Donald Trump and the loyalty oath issue [UPDATE: Trump takes the pledge]

The Republican National Committee has asked GOP presidential aspirants to sign a statement pledging not to run for president next year unless nominated by the Republicans. The entire field, except for Donald Trump, made that pledge last month during the first GOP presidential debate.

Trump will meet today with RNC Chairman Reince Priebus to discuss the loyalty oath issue. Trump has scheduled a new conference for this afternoon. There are reports that he will agree to make the pledge.

In any event, the RNC is smart to ask for it. If Trump agrees, that’s a win. He’ll either keep his word or discredit himself if he breaks it. If Trump does not agree, Republican primary voters and caucus-goers can take his lack of loyalty into account.

It would be ill-advised, however, for the RNC to punish Trump — e.g., by denying him access to voter information, debates, or the ballot — if he doesn’t take the pledge. Republican voters should not have their right to select a candidate impeded by barriers thrown up by the RNC.

Moreover, throwing up artificial barriers might well prove counterproductive. Trump has said he won’t run as a non-Republican if the RNC treats him fairly. Denying Trump the same privileges as other candidates would be manifestly unfair.

Trump could then ran as an independent with the full sympathy of his supporters. In addition, the GOP will have reinforced its image as an establishment-run club — an image that Trump has exploited

Indeed, it seems to me that the RNC is partially responsible for the rise of Trump. Overreacting to the 2012 defeat, it encouraged Republicans to pander to Hispanic voters.

Jeb Bush didn’t need encouragement. But I wonder whether Scott Walker would have been so squishy absent the promptings of Priebus, his fellow Wisconsin Republican. For that matter, would Marco Rubio have aligned himself so wholeheartedly with Chuck Schumer on immigration reform.

Priebus helped create a huge opening for Donald Trump. Getting a loyalty oath would be good, but it won’t mean that the GOP is out of the woods when it comes to Trump.

UPDATE: Trump has taken the pledge. It’s the smart move. He has no realistic path to the presidency as an independent candidate. By agreeing not to run as one, Trump maximizes his (not inconsiderable) chance of winning the GOP nomination.