The President is Not Entitled to a Coronation
Note: This piece reflects Brian’s personal views and are not necessarily the view of everybody at Red Maryland.
Let me say this up front: this piece is not about the President or his policies. This story is about process…
There have been a lot of stories recently about Republican Parties canceling their Presidential primaries and caucuses in advance of the 2020 election:
Four states are poised to cancel their 2020 GOP presidential primaries and caucuses, a move that would cut off oxygen to Donald Trump’s long-shot primary challengers.
Republican parties in South Carolina, Nevada, Arizona and Kansas are expected to finalize the cancellations in meetings this weekend, according to three GOP officials who are familiar with the plans.
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Now this, of course, is not anything new. Primaries and caucuses were canceled in 2004 when President George W. Bush. They were canceled in 1992 when President George H. W. Bush was running for re-election, despite a spirited challenge from Pat Buchanan. They were canceled in 1984 when President Ronald Reagan was running for re-election.
That doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to do.
Republican parties tend to become the auxiliary arm of the President. That should not necessarily be the case. The Republican Party has a responsibility to represent all Republicans. The only time that the party should be synchronized with a candidate is once that candidate has secured the party’s nomination.
Whether you love the President or you loathe him, President Trump is not the nominee of the Republican Party right now and he will not be until he secures the majority of Delegates at the convention next year in Charlotte. Which, given how the President is not seeking renomination uncontested, makes this kind of frustrating….
That brings us to the cancellation of these primaries and caucuses. Whether anybody agrees or not, there are a lot of discontented Republicans right now. They are many Republican voters who are disenchanted with the President and want to have the opportunity to choose between him and an alternative. And the President has already drawn three primary challengers so far, the most a sitting President has ever received in the modern era. And these are not exactly fly-by-night jabronis either; two are former members of Congress. Two are former Governors. While admittedly, all three challengers are flawed, they are reasonably credible candidates with national profiles. And others may jump in as well.
Republican voters deserve the opportunity to have their voice heard. Republicans are not Democrats, who basically lied, cheated, and stole to ensure that Hillary Clinton was the Democratic nominee in 2016. As conservatives, we’re supposed to be better than that.
Now I know some of you are already saying “Brian, you’ve never liked the President, this is just sour grapes.” Well, no, it’s actually not. Because we’ve seen the movie before here in Maryland. It doesn’t end all that well.
Let us take you back to 2010, when former Governor Bob Ehrlich was trying to make a comeback and was challenged in the Republican primary by Brian Murphy. The Maryland Republican Party invoked what was called Rule 11 to formally back Bob Ehrlich in the primary election. Let’s just say it caused a lot of drama, as the Washington Post reported:
Brian Murphy, a long-shot Republican candidate for governor of Maryland, is crying foul over a procedural move that effectively throws the support of the state and national GOP behind former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) months before the primary takes place.
Under what is known as Rule No. 11, the Republican National Committee will not “contribute money or in-kind aid to any candidate” in a contested primary unless authorized by RNC members from that state. Maryland Republican Party Chairwoman Audrey Scott and the two other RNC members from Maryland recently approved such a move for Ehrlich.
“This is exactly the type of elitist behavior that is infuriating Americans from both parties,” said Murphy, a business investor from Montgomery County, who has cast himself as more conservative alternative to the former governor. “Maryland Republicans should be allowed an honest primary between two very different Republican candidates. … Ehrlich and I disagree on nearly everything, and all I’m asking for is an open debate on the issues.”
During the convention itself MDGOP’s National Committeewoman, Joyce Terhes, told how great Ehrlich was and how we needed to get him back into office. In her speech she said that every single Republican who would vote for Bob Ehrlich needs to get to the polls during the election. Then, Louis Pope, MDGOP’s National Committeeman, gave his speech. Pope said that one of the governors the Republicans are going to pick up is Bob Ehrlich. He said if you aren’t on board you better GET on board because Ehrlich will be elected. Funny thing is, when he talked about the US Senate race he said how he couldn’t endorse one candidate over another since it was a contested race. Some double standard. Pope talked about how the Tea Party needs to be embraced by the Republicans, but he showed a basic misunderstanding of what much of the Tea Party outrage is about: abuse of power by the political elites. That abuse of power was on full display at the convention.
When the GOP, or rather Scott, Terhes and Pope, recently invoked Rule 11, they showed contempt for Central Committee members across the state by not calling for a vote on this issue at the convention. Rule 11 was already being discussed in whispers by those who could see the writing on the wall. Could it be that these three “big shots” didn’t trust the vote of the Central Committee members to come out as they desired? Can this set well with many Central Committee members across the state? I hope not.
Worse than that, these three showed contempt for Maryland Republican voters as a whole, regardless of whether it was voted on at the convention. They are usurping the voter’s freedom to choose by trying to silence Murphy’s campaign, therefore forcing us to choose Ehrlich because of our likely ignorance of Murphy. “They” know best who should be the one to run against O’Malley. Ehrlich is the only person who can beat O’Malley. Ehrlich’s own track record, however, belies that. Many do not realize, but in 2006 Ehrlich was the only incumbent governor who lost his seat to a Democrat. That was the last Ehrlich-O’Malley show down and it didn’t go so well….
….No REAL Tea Party activist will condone what the GOP has tried to do. Anyone who only cares about the outcome and not the process better look at themselves very closely and realize that is EXACTLY the stance the liberals have taken. The Republican Party has to do better if they are going to win the trust of the voters. The Party has to trust the voters first by allowing candidates an even playing field so the voters can pick the candidate they feel is the right one to represent them. