Rachel Pomerantz is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania studying mathematical economics.
Since the beginning of Donald Trump’s unconventional march towards the presidency, members of the Republican Party stretched the limits of the English language to define without specifying their opinion on the now-president elect during the campaign. While some such as Rudy Giuliani stuck by Trump and others including Mitt Romney were never on the Trump Train, most Republican leaders oscillated between condemning specific statements or tweets by Trump and sputtered defenses. One such leader was Paul Ryan, Speaker of the House of Representatives and the darling of the Republican establishment. Even when he said that he would no longer focus on Trump’s race, Ryan has not rescinded his endorsement.
Now, what exactly does this mean? In the conventional political sense, an endorsement means that one supports the candidate or idea and would encourage others to do the same. However, considering the gravity of this presidential election, I want to push past this definition to consider a more binding form of endorsement - a legal endorsement.
To flesh out this thought experiment, let’s consider the full implications of the highest ranking elected Republican and the Republican Party endorsing and, in fact, the Republican Party endorsing Donald Trump by holding him up as the party’s nominee. Let’s break down the legal definition of endorsement and see how it applies to the relationship between the Republican Party and Donald Trump.
Drawing from Black’s Law Dictionary definition of ownership, the Republican Party has an “enforceable claim” to Donald Trump as a candidate.  As the conservative editor of RedState, Erick Erickson, succinctly stated, “The Republican Party created Donald Trump.”  Further expounded upon in Why the Right Went Wrong by E. J. Dionne, the Republican party inherited the Goldwater ideology and corrupted conservatism in a manner that spawned the Tea Party. This party has embraced a radical strain of their base ideology that particularly encourages an “us versus them” mindset.
Divorced from ideology though, the Republican party tolerated attempts to delegitimize the Obama presidency. Speaker Ryan and Mitch McConnell stood idly by as birthers claimed that President Obama was born in Kenya, right-wing extremists insinuated that he was Muslim, and members of their party derided him as un-American. It was not only inaction, however. McConnell stated during Obama’s first term that, ”The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” (they failed).  The Republican leadership could have stood up, could have stated that was not what Republicans do, could have put the fabric of our democracy over short term political gain, but they didn’t. They saw the advantage in building the narrative that the mainstream media (or, as their 2008 vice presidential candidate stated, lamestream media) was biased against them and that the evil Democrats were coming for your guns, setting up death panels through Obamacare, and taking this country away from ‘you,’
Lo and behold, when you stoke the fear and anger of an entire political party for years on end, a substantial portion of those people embrace a candidate who deals in a concentrated form of that same fear and anger. Trump might not talk like a traditional Republican and be less polished than a traditional Republican, but he is a product of the Republican Party. Many Republicans believed that Trump is not qualified to be president, but they allowed the conditions for eventual election.
 "What Is ENDORSEMENT?" The Law Dictionary. Accessed October 27, 2016. http://thelawdictionary.org/endorsement/.
 "What Is LEGAL OWNER?" The Law Dictionary. Accessed October 27, 2016. http://thelawdictionary.org/legal-owner/.
 Erickson, Erick. "The Republican Party Created Donald Trump." The Atlantic. August 8, 2015. Accessed October 27, 2016. http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/08/erick-erickson-the-republican-party-created-donald-trump/400847/.
 "When Did McConnell Say He Wanted to Make Obama a 'one-term President'?" Washington Post. Accessed October 27, 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/post/when-did-mcconnell-say-he-wanted-to-make-obama-a-one-term-president/2012/09/24/79fd5cd8-0696-11e2-afff-d6c7f20a83bf_blog.html.
Photo Credit: delmarvablogger
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