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All Kansas Republicans should have a voice

A presidential nominating caucus or primary would allow Trump skeptics in Kansas to have their say. It could provide a safety valve, a way to release the pressure that builds up from being told they are traitors to not only their party but to the country as well.

In September, leaders of the Kansas Republican Party decided to deny giving rank-and-file party members a voice in choosing its presidential nominee for 2020. In a release, the state party said : “The Kansas Republican Party will not organize a Caucus for the 2020 election because President Trump is an elected incumbent from the Republican Party.”

The release gave a reason: “Every time an elected incumbent Republican has run for re-election, except in 1912, the Kansas Republican Party state convention adopted a resolution instructing all delegates to vote for the elected incumbent. This has been the same standard for the Kansas Republican Party dating back to President Lincoln’s reelection.”

Recent correspondence with party leaders confirms this remains the current thinking of leadership. But it is not democratic. Kansas Republicans should have either a caucus or a primary election. To have neither, simply because the incumbent president is a Republican, deprives members of the Kansas GOP of a chance to make a decision.

All Kansas Republicans need to be involved in making a decision about the party’s next nominee. As we learn more negative information about the Trump Administration, I can’t help but think that Kansas Republicans will want to have a say in choosing our next nominee. Any day there could be some revelation that is so strongly negative and powerful that even the most committed Trump supporters may decide they can no longer support him.

I am a “Never Trump” Republican. Nonetheless, I remain a member of the party. While the numbers of Trump skeptics are not large, I think most of us feel we have no voice in the party. Any dissent is met with vile insults, as you can see on my Facebook and that of a handful of other Kansas Trump skeptics. I have been told that I am no Republican, that I ought to join the other party, and that I am mentally ill. Some of this comes from Republican officeholders and leaders.

A presidential nominating caucus or primary would allow Trump skeptics in Kansas to have their say. It could provide a safety valve, a way to release the pressure that builds up from being told they are traitors to not only their party but to the country as well.

I can hear the critics: “No one has a chance to beat Trump.” That’s hardly the point. Now, with Kansas and other states declining to hold nominating contests, this becomes self-fulfilling.

Some expressed concern over the cost of a caucus or primary election. I wasn’t aware that we should be so concerned about the cost of democracy and its elections. On this issue, I repeat the observation of the National Review editors: “The president says he has nothing to do with these decisions, but also that holding primaries he is sure to win would be a waste of money. The susceptibility of this argument to abuse by a ruler ought to preclude its being made.” (emphasis added)

By the way, should the situation change and Kansas Republicans decided they can lo longer support Trump as their nominee, who will decide the nominee? The answer is the same small group of party leaders that decided to do without a caucus or primary. That’s undemocratic.

What conservative voices say

After several states (including Kansas) decided to cancel or not schedule primary elections or caucuses, two noted conservative publications criticized these decisions. From the editors of National Review:

The president says he has nothing to do with these decisions, but also that holding primaries he is sure to win would be a waste of money. The susceptibility of this argument to abuse by a ruler ought to preclude its being made.

The vast majority of Republicans approve of what Trump has done on taxes, judges, regulation, and most other issues, though they also support electoral competition. Trump would be likely to win the primaries handily, demonstrating his strength among Republicans while the Democrats tussle. His allies should want to see that, rather than make it seem as though he is too weak to face competition. But regardless of how it works out for him, Republican primary voters are capable of making the decision among Trump and the others — who so far include William Weld and Joe Walsh as well as Sanford. They deserve to be able to do so. 1

In its op-ed, the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal concluded with this:

When Mr. Trump won the GOP nomination in 2016, he disrupted a long tradition of Republican leadership and policy. He rejected GOP positions on trade and entitlement reform. In chief respects he abandoned the party’s hawkish stance on foreign policy. On guns and health care he has taken multiple positions, sometimes in the same week.

