When is a promise worth more than the paper itís written upon? When all the parties to the agreement can be trusted when they say their word is their bond. Without integrity, however, pledges have little meaning.

Last fall when there were about 20 GOP presidential candidates and it appeared political novice Donald Trump had more than just marginal appeal, the Republican National Committee recognized the road to the nomination could become a little bumpy. Nobody seriously thought Trump had a chance to become the nominee, but he had potential to play the role of spoiler if he mounted a third-party campaign.

So RNC Chairman Reince Priebus requested all the candidates sign a loyalty oath promising not to go down that path. The oath was targeted at Trump, but to be fair, each candidate signed it.

Fast-forward to spring 2016 and only three candidates remain in the race. Trump has a substantial lead in the delegate count, although there is no certainty heíll garner the majority needed to represent Republicans in this fallís general election. And a lot of party members are doing all they can to deny him that victory ó hoping instead for a brokered convention at which a more reasonable name can be placed on the ticket.

Naturally, Team Trump is not amused with such antics. Already earning a reputation for chaos and violence at his rallies, Trump even suggested there would be riots if heís denied the nomination.

Were this a TV drama series, it would be riveting. As itís real life, itís downright frightening. And itís likely to get scarier the closer we move to the national convention in Cleveland.

Earlier this week, the remaining three candidates ó Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich ó were asked if theyíre still planning to honor the pledge they signed last fall.

Trump was blunt: ďNo, I donít any more Ö I have been treated very unfairly.Ē

Cruz said, ďIím not in the habit of supporting someone who attacks my wife and family.Ē

Kasich was the most vague: ďI donít want to be political here; Iíve got to see what happens.Ē

We take this to mean there most likely will be a third-party candidate. The only question is whom it will be.

Being willing to break such a pledge within months of signing it says less about the pledge than it does the candidates. Loyalty oaths have little value beyond feel-good sound bites.

Politicians have a way of taking whatever expedient stance necessary to get votes. Of the many lessons the national Republican Party will learn from this election cycle, we hope eliminating loyalty pledges is one of them.

They have no value at all.

plowry@dailynews.net

Editorial by Patrick Lowry