Sellouts and back stabbers: The nasty game of political endorsements

Sellouts and back stabbers: The nasty game of political endorsements

Donald J. Trump and Chris Christie at Trump's Super Tuesday speech in Palm Beach, Florida, March 1st, 2016
Donald J. Trump and Chris Christie at Trump’s Super Tuesday speech in Palm Beach, Florida, March 1st, 2016

After Donald Trump’s Super Tuesday victory, a new game of political calculation is beginning. As the days tick by till there’s a new decider in the White House, former political opponents will find convenient reasons to get past their differences and endorse the likely frontrunner. It’s American politics at its best: “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”

Let’s take an example involving two of our favorite loudspeakers. Last Friday, Chris Christie endorsed Donald Trump for president; a man he insisted two weeks earlier had “not the first idea of how to run a government.” Now that Trump is poised to clinch the Republican nomination, Christie wants to help ‘Make America Great Again,’ and who better to support than the candidate he earlier described as a “13-year-old,” “entertainer-in-chief” who is “not suited to be President of the United States.”

But those are not the words the New Jersey governor chose to use when describing him in a press conference last Friday. “There is no one who is better prepared to provide America with the strong leadership that it needs, both at home and around the world, than Donald Trump,” said Christie.

Welcome to the art of the endorsement. Christie thinks his endorsement might prompt Trump to tap him for Vice President, or Secretary of State (perhaps even Secretary of Transportation, but we’ll get to that bridge when we cross it… or not). For the American people however, endorsements remain tiresome and only confirm what we hate most about politics: the big talkers stand by their principles – until they hear the coming political appointments rattling in the wind.

Take for example, Trump and Christie’s campaign promises so far. Trump has vowed not to touch entitlements. Christie centered his campaign on entitlement reform. Trump insists he will build a wall between Mexico and the southern border of the United States, and get Mexico to pay for it. Christie has repeatedly challenged the feasibility of such a policy. Trump has proposed he will ban all Muslims from entering the United States. Christie has rejected this flagrantly xenophobic proposal.

Backtracking on character assassinations is one thing, but taking the side of a candidate with whom you disagree on every major issue is quite another. And Christie won’t be the last to do it. As the summer months come and go, last week’s enemies will become tomorrow’s allies for Carson, Kasich, and likely Rubio and Cruz. And herein lies the main problem with endorsements: In the end, no matter what the issues are, it’s party over person. Leave your preferences at the door.

Christie insists that his new best friend is “rewriting the playbook of American politics.” So staying in this vein, I’d like to add my contribution: let’s do away with endorsements. Pledging your support to an outlandish nightmare candidate after your race is run is not just seedy – it’s shameful and irresponsible. The American political landscape has turned into a circus show, where after all the goofing off has concluded, the clowns line up behind the ringmaster to toe the party line. It’s a darkly comic spectacle.

As Christie’s presidential hopes died down in New Hampshire, he marveled at how the American people could fall head over heels for Trump’s high-wire, poll-leading act.

“You know it’s all make believe, right?” said Christie. “It’s just not real. It’s all for TV.”

Sounds a lot like endorsements in American politics.

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