ryan is wrong.
None of these men reached their current positions in a vacuum. Each of them has been assisted greatly at every step of their electoral lives by being a member of the Republican Party. The party offers them a fundraising apparatus, built-in support, ready-to-use infrastructure, logistics and legitimacy. That Party has rules, and by the rules of that Party, the voters have chosen Donald Trump as its presidential nominee. The elected officials of that party owe a loyalty to the party and to the decisions of the party.
That doesn’t mean they have to like Trump, or pretend he was ever their preferred candidate. It does mean they have to acknowledge that they are members of the GOP because they think the GOP offers a better vision for America than does the Democratic Party. They are going to support the team because they think the team is better than the opponent’s team, and sometimes being a team player means going along with a plan you may not fully agree with. The team has spoken.
There is another, practical part of this. Rand Paul answers to the voters in Kentucky, and his political future relies heavily on the Kentucky Republican party. On March 5, 82,000 Kentucky Republicans voiced their support for Donald Trump as their nominee, more than for any other candidate. If Rick Perry ever seeks office again, he will likely be asking for the support of the Republican Party of Texas, of which 757,000 members voted for Trump (albeit fewer than chose Ted Cruz). How would either explain to those voters why he feels himself unbound to the party he seeks the support of?
Parties are successful when they stick together. The leaders of a party, like any team, can’t be half-committed to the cause. You’re either in the party or you’re not, and being in means accepting the decisions of the party. As a non-party member I happen to think the GOP has royally fucked up this election, but that is not remotely relevant. The party made its choice with all of the available information after hearing everything the candidates have to say, and those who purport to be the leaders of that party owe it to the voters they covet to support their will.
Just a gaggle of people from all over who have similar interests and loud opinions mixed with a dose of humor. We met on Twitter.