So we’re supposed to get excited about Donald Trump signing a “loyalty pledge” to the Republican Party that he will not run as an independent candidate?
Paul Waldman at the Washington Post had the best snark: What the RNC’s pathetic loyalty pledge says about the GOP: A club that people want to join doesn’t make you pinkie-swear not to leave.
Waldman’s colleague Greg Sargent adds, Donald Trump snookers the GOP establishment, again:
The much-ballyhooed “loyalty pledge” that the Republican National Committee demanded that Donald Trump sign was supposed to “box in” Trump, leaving him no way of running as a
third party independent candidate if he fails to win the GOP nominee.
Trump announced today that he signed the pledge. Surely that is not an entirely insignificant get for Republican leaders — it makes it perhaps marginally less likely that Trump will launch a third party bid.
But it would not be at all surprising if GOP primary voters see this in strikingly different terms than GOP leaders intended. They may think Trump bent the GOP establishment to his will, rather than the other way around.
Here’s what Trump said today:
“The best way for the Republicans to win is if I win the nomination and go directly against whoever they happen to put up. And for that reason, I have signed the pledge,” Trump said, holding up the paper. “So I will be totally pledging my allegiance to the Republican Party and for the conservative principles for which it stands.”
He added: “We will go out and fight hard, and we will win.”…
“The RNC has been absolutely terrific over the last two month period and as you know, that’s what I’ve wanted,” Trump said. “I don’t want to be treated any differently.”
Asked what he got in return for signing the paper, Trump responded: “assurance that I will be treated fairly.”
The storyline is now that Trump and the GOP establishment have reached an understanding, after GOP leaders agreed to stop treating him unfairly. As he put it today, the GOP has been “terrific” to Trump (he does love that word), because he insisted on that treatment. He — not Republican leaders — set the agenda. Even if the notion that Trump was ever treated unfairly is absurd, is there any reason to doubt that a whole lot of GOP primary voters — particularly Trump’s supporters — will be very receptive to this interpretation of what happened?
We keep hearing that Trump’s surge is rooted in the fact that a lot of Republican voters are very angry with GOP leaders, because they’re feckless and ineffective, and think Trump would bang heads together and accomplish what they can’t or won’t. Surely a lot of these voters are also happy to believe that said feckless and ineffective GOP leaders want Trump to disappear not because he risks destroying the GOP brand among Latinos, but because he’d disrupt their cozy Washington arrangement in which they aren’t willing to do what it takes to stop Obama because it would shake things up too much. That’s why they’ve been treating Trump unfairly! By threatening a third party candidacy, Trump forced their hand. GOP leaders have now agreed to treat him fairly.
As a special bonus, Trump also gets to define what “fairly” means. If at any time in coming weeks and months, Trump even so much as hints that Republicans are treating him unfairly, mass panic will again set in, without anyone even knowing by what objective metric “fair treatment of Trump” can even be gauged.
Not only that, but this high profile gesture of detente between Trump and GOP leaders — in which he has pledged full “allegiance” to the GOP and conservative principles — could disarm attacks on his previous positions that are designed to sow doubt about his commitment to the Republican cause.
Of course, Donald Trump has filed bankruptcy numerous times, breaking promises that he made to his creditors, so there’s that track record. If this egomaniac finds himself suddenly losing in primary contests, he can always assert that it is because the GOP establishment is “treating him unfairly” and launch an expensive and time consuming independent campaign to qualify for the ballot. Would he really pay any price with the Tea Party types who also hate the GOP establishment and support his candidacy?
Trump has adequately demonstrated that he is someone who believes in revenge and relishes getting even. Trump defines “treat me fairly” as “the nomination is mine,” or “I will run as an independent.” This isn’t a loyalty pledge so much as it is a threat, on “The Donald’s” terms.
In any event, party pledges are just symbolic gestures, not legal contracts. There’s no way to enforce it. I can just hear “The Donald” bellowing “So sue me, I’ll kick your ass in court!” And he would be right.