There is a unique peculiarity of the Republican Party that permits it members, and even its leaders, to willfully accept the most manifestly absurd contrivances coming from within their political ecosphere. They want so desperately to believe their own hype that they swallow whole whatever has been pre-chewed for them.
It is that characteristic that explains how Republicans can buy into the nonsense pouring out daily from Donald Trump about everything from his “Big Lie” that the 2020 election was “rigged and stolen” from, to his own alleged mental competency…
On Sunday morning the chair of the Republican National Committee provided an outstanding example of her party’s crippling gullibility. During an interview on CNN, Ronna McDaniel was asked by Dana Bash about the upcoming Republican primaries for the 2024 presidential nomination. Her response was painfully naïve and resolutely distanced from reality…
Bash: Will candidates be required to sign a pledge saying that they will support whoever becomes the Republican nominee in order to get on that debate stage?
McDaniel: We haven’t put the criteria out, but I expect the pledge will be part of it. It was part of 2016. I think it’s kind of a no-brainer. If you’re gonna be on the Republican National Committee debate stage asking voters to support you, you should say “I’m gonna support the voters and who they choose as the nominee.”
Bash: I want you to listen to what former president Donald Trump said a couple of weeks ago with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt on this very topic:
Hewitt: If you’re not the nominee, will you support whoever the GOP nominee is?
Trump: It would depend. I would give you the same answer I gave in 2016… It would have to depend on who the nominee was.
Bash: So are you prepared to block the former president if he doesn’t sign?
McDaniel: Well, he signed it in 2016. He did. Everybody signed it in 2016. […]
Bash: But this is about the here and the now.
McDaniel: I think they’re all going to sign it. I really do. […]
Bash: You can’t see a scenario where Donald Trump would just skip the debate?
McDaniel: I think President Trump would like to be on the debate stage. That’s what he likes to do.
“I think they're all going to sign it.”
— CNN (@CNN) February 26, 2023
McDaniel is right that Trump signed a party loyalty pledge in 2016. It required GOP candidates to promise to “endorse the 2016 Republican presidential nominee, regardless of who it is [and] will not seek to run as an independent.”
However, what McDaniel appears to have forgotten – or wiped from her memory – is that Trump never intended to honor the pledge he reluctantly signed. While Trump did sign a similar pledge during the 2016 Republican primary, he quickly reversed himself and made repeated threats to violate the pledge, each time accusing the RNC of sabotaging his campaign.
A paranoid and fearful Trump whined that the RNC “conspired to embarrass him by packing the debate audience with lobbyists and donors to his rivals’ campaigns.” And when asked by George Stephanopoulos if he would keep his promise to back whichever Republican prevailed, Trump replied “I’m going to have to see what happens. I will see what happens. I have to be treated fairly.”
So Trump said in 2016 that he wouldn’t honor the pledge that he signed. And a couple of weeks ago he told Hewitt that the same thing would apply to 2024, for which he has not yet signed any pledge. But McDaniel still believes that Trump will sign and keep the pledge so that he can participate in the debates because “That’s what he likes to do.”
Trump also likes to break pledges and rub his critic’s faces in it. What’s more, what would stop him from signing the pledge, participating in the debates, and then if someone else gets the nomination, simply reneging and going his own way? He would just accuse the RNC of being unfair to him and, therefore, it was the RNC who broke the pledge. That is precisely the substance of the threats he used to back out his 2016 pledge.
The truth is that the Republican Party – just like Fox News and the conservative media – fears Trump more than they love their party or their country. They will allow him to get away with any lies or abuse that he inflicts on them in order to keep his glassy-eyed cult followers in line. The GOP needs their votes and their cash. And they will abandon any principle in order to secure them.
The only thing they fear more are fair debates with Democrats. which is why McDaniel has already announced that Republican presidential candidates will not be permitted to appear in any debates sponsored by the non-partisan Commission on Presidential Debates. They know that Trump in particular cannot compete intellectually with his Democratic opponents.
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