This editorial was first published in The Dallas Morning News. Guest editorials don’t necessarily reflect the Denton Record-Chronicle’s opinions.
Elections aren’t coronations. They’re expressions of the democratic will of the people. And while elections can be messy, they are preferable to a system that proclaims the outcome to be a foregone conclusion.
Somehow, GOP officials in Arizona, Nevada, Kansas and South Carolina missed this basic civics lesson. Each state’s party apparatus has canceled 2020 presidential primaries to protect President Donald Trump’s election bid.
Put aside for a moment that incumbent presidents are usually prohibitive favorites in party primaries. The issue is that candidates who want to challenge a sitting president are being elbowed from the opportunity to obtain delegates. Even worse, primary voters are being disenfranchised — told that their voices don’t matter.
GOP leaders in these states contend they’re saving money and that the president likely would emerge on top in the primaries anyway. But in South Carolina, for instance, a potential challenger is the state’s former Republican governor and senator, Mark Sanford. In addition to Sanford, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and former Illinois congressman Joe Walsh also are declared candidates.
Canceling primaries is not unprecedented, but doing so deprives voters of their role in our democratic process. Republicans and Democrats nixed state primaries when George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama sought reelection, and Democratic leadership placed its considerable thumb on the scale in favor of Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders in 2016.
A spirited primary always runs the risk of harming the incumbent’s chances in the general election. Nonetheless, citizens should decry internal party machinations designed to protect incumbency, cut out voters and prevent potential candidates from having a fair shot at the nomination.
Primaries give challengers an opportunity to point to concerns about the incumbent, some of which could become a liability in the general election. Voters, if given a chance, can decide on their own whether those concerns have merit. In the interest of transparent and robust exchanges of ideas, the president and state GOP organizations should welcome the challenge.
We would urge Texas, whose GOP primary is March 2020, not to follow the lead of Arizona, Nevada, Kansas and South Carolina. Texas represents the second-largest allocation of delegates behind California, so primaries are important in this increasingly competitive state.
Our political system is supposed to allow candidates, long shots or not, to make their case, and for primary voters to decide at the ballot box the candidate who should represent the party in the general election.
Everyone should have a chance to vote for someone they want, and holding primaries is the way to give them that opportunity.