The struggle for party unity is central this election season, for both parties. In this Washington Post article about Republican National committee chairman, Reince Priebus from April, 2016, Dana Milbank provided several examples of where Priebus turned a blind eye to the divisive rhetoric within his party.
Donald Trump challenged Ted Cruz about his constitutional eligibility to run for president. Priebus then praised the candidate field as qualified and diverse. Trump, Cruz, and Marco Rubio joined together in a name-calling match during the February debate. Afterward, Priebus remained equally optimistic. He spoke of all three candidates’ “serious solutions to restore prosperity and strength in America.” In March, Trump publicly spoke about the size of his penis. In response, Priebus shared that Republican candidates were offering the kind of “course correction” voters wanted.
Turning a blind eye to subtle wrongdoing is one thing. But Reince Priebus wasn’t simply ignoring what was happening in his party. He was actively trying to overlook it. And he was hoping everyone else would, too. By refusing to condemn Trump’s or any other Republican politician’s unstatesmanlike behavior, Priebus preached party unity above morality.
Parties make party unity too important
In order for any political party to succeed, party unity is crucial. If leaders within one party are working against each other, there’s no way the overall party will be strong enough to defeat its opponent. Aside from Priebus, House Speaker Paul Ryan refused to publicly endorse Donald Trump for a long time. He denounced Trump’s comments about U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel as racist. But he stopped short of openly criticizing the candidate’s overall behavior or platform.
This seems to have been the preferred action of most establishment Republicans. Rather than take a stand for morality, they opted not to participate. Their actions spoke louder than their words. But it seems their silence hasn’t made much of an impact on voters. At the time of the article, Trump was leading Clinton by significant margins in several national polls.
Morality should be considered
Republicans who refuse to speak out against Trump’s egocentric and simplistic ideology have prioritized political unity over morality. There are 34 Senate seats and all 435 House of Representative seats up for reelection this November. Most politicians are focused on their campaigns. The idea of disagreeing with their party makes them fear for their positions. Instead of stepping in to say that they don’t support racism, xenophobia, or misogyny, they’re simply keeping quiet.
Because of their silence, they may indeed keep their seats. But at the cost of integrity, and morality.