- By Nicole Bibbins SedacaNicole Bibbins Sedaca is a professor in the practice of international relations at Georgetown University and the chair for the global politics and security concentration in the Master of Science in foreign service program. She is the chair of the board of directors of the International Justice Mission. She served for ten years in the United States Department of State, working on democracy promotion, human rights, human trafficking, religious freedom, refugees, and counterterrorism. The views are hers and not those of these organizations.
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has risen to one of the most coveted nominations in the political world, despite his long trail of outrageous statements that clearly show both massive character deficiencies and a lack of political acumen. He has managed to undermine the core American values of pluralism, equality, respect for the rule of law and international law, and common decency, to name a few. Despite this, only a few prominent Republican leaders have chosen to withhold their support for him, and many who have chosen to speak out have done it selectively (only after he outrageously offended a fallen soldier’s family) or indirectly (by criticizing his actions without using his name).
While one can understand the Republican Party’s desire to win the White House and conservative seats on the Supreme Court, as well as its desire for party unity and credibility, the course it is on risks either falling short of all of these goals or electing a man who will most likely undermine party unity and credibility, as well as — and more importantly — the values and policies that the party has long fought to defend.
Replacing Trump with a new candidate could offer hope — albeit quite belatedly — for a more unified party, a coherent and more visionary platform, and a possible commander-in-chief that would represent the United States and its interests and values well. A replacement could also guarantee a political process over the next several months in which issues are more honestly and vigorously debated, and the American people are offered two legitimate and viable candidates that can be supported based on their policy views.
Republican strategists are reportedly already looking into the possibility of another candidate, should Trump drop out on his own. The Republican National Committee bylaws (Rule Nine) outline procedures for replacing a candidate in the “case of death, declination or otherwise,” and while onerous, the possibility of Trump’s exit from the race does exist. Officials have said there is no way of forcing him to drop out, but they are considering options should he go.
While he cannot be forced out, Republican leadership should consider both building internal agreement to end support for Trump and privately signaling this to the candidate in order to encourage his departure. Trump’s behavior over the last many months provides more than ample evidence as to why it is in the party’s interest to take such a late and somewhat daring move. If his behavior isn’t more than sufficient reason, Trump’s recent decision to withhold endorsements for key Republican candidates, including Sen. John McCain and Rep. Paul Ryan, could offer some evidence to party loyalists who have been unwilling to criticize Trump that his disinterest in party unity makes him unworthy of the nomination.
Republican efforts to push Trump to run as an independent are not guaranteed to succeed. Trump could publicly denounce the party’s internal maneuvering and remain the nominee. It is not clear, however, that such an internal debate would cost Trump any support, and it could win the Republican Party some support for its willingness to stake a belated stand. The party would likely not be in a worse position than it already is with a candidate like Trump.
However, if Trump could be replaced, the party could put forward a more unifying and visionary candidate. This would salvage the political process and ensure that the rest of the campaign season is a period of serious and sober examination of two strong, viable, intelligent candidates who argue for competing views on how to take our great nation forward. It would give our country the choice between two people who can constructively, respectfully, and honestly debate the pressing issues of our day. It would also serve as an opportunity for the Republicans to be seen as a party that is willing to stand up to candidates that clearly diverge from our national values and interests. Likewise, this would be an opportunity to articulate a domestic and foreign policy platform that is visionary, coherent, and aligned with American principles, something which Trump has not done.
There is no doubt that such a move would be met by some opposition, negative media coverage, and public criticism — including from Trump. However, considering the alternative version of what the next several months could look like — not to speak of the next four years — this is a risk and opportunity that the Republican Party should seriously explore, for its own sake and the sake of our nation.
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