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) WeldHere are the potential candidates still eyeing 2020 bids Republicans deserve to have real competitive presidential primary 2020 Dems: Trump doesn't deserve credit for the economy MORE officially announced his challenge to Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpNASA exec leading moon mission quits weeks after appointment The Hill's Morning Report — After contentious week, Trump heads for Japan Frustration boils over with Senate's 'legislative graveyard' MORE for the Republican nomination in 2020, and more candidates may come forward. For those Republicans who believe the party and country deserve better leadership, the announcement of a primary challenge is a relief and an opportunity to reform the current Republican agenda.

You needn’t 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 party is bigger than one person. We should focus on the benefits of competitive political races and the value of debating alternative policy platforms.

The Republican party proudly touts an aversion to “identity politics”, claiming voters should elect the best qualified candidate regardless of their identifiers. This posturing is at odds with the current party attitude which 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 believed they were truly running the best candidates, based on their ideas, 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 the most about.

If Trump is truly the best Republican candidate, primary challengers would allow him to strengthen his message. The recent attempts to prevent primary challenges by changing party rules at the state level are troubling and, in fact, antithetical to the GOP’s persona as the party of free markets and meritocracy. As the sitting President, Trump already has a tremendous advantage in the primary, 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 we get the candidate that best reflects Republicans’ vision for the future.

Despite strong support in the GOP base, Donald Trump lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million in 2016. In fact, while the 2016 electoral college numbers seem to show a strong victory for Trump the reality is the election was decided by around 80,000 votes in swing states. It is unreasonable to accept the trend of an electorate and electoral college so grossly at odds.  We should move away from hyperpartisanship and toward an appreciation for the divergent viewpoints of the electorate.

If Republican policies are truly a road map to a better, more secure future, nationwide support should come easily. Which is why this primary challenge, in particular, is so important to establishing a more cohesive Republican platform to lead us into the next stage of American excellence.

Trump’s polling numbers demonstrate clear support for his Presidency, yet his platform and policies run counter to many traditional Republican policies. In fact, one could say that Donald Trump won the 2016 nomination due to the crowded field and fractured base. Outside of his viral tweets and catchy, if not grating, slogans, Donald Trump has never had a detailed platform. Republicans were the party of fiscal conservatism, small government, free trade, and opportunity. 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 Donald Trump and Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellThe Hill's Morning Report — After contentious week, Trump heads for Japan Frustration boils over with Senate's 'legislative graveyard' New Yorker cover titled 'The Shining' shows Graham, McConnell, Barr polishing Trump's shoes MORE, the party has run the deficit up 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 Republican party wants to represent the American people, we need a clearly articulated platform that resonates with people beyond Trump’s base.

There is an opportunity for Bill Weld, and any other primary challengers, to propose alternative visions of the future Republican party. The GOP cannot be the party of obstructionism, nativism, racism, theocracy, and economic disparity. All Americans want economic opportunities, safe communities, and the freedom to create the life they want. However, we are facing complex issues, and, while the Democrats are proposing off-the-wall solutions, Republicans are not offering any reasonable alternatives.

Donald Trump’s presidency has created the opportunity to reform the Republican platform to reflect a better vision for the future. We failed in 2016 to find a message that resonated beyond Trump’s fear mongering and grievance validation, we have another chance in 2020 to fight for the GOP. We deserve better and should demand it.  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’ll be on.

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