It’s official, or at least source-confirmed: George H.W. Bush will cast his vote for Hillary Clinton this November.
The patriarch of the Bush dynasty—a Republican president, son of a Republican senator and father of a Republican president— joins a chorus of prominent Republicans all unified in their rejection of a Trump presidency. To former GOP nominee Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee has “revealed a character and temperament unfit for the leader of the free world.” Former New Hampshire senator Gordon Humphrey went even further, calling Trump a “sociopath, without a conscience or feelings of guilt, shame or remorse.”
Bush’s semi-endorsement of the controversial Democratic nominee comes during a battle among the GOP greats over what to do with The Donald. Alongside Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz, former presidential hopeful John Kasich has prioritized principle over party and publicly refused to endorse the Republican nominee. Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus’ subsequent threat to penalize former candidates who do not honor their loyalty pledges was met with fire from the Kasich camp, who cited core beliefs and principles in a fierce counter-charge.
“Thankfully, there are still leaders in this country who put principles before politics,” Kasich advisor John Weaver said. “The idea of a greater purpose beyond oneself may be alien to political party bosses like Reince Priebus, but it is at the center of everything Governor Kasich does.”
Well said, Mr. Weaver. And by the way, when did the idea of party loyalty shrink to mean a mere signature on a piece of paper anyway? A paper, which, may I add, Trump has made it explicit he never intended to stand by?
Isn’t there something to be said for the work Kasich has been doing for the Republican party—circling the nation fundraising for down-ballot Republicans in efforts to maintain control of the House and the Senate?
Maybe I’m mistaken. Maybe Republicans no longer want congressional control. Maybe they no longer need the means by which they can affect policy. According to Priebus, the goal to top all goals is the need to just “get on board” with the outspoken and overly tanned nominee. But I’d beg to differ—that’s simply not part of the American political system.
To understand why, it’s telling to look at the British system, in which parliamentary representation is synonymous with party loyalty. Party whips strictly control the actions, votes, and discourse of their parliamentary members. Loyalty is met with a higher office, while disobedience can result in marginalization or expulsion. The result is that, in contrast to our own already-great country that promotes prioritization of the self and the constituent through frequent elections, the United Kingdom features politicians whose careers depend on the head of their party. In stark difference to the famed checks and balances system of the U.S. government, the British system is designed to get things done; the executive and legislative powers are essentially fused in the Cabinet to allow near-domination by the ruling party. With a party structure that leaves no room for dissent, there is little excuse for the gridlock about which we Americans often complain.
But complain as we may, this gridlock is a central feature of our government. Spurred by fear and mistrust of government abuse, our founding fathers created a system so complex that no one person, nor one branch of government, could dominate the United States of America. It’s not uncommon to see Congress and the White House controlled by different parties. Frustration is expected, negotiation is necessary, and cooperation is praised. In a system in which inaction often means more than action, politicians putting principle over party is far from unheard of.
This isn’t to say it’s typical for American politicians to flout their party’s nominee. Once a candidate has secured the nomination, it’s absolutely customary for former rivals to throw their support behind the victor. Yet this endorsement represents not so much a staunch reinforcement of party unity as much as a recognition that this person shares the values and ideology that made them join the same political group in the first place.
And in 2016, the Republican nominee simply does not share the ideology of his party. For all intents and purposes, The Donald is his own man. He’s praised single-payer healthcare. He’s criticized lenient taxation for hedge funds, arguing instead for the enactment of a graduated tax system. He’s defended funding for Planned Parenthood. By conventional standards, he may not have much more in common with establishment Republicans than a label.
As America’s 35th president famously put it, sometimes party loyalty asks too much.
If you ask our 43rd, 2016 may be that time.
Rachel Lang CM '17 is an International Relations major from the DC area. Love her points? Disagree? Shoot her an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.