By Kody Fairfield
On Sunday morning, Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Reince Priebus appeared on CBS’s Face The Nation with John Dickerson to talk about his party’s presidential ticket of Donald Trump and Mike Pence.
Their conversation moved from Trump’s newest comments on the “birther” movement and affirmation of President Barack Obama‘s birth in the United States to Trump’s campaign and his issues with a decently sized #NeverTrump movement which resides under the same GOP banner.
When the conversation turned to the #NeverTrump movement and the loyalty pledge that all sixteen original candidates signed, Priebus made comments about those who broke the non-legally binding pledge that should concern anyone in the GOP who believes in free thought, even in private organizations.
Dickerson-“Is he [Trump] capturing the reluctant Republicans, some of which are public officials in the Republican Party, who are either in the “Never Trump” category or who are in the barely Trump category.”
Priebus- “Some of the people who ran for president, but what you have to look at is, where are we at with the voters and where we are at with the voters is one on the last polls I just saw, nearly 90%, of Republicans support, and I think Mitt was about 91-92, we need to do a couple more percentage points better. And we are doing that as we move forward, but look people who agreed to support the nominee that took part in our process, they used tools from the RNC, they agree to support the nominee. We are a private party, not a public entity. Those people need to get on board, and if they’re thinking they’re going to run again someday, I think that we’re going to evaluate the process – of the nomination process and I don’t think it’s going to be that easy for them.”
Dickerson- “Would the party itself penalize somebody who does not make good on the pledge that they made to support the party nominee?”
Preibus- “I think these are things that our party is going to look at in the process, and I think that people who gave us their word, used information from the RNC, should be on board. I mean there were a part of the process… sure! People in our party are talking about what we’re going to do about this. I mean there’s a ballot access issue in South Carolina. In order to be on the ballot in South Carolina, you actually have to pledge your support to the nominee, no matter who that person is so what’s the penalty for that? It’s not a threat, but that’s just the question that we have a process in place. And if a private entity puts forward a process and has agreement with the participants in that process, and those participants don’t follow through with the promises that they made in that process, what– what should a private party do about that if those same people come around in four or eight years?”
While it is true that people should be held accountable for a pledge or oath they take, it is not also true that those same pledges hold a standard to all parties? If you pledge to support something and over the course of time, the views, opinions, or philosophy of that changes, as Trump has, should you not have the right to follow your conscience and rescind your pledge?
It sounds an awful lot like Priebus and the GOP may take a more “Facebookian” approach to free speech within its medium: blindly follow, or be left out. And yes, while the RNC is a private entity, and would have the right to censor itself, why would you create more instability in an organization that is already falling apart?
In any organization, freedom of conscience and thought should be of the utmost importance. Open discussion, and constructive criticism allow for development in identity, philosophy and messaging. Ideas and principles should always come before the tribe.
“Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom – and no such thing as public liberty without freedom of speech.”- Benjamin Franklin