And — how to put it delicately? — Mr. Trump has introduced a new standard of presidential behavior, by turns abrasive, funny and appalling. These and related matters are far from settled in Republican circles, and it seems unwise to prevent the rank-and-file from debating them. If Mr. Trump is as popular with Republicans as the polls say, he has nothing to fear from letting voters show it in primaries. 2

At this time last year, the former chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party wrote:

… unprecedented action on the part of the RNC to consolidate the Trump re-election campaign with the traditionally primary-neutral party efforts into a single organization called “Trump Victory.” Everything from fundraising, to data, to electing convention delegates will now be organized in tandem between the party and the campaign. This is the definition of what Trump himself might once have called rigging the system. …

The attempt to rig the system is, all on its own, an admission of Trump’s weakness. 3

The arguments advanced by this party official and two stalwarts of conservative thought aren’t welcomed by some Kansas Republicans, especially the (nearly) 150 that are in leadership positions and voted to abstain from holding a caucus. After I shared these articles on Facebook, the reaction was almost universally negative. The consensus was that I should leave the Republican Party and find somewhere else to call home so I can vote in a caucus or primary. That doesn’t seem conducive to winning elections, and Kansas Republicans need to be concerned with winning, having lost the governorship, one congressional district, and barely winning another.

Emblematic of the Trumpification of the Kansas Republican Party is this: I asked one person “And are you trying to attract people to the Republican Party, or drive them away?” The response was, “I would just as soon the Republican party would avoid attracting people such as yourself.”

Of note: Kansas Democrats plan to hold a presidential primary using ranked-choice voting. As Kansas Democrats apply new methods to vote and choose candidates, Kansas Republicans regress to the smoke-filled room.

Further, to give everyone an equal chance to have a voice, Kansas Republicans should abandon the caucus and hold a primary election. Participating in the caucus is difficult. Many people are not able to attend and cast their vote. No matter the cost to the party, Kansas should seek broad participation in its presidential nominating process. That means asking the people to make a selection, and it means a primary election instead of a caucus.

Polling

While Gallup reports Trump’s job approval rating among Republicans at 88 percent, there are signs of skepticism. A poll this week by Quinnipiac University found that 49 percent of Republicans support witness testimony. 4 This poll also found that many people are paying attention to impeachment. 5

Click for larger.

A poll by Ipsos/FiveThirtyEight last week found that the share of Republicans who support witnesses in the Senate trial has fallen to 41 percent. 6 The number has fallen, but it is still 41 percent.

A Yahoo News/YouGov poll taken at near the same time found that 35 percent of Republicans wanted witnesses called. 7

These figures are not majorities, and they are nationwide, not just Kansas Republicans. But they do not represent fringe minorities. Republicans need to keep these voters.


Notes

  1. Let Republican Voters Choose. September 12, 2019. Available at https://www.nationalreview.com/2019/09/republican-presidential-primaries-let-voters-choose/.
  2. Don’t Cancel the GOP Primaries: Trump has nothing to fear if he’s as popular as the polls say. September 17, 2019. Available at https://www.wsj.com/articles/dont-cancel-the-gop-primaries-11568753944.
  3. Jennifer Horn. *RNC Signals Trump’s Weakness with Push to Endorse Him Now.* Available at https://thebulwark.com/rnc-signals-trumps-weakness-with-push-to-endorse-him-now/.
  4. January 28, 2020 – 75% Of Voters Say Allow Witnesses In Senate Impeachment Trial, Quinnipiac University National Poll Finds; 53% Say President Trump Not Telling Truth About Ukraine. Available at https://poll.qu.edu/national/release-detail?ReleaseID=3654.
  5. “How much attention have you been paying to news about impeachment: a lot, some, only a little, or none at all?” A lot 57%, Some 29%, Only a little 11%, None at all 2%.
  6. Republican Voters Increasingly Back The GOP’s Move To Block Impeachment Witnesses. Available at https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/republican-voters-increasingly-back-the-gops-move-to-block-impeachment-witnesses/.
  7. Yahoo News/YouGov poll shows two-thirds of voters want the Senate to call new impeachment witnesses. Available at https://news.yahoo.com/new-yahoo-news-you-gov-poll-shows-that-twothirds-of-voters-want-the-senate-to-call-new-impeachment-witnesses-225545827.html.
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