When we preach party unity, we often forget that there are Republicans with varying degrees of involvement in the Republican Party.
Members of the Republican Party should support the Party’s nominee whether they support that particular candidate or not. Supporting the nominee means spending the same amount of time and energy helping the Republican ticket in November regardless of who is at the top or bottom of the ticket. You’ve chosen this before you became a member of your local committee. There should be no exceptions.
Loyal and consistent Republican voters, however, should vote their conscience. That said, how we think about general elections has a great deal to do with how we feel about the value and nature of our vote. I am of a mind that I vote for the candidate who I feel best represents my values and political philosophy in the primary; and I vote for the Republican Party in the general election. I find it difficult to imagine that any Republican nominee would be viewed as worse than their Democrat opposition, but I accept the possibility and can find no ethical reason why non-members of the Republican Party ought to feel compelled for vote for that Party’s nominee.
I do not like Donald Trump. I do support the Republican Party. When deciding who to vote for in November, you have to decide why you are casting that vote. Do you refuse to vote or vote for a third party candidate because you do not support Donald Trump? Or do you vote for Donald Trump because you support the Republican Party? This line of reasoning is only applicable if you actually do, in fact, support the Republican Party – but I would encourage anyone who supports the Republican Party to support the entire Republican Ticket.
The importance of general elections goes far beyond the two candidates involved. Winning legislative majorities in Congress and the General Assembly is a strategic necessity for blocking the prevailing progressive agendas in the States and in Washington D.C..
For those who consider themselves to be non-partisan Republican sympathizers, (i.e. Independents) the only argument for why you should support a Republican candidate who does not represent your values or political philosophy is to oppose the Democrat nominee. Other than that, there is no ethical or political reason to vote for someone that you believe will not represent you in their office of government. However, being an Independent voter does not make you more conscientious. You sacrifice the big picture and the long run for the feelings of the moment. That you feel good about every vote while paying no respect to the national situation is no virtue to me, but that is a choice every constituent has the right to make.
I believe it is important for Republicans to consider these different levels of commitment when reacting to the declarations of others. There has been too much heavy rhetoric and ridicule aimed at voters who are not members of the Republican Party and who are not invested in the party in any way. There has also not been enough accountability for members of the party who have refused to “support” the nominee. If we can keep these differences in mind, I believe our judgments will be far more equitable and will lead to far less resentment and division.
The Republican Party is a big tent. There is a certain amount of compromise and practicality required of us if we want to have a successful party capable of defeating Democrats, with whom we agree on very little. Running moderate candidates in a conservative district is a recipe for disaster. So is running conservative candidates in a more moderate district. Barbara Comstock could not get elected in the 1st or 7th districts, just as Dave Brat could not get elected in the 10th.
While Barbara Comstock may only vote in ways palatable to conservatives 50% of the time, imagine just how distasteful it would be to be represented by the liberal Democrat that runs against her. It appears to bother moderates that Dave Brat may not always play ball with party leadership on The Hill, but a Democrat representing you in the 7th district would be another vote for Nancy Pelosi. I think we can all live with not getting everything we want. If you are a conservative, there is nothing preventing you from donating money to or volunteering for conservative candidates in other districts, just as there is nothing preventing moderates from donating to or volunteering for moderates in other districts.
We have never accomplished anything by bashing fellow Republicans who don’t perfectly meet up with our own particular factional alignment.
Party membership should mean something and it should carry particular responsibilities. That party members will support the party’s nominee ought to be taken for granted, in order that the Party should not devolve into petulance and bickering during every election. With regard to everyone else, well, arguments will be made and the election result may rightfully depend on the strength or weakness of those arguments.