Blogs > Gil Troy > In Praise of Abandoning Your Party

Oct 18, 2016

In Praise of Abandoning Your Party

tags: elections,Voting,Clinton,Trump

Three weeks from today, Americans finally will have a chance to vote for president of the United States -- hundreds of other offices on ballots across the country. As a presidential historian who has written histories of presidential campaigning, of various presidents, of First Ladies, including Hillary Clinton when she was in that symbolic role, and, most recently, of the Clintons and the 1990s in The Age of Clinton: America in the 1990s, every day until Election Day I will post an article putting this election in historical context, trying to explain this wild and wacky race using history as our guide. So here it goes, with hashtag #2016incontext

We start, with an article posted this morning in Politico, noting the Long Noble History of American Party Bolting -- sometimes rejecting a party's nominee can be good for the country and the party.

As we approach Election Day, more and more Republicans are abandoning Donald Trump, declaring that they can’t possibly vote for the mogul on November 8. GOP senators, members of Congress, even the party’s previous nominees and presidents, including Mitt Romney and George H.W. Bush, are disavowing Trump—and in some cases supporting his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. Not since Democrats for Nixon estimated that 20 million Democrats would vote for Richard Nixon over George McGovern have so many people considered leaving their own party over a presidential race.

Trump and his supporters, for their part, are fighting back by attacking the party-bolters as disloyal: As Trump tweets that “Disloyal R’s” are “far more difficult than Crooked Hillary,” and “don’t know how to win,” furious Trumpistas are condemning the bolters as “cowards” and “sellouts.” Republican Congressman Trent Franks of Arizona has accused #NeverTrump Republicans of not just “betraying this party,” but “betraying the Constitution. 


Franks and other Trump loyalists are overlooking one inconvenient fact: Party bolting has a long and noble history in American politics. Since the earliest days of the Republic, voters have chosen at times to abandon their party—whether in a one-time rejection of a particular nominee, or permanently. This kind of party flexibility is not only what the founders wanted, in theory it produces better leaders.


If party affiliations were as static as Trump’s rhetoric suggests, all election results would be foregone conclusions, and the once “solid South” would still be Democratic. In fact, today’s Republican Party not only benefited from the metamorphosis of millions of Southern Democrats into Republicans since 1964, but the most famous party-bolter in recent American history—Ronald Reagan—remains their hero...

Read the whole article on Politico Magazine 


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