Parties, Pledges and Principles | Medium | March 6th, 2016


by Garry Kasparov

Read original article @Medium.com.

A few thoughts and questions on the 2016 US Presidential election. The Republican primary appears to be reaching a crisis, with Marco Rubio fading after he finally attacked long-time front-runner Donald Trump, and Ted Cruz benefiting. As is often the case, the crisis actually passed long ago and it only becomes clear when it’s too late to change course. The current mess is the consequence of thinking tactically, not strategically, and of putting erroneous party priorities ahead of principles.

We say in chess that you have to attack when the position suits it, and that failing to do so will inevitably hand the initiative to your opponent. Here is an excellent case of life imitating chess! Declining to attack Trump for months was a tactical decision made by the entire Republican field, as well as the GOP establishment. This allowed him to get a free ride on the huge wave of media coverage drawn to his fame and outrageous statements. Trump’s complete lack of intelligible policies went largely ignored since his rivals were giving him a free pass in order to attack each other. Their expectation was that the Trump phenomenon would burn itself out, and that voters would “come to their senses” and move to whichever of the establishment candidates was left. The GOP was also afraid of a Trump third-party run that would guarantee a Democratic victory in November. (Although this seemed like a ridiculous fantasy to me. No way Trump would spend his own money just to play spoiler.)

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Many months ago, the GOP candidates all pledged to support the eventual nominee. This sort of loyalty oath is nonsense, and was an attempt to box Trump in and cut down the chance of a third-party run. But the tables have turned and the pledge backfired by making a joke out of Cruz and Rubio’s belated attempts to attack Trump. They finally joined the rest of the world and pointed out that Trump is a liar and a fraud, a demagogue who will say anything, and that, while many of his supporters are righteously angry about the state of the USA, he will have no chance of beating Hillary Clinton in the general election. After finally saying all this, especially Rubio, who had been the only major candidate to present a positive vision of change, Cruz and Rubio still promised to support Trump should he win the nomination! This embarrassed admission made all the valid criticisms of Trump sound hollow.

Their excuse was that they had no choice because they had promised to support the eventual GOP nominee back in September! In other words, this silly pledge is more important than their party, their country, and their principles. Since that pledge was made, Trump has said and done many things that should make him totally unacceptable to any conservative, not least his refusal to disavow his enthusiastic endorsement by David Duke, the ex-KKK leader. (Now that Trump has won Duke’s home state of Louisiana, perhaps he will disavow him…) The last GOP debate was an ideal time for Rubio and the others to say that their consciences would not allow them to support Trump after all he and his supporters had said and done. Perhaps breaking the pledge would have hurt them with some voters, but the answer would have been that this pledge was to the GOP and Trump does not and should not represent the GOP, and that it was a pledge to party loyalty that Trump has not displayed himself, not a suicide pact for the party and country.

The GOP is being torn apart by a celebrity showman with racist leanings and authoritarian tendencies. Trump isn’t even getting a majority of votes (he’s failed to get over 50% in any primary) but is treated like a conqueror by the media, who love the high ratings he brings them. It’s very disturbing, especially if he becomes the GOP’s nominee. I have been a vehement critic of Hillary Clinton, and her husband for that matter, but the world cannot risk a Trump presidency. The GOP can recover and come back next time, in 2020 (with perfect hindsight, of course!), but if Trump wins there might not be a next time. Either the virus kills the body or the body grows stronger by fighting it off. The one good thing about Trump is how his celebrity candidacy has exposed the hypocrisy and cronyism in the American political and media establishment. But what he threatens is far worse.

It’s never too late to fight for principles. The values of conservatism, of individual freedom, of small government, of an America that is a positive force in the world, these values matter and must be defended.

As a PS, what happened to the Bush family? Has anyone seen them? Are they okay? Two former presidents and one prominent 2016 candidate and to my knowledge they have all declined to comment lately. They still have considerable influence, especially in Texas, Maine, and Florida (which votes on March 15). Was it not their obligation to defend the honor of their party and their country by standing up to Trump, who mercilessly humiliated Jeb and routinely insulted George W? Will they also put party before principles and endorse Trump should he win the nomination?

Garry Kasparov

Chairman of the Human Rights Foundation, author of Winter is Coming, Visiting Fellow at Oxford Martin, business & tech speaker, 13th World Chess Champion


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