Editorial Note: This Op-Ed is in response to a letter published by the retiring Second District Rep. Scott Rigell, in which Rigell declared he would not support Donald Trump as the nominee of the Republican Party. The author of this Op-Ed is currently a candidate for Second District Republican Committee Chairman.
By Gary Byler
I am deeply concerned and disappointed by the tone and content of your March 1st Open Letter to Virginia Republicans regarding Donald J. Trump’s possible nomination. This letter is not intended to defend Mr. Trump or his candidacy, although I would be happy to discuss both. This letter is to remind you and others of the obligations you have freely assumed by accepting nomination and election to public office as a Republican.
It is never appropriate to ask a women or man to vote against their conscience. However, when one accepts a leadership role in a political party one takes on certain responsibilities. Chief among these responsibilities is to support the nominees of our Party. If you are unable to do so then you must at least agree to not publicly oppose a nominee of the Party.
You of all people should know the value of a unified party. After receiving a minority of votes in the June 2008 primary, you were nominated and elected to the United States Congress. As Chairman of the Second District Republican Party at the time, I fielded MANY calls from disgruntled supporters of Ben Loyola, Bert Mizusawa, and others. When a former party chairman did not go along with your nomination, he was forced to resign from the Party for a number of years. This was not done to embarrass our friend but rather to emphasize an incredibly important but often overlooked tenant of democracy in the 21st century. In fact, I firmly believe that Ken Cuccinelli would be Governor today if all of our elected Republicans had supported the nominee in 2013.
As Representative, you have made a point of soliciting and being informed by the “Wisdom of the District.” On March 1st, 2016 a record number of 2nd District voters chose to participate in our nomination process. In fact, the turnout was twice as high as previous primary elections due in large measure to new voters. It seems uncharacteristically cynical for you refuse to be informed by the wisdom of thousands of new voters in the District.
Perhaps most disconcerting was your assertion that “Trump is not a Republican.” Frankly, sir, that is not your call.
For decades I have seen new voters shunned by our Party establishment. In recent elections, folks with tattoos and body piercings supporting Ron Paul and others were told they were not “real” Republicans. Before that, some in the local Party decried the “takeover” of the GOP by evangelical voters, again claiming the new folks were not “real” Republicans. In point of fact, the Republican Party is made up of those who choose to associate in any given year. Anything else would deny the free association that underlies our precious democracy.
Finally, Congressman, let me assure you that many people before you have had to endure candidates and positions they strongly oppose. For decades, I bit my tongue over the offensive attitude towards gays in our Party of individual freedom. In fact, I recall Grover Norquist and I being disparaged and invited to not return to CPAC years ago when we encouraged young gay conservatives to attend.
Of course Grover and I stood firm on our principals and continued to welcome these liberty loving Americans to our ranks. Our Party is not made of a static set of leaders with outdated methods, but rather a living organism that interacts with its environment every hour of every day. As leaders we seek to nourish and guide our Party during the inevitable growing pains.
I look forward to working with you in the coming years to strengthen our Party. With any luck, both of us may end up learning as much as we teach.
Gary C. Byler
Chairman 2nd District Republican Committee, 2008-2014