Party Leaders to Defectors: Vote How We Tell You, Or Else…

RNC Chair Reince Priebus is going all in on Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and he wants to make sure any Republican with ambitions of a political future does as well. Making an appearance on CBS’s Face the Nation, Priebus hinted at possible “penalties” for former GOP presidential candidates who do not uphold their pledge to support the GOP nominee.

“If they’re thinking they’re going to run again some day, 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,” he said.

READ MORE: Is The RNC’s Party Loyalty Pledge Unconstitutional?

The 2016 GOP presidential candidates who have yet to endorse Trump include: Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, Ohio Governor John Kasich, and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (Texas). In fact, Cruz drew the err of party leaders when he encouraged voters to vote their conscience during his primetime speech at the Republican National Convention in July while refusing to endorse Trump.

While the GOP pledge is not legally binding, the party controls the Republican presidential nomination process. Priebus suggested that if certain candidates didn’t make good on the promise they made to the RNC, they might find it difficult to gain ballot access in some key states in 2020 or 2024.

“People in our party are talking about what we’re going to do about this,” Priebus said. “There is 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. What’s the penalty for that? It’s not a threat. It’s just a 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, then those participants don’t follow through with the promises that they made in that process, what should a private party do about that if those same people come around in four or eight years?” – RNC Chair Reince Priebus

In an interview for CNN, a strategist for Gov. Kasich spoke out against Priebus’s remarks.

“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,” said John Weaver, Kasich’s chief strategist. “He will not be bullied by a Kenosha political operative that is unable to stand up for core principles or beliefs.”

Kasich has maintained that he is unlikely to vote for Trump.

Hillary Clinton is not having near the same problem Trump is having among politicians and members within the Democratic Party. However, Clinton supporters are worried that third-party candidates like Gary Johnson and Jill Stein, who are looking at historic support levels, may take enough votes away from the Democratic nominee to deny her the presidency.

Efforts to essentially scare voters into voting for Clinton have increased and the message is getting beyond hyperbolic: if you vote for anyone but Hillary Clinton, you are destroying this country.

One political cartoon (linked above), which cannot be shared on this site for licensing reasons, depicts a third party voter wearing an “Anyone But Hillary” shirt, holding a noose to hang Uncle Sam. The voter says, “I regret I have but one vote to destroy my country.” A bastardization of Nathan Hale’s famous quote from the American revolution.

The idea of the “spoiler” goes back far in U.S. presidential politics, the most famous example in modern presidential history arguably being Ralph Nader in 2000. To this day, Nader is blamed by many partisan pundits for Al Gore losing the election, as Nader took tens of thousands of votes in Florida that could have possibly gone to Gore if Nader was not in the race.

Now, people fear what could be called the “Nader effect.” It was the reason Michael Bloomberg didn’t enter the race, and partly why U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders did not run for president as an independent. It is also the reason why many voters are not going to vote in November.

I, personally, have spoken with family members, friends, and others who say they are just not going to vote in November because they do not want to vote for Clinton or Trump, but they do not want to cast a vote that they are being told would be a de facto vote for Trump.

So, some people within the so-called Democratic Party and some supporters of Hillary Clinton have successfully scared many voters into not participating in the democratic process at all.

I am reminded of an older South Park episode where South Park Elementary School is voting on a new mascot. Due to the hijinks of the main characters, the two choices the school is left with are a “Turd Sandwich” or a “Giant Douche.” Stan refuses to vote, because he doesn’t like that his options have been reduced to these choices. Because of his perceived apathy toward voting, Stan is banished from the town. However, before he leaves his best friend, Kyle, tries to convince him one last time to stay and vote on the condition that Stan vote for his candidate. Stan refuses and leaves South Park.

Despite the juvenile and immature antics of the kids from South Park, the scene acts as perfect parody of what happens in real life. Voters are essentially told they only have two choices in elections, and if they do not like these options, they should suck it up and choose between the two anyway.

Voters who willfully choose not to vote because they are not satisfied with the options given to them are chastised for this decision, and are generally accused of being apathetic toward the process. Yet, their participation at the ballot box is only really welcome by supporters of the two major party candidates if they vote for a specific candidate.

ALSO READ: Politics of Fear: Major Parties Turn Up Scare Tactics to Keep Voters from Defecting

And the sad thing is, the people who use scare tactics and intimidation to convince people to vote a certain way don’t seem concerned about the lasting impact this has on American democracy, where a majority of voters already vote with a “lesser-of-two-evils” mentality and approximately 90 million eligible voters don’t participate in the election process.

Threatening, intimidating, or trying to scare voters to vote a certain way or not at all does not uphold or preserve the principles of democracy. That is the game of tyrants, dictators, and oligarchs.