Original article published on The Blue & Gray Press by Joseph Milbank available here
Last month, four state Republican parties declared that they were going to cancel their primaries and caucuses for the 2020 election. Primaries and caucuses allow for a diversity of beliefs to be presented that is crucial to the success of democracy, and no political party should be allowed to impede this process, regardless of the expected outcomes. This is a dangerous move that has serious implications for freedom of speech.
A Monmouth University poll released on August 22 found that 84 percent of Republicans approve of President Trump’s job performance. Trump claimed in a tweet that the number was 94 percent.
While figures like these seem to display unity among Republicans, blocking primaries and caucuses only causes a forced unity.
To some, the figures are a justification that Republican primaries and caucuses are pointless for 2020, and that Trump is the clear favorite.
While few Republicans are willing to risk a campaign, as failure would mean retribution from Trump following the election, three people are currently running for the nomination. These three are former Representative Joe Walsh of Illinois, former Representative Mark Sanford of South Carolina, and former Governor Bill Weld of Massachusetts.
Canceling primaries and caucuses during an incumbent phase is not uncommon. Both parties have done it on several occasions. The Democratic Parties of Arizona and Kansas canceled them in 1996 when Bill Clinton was the incumbent. South Carolina’s Republican Party cancelled them in 1984 and 2004 when Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush were incumbents, respectively. Trump has claimed that states are currently doing so to avoid spending money on fruitless campaigns.
In an election that features arguably one of the most controversial incumbents ever, it is crucial to allow more people to run for the nomination. While all three potential nominees face difficult odds and a harsh home party, their beliefs and arguments are important to highlight.
Mark Sanford, for instance, is running on the belief that more focus must be placed on the national debt in order to avoid another financial crisis.
University of Virginia political scientist Larry Sabato believes that Sanford’s campaign could still make an impact, even without winning.
“Is he a serious challenger to Trump? If you mean by serious challenger that he could beat Trump, the answer is no, but there are other ways to measure challenges,” Sabato said. “If he can make the argument against Trump, if he can rally whatever remaining ‘Never Trumpers’ there are out there, then he could have an impact.”
Some, like Bill Weld, believe that Trump is scared of this potential impact.
“Canceled primaries?” Weld tweeted Sunday. “What are you afraid of, Mr. No-Show? Intelligent, experienced, honest and decent competitors? Now more than ever, @realDonaldTrump, you can run but you cannot hide.”
When asked how she felt about the issue, junior Gabriella Garcia, a business administration major, said, “Any Republicans that want to vote for their party, but don’t like Trump, are being given only one choice. This hurts the democratic process.”
Junior Spanish and biology double major Nathan Mitchell said, “What these state parties are doing is bringing us farther from the democratic process. People should have the option to choose from different candidates, and Republicans are being given no option, other than Trump. It’s effectively forced support.”
For a fair election to occur, state parties must allow primaries and caucuses to happen.