Never Trump? The Political Tradition Of Party Revolt

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Phillip Stucky Political Reporter
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A vocal minority of Republicans has refused to support Republican nominee Donald Trump, but research reveals both sides of the aisle frequently fail to back the party nominee.

The Never Trump movement is desperately holding on, despite Trump being the nominee. Top party officials called for unity ahead of the Republican National Convention in July, while at the same time Trump surrogates bashed Republicans who didn’t support him.

“Certainly the Bush family, while we would have liked to have had them, they’re part of the past,” Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort said at a press conference before the convention. “We’re dealing with the future.” Manafort also called Gov. John Kasich’s decision to not support the nominee “embarrassing.”

The 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney has openly criticized Trump, as has a large amount of the Bush family. Sen. Ben Sasse refuses to support Trump; he once told reporters he would rather go watch a “dumpster fire” with his kids than attend the convention. Sen. Mark Kirk faces a tough election this cycle from Democratic veteran Tammy Duckworth, and he has been very vocal in his failure to endorse Trump. There is a list of at least 70 Republican advisers, fundraisers and staffers who signed a statement urging the GOP to cease funding or supporting Trump.

“We believe that Donald Trump’s divisiveness, recklessness, incompetence, and record-breaking unpopularity risk turning this election into a Democratic landslide, and only the immediate shift of all available RNC resources to vulnerable Senate and House races will prevent the GOP from drowning with a Trump-emblazoned anchor around its neck,” the letter states.

The scale of the revolt is impressive. Former leaders of the party and lifetime Republicans head up the list. Failure to endorse the candidate or switching parties are adversities both Republicans and Democrats face every presidential cycle.

Romney overcame a harsh road to the nomination. The former governor was seen as the “establishment” candidate, and so decided to balance the ticket by drafting tea party darling now-Speaker of the House Paul Ryan as his running mate.

The most notable Republican to fail to endorse Romney until the final day of the general election was former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin. Palin endorsed Trump in January, and used her time on the national stage to call for party unity.

Palin recently demonstrated her declining political capital in her bid to unseat Ryan earlier this month with businessman Paul Nehlen, who earned a paltry 15 percent in the primary.

Other prominent conservatives who failed to back Romney included Reps. Ron Paul, Walter Jones, and Justin Amash. “Rep. Amash endorsed Ron Paul for president and will not be making any other endorsements for president,” said Will Adams, a spokesman for Amash. “He has said from the beginning that he would support the Republican nominee against President Obama.”

Neither Paul nor Jones endorsed Sen. John McCain in 2008. Paul’s son, Sen. Rand Paul endorsed Romney shortly after the Republican National Convention. Sen. Scott Brown declined to endorse the nominee at the time, instead telling press that he supported the nominee, whoever it would be.

Other Republican officials like Charles Fried, solicitor general under Reagan, former Rep. Harris Fawell, former Sen. Larry Pressler, and Bush Secretary of State Colin Powell joined the list of “Republicans for Obama” in 2008, and stayed during the 2012 election.

Across the aisle, Reps. Larry Kissell and Mike McIntyre didn’t endorse Obama’s second run for office, and Sen. Joe Manchin wouldn’t even confirm that he voted for Obama during the primary that year. Manchin was in the middle of an election at the time. Maryland Rep. Frank Kratovil “has been critical of Obama’s agenda since his first days in office,” according to a press release.

Alabama Rep. Bobby Bright ran on an anti-Obama platform in his failed reelection campaign. Although the Democrat was never in office during a presidential primary, he was vocal in his lack of support.

Other Democrats in Southern states that either voted against or failed to endorse Obama in 2008 and 2012 include Rep. Jim Marshall of Alabama, Rep Heath Shuler of North Carolina, Rep Gene Taylor of Mississippi, and Rep Lincoln Davis of Tennessee.

Democratic Rep. Walt Minnick of Idaho was so vehement in his opposition to the Democratic nominee he earned the endorsement of the Tea Party Express Organization in 2012.

Although party revolt is nothing new, the 2016 election year is special. Never before have so many party leaders rejected the party nominee. Also unique is the one-sided nature of the rejection. Although much has been said of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s inability to unite the Democratic Party, that issue appears to be solved in the wake of the Democratic National Convention.

Recent polling by Red Oak Strategic reveals that Clinton earned 90.1 percent of Democratic support, with only 3.4 percent of Democrats supporting Trump. That contrasts heavily with Trump’s numbers, with 82.5 percent Republicans voting for the nominee, and 6.3 percent of Republicans supporting the Democratic nominee.

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