Republicans deserve to have real competitive presidential primary

Republicans deserve to have real competitive presidential primary
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Former Massachusetts Governor Bill WeldWilliam (Bill) WeldVermont governor, running for reelection, won't campaign or raise money The Hill's Campaign Report: Amash moves toward Libertarian presidential bid Libertarians view Amash as potential 2020 game changer for party MORE officially announced his primary challenge to Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSessions accepts 'Fox News Sunday' invitation to debate, Tuberville declines Priest among those police cleared from St. John's Church patio for Trump visit Trump criticizes CNN on split-screen audio of Rose Garden address, protesters clashing with police MORE for the Republican presidential nomination in 2020, and more candidates may come forward in the weeks and months ahead. For those Republicans who believe that the party and the country deserve better leadership, the announcement of a primary challenge is both a relief and an opportunity to reform the current Republican agenda.

You do not have to be in the “Never Trump” camp to see the benefit of a competitive primary. While there are many arguments to be made over whether Trump is a qualified candidate, the Republican Party is bigger than one person. We should focus on competitive political races and the value of alternative policy platforms. The Republican Party proudly touts an aversion to identity politics, claiming that voters should elect the best qualified candidate regardless of their identifiers. This kind of posturing is at odds with the current party attitude that relies on fear mongering and “absolute victory” rather than finding strength in debate and competition.

This disconnect is most apparent in the issue of gerrymandering, where efforts to silence dissenting voices are an acknowledgment that some candidates cannot win without voter suppression. If each party ran the best candidates based on their ideas, then there would be no incentive to create obstacles to voting. A primary challenge to an incumbent is an opportunity for candidates to fight for the policies they care about most.


If Trump is truly the best Republican candidate, then primary challenges would allow him to strengthen his message. The recent attempts to prevent any primary challenges by changing the party rules at the state level are troubling and antithetical to the Republican image as the party of free markets and meritocracy. Trump already has a tremendous advantage as president, so why not make him demonstrate his worth? Being the incumbent does not mean one is necessarily the best candidate in the general election. Voters should welcome challengers to ensure that we get the candidate that best reflects the Republican vision for the future.

Despite strong support in the Republican base, Trump lost the popular vote by nearly three million in 2016. In fact, while the Electoral College numbers seem to show a strong victory for Trump, the reality is that the presidential election was decided by around 80,000 votes in swing states. It is unreasonable to accept the trend of an Electoral College so grossly at odds with the electorate. We should move away from hyperpartisanship and toward an appreciation for the divergent viewpoints of the electorate.

If Republican policies are truly a roadmap to a better future, then gaining nationwide support should come easily. This new primary challenge is so important to establishing a more cohesive Republican platform to lead us into the next stage of American excellence. Polling numbers demonstrate clear support for Trump, yet his platform runs counter to many traditional Republican policies. One could certainly argue that Trump won the 2016 nomination due to the crowded field and fractured base. Outside of his viral tweets and catchy slogans, Trump has never had a detailed platform.

Republicans believe in fiscal conservatism, small government, economic opportunity, and free trade. After the last two years, I am not sure the party can claim to stand for any of those values anymore. Following the lead of the White House and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellRosenstein steps back into GOP crosshairs Biden to deliver remarks in Philadelphia Tuesday on nationwide protests Senate Republicans urge Trump to tone down rhetoric on protests MORE, Republicans have run the deficit to unbelievable levels, pursued policies that limit personal freedom and autonomy, damaged our standing as a world leader, and ignored some of the biggest challenges facing our country. If the Republicans want to represent the American people, then we need a clearly articulated platform that resonates beyond the base.

There is an opportunity for Weld and any other primary challengers to propose alternative visions of the future Republican Party, which cannot afford to become known for obstructionism, nativism, racism, theocracy, and disparity. All citizens want economic opportunities, safe communities, and freedom to create the lives that they want. We are facing complex issues today and, while Democrats are proposing some very unrealistic solutions, Republicans are not offering up any reasonable alternatives.

Trump has created the opportunity to reform the Republican platform to reflect a better vision for the future. While we failed to find a message that resonated beyond the fear mongering and grievance validation in 2016, we have another chance to fight for the Republican Party in 2020. We deserve better and should demand it from our leaders. Do Republicans want to be the party fighting to return us to a romanticized version of the country that never existed? Or do we want to commit to improving our country for future generations? I know which side I will be standing on.

Ariel Hill Davis is the policy director of Republican Women for Progress.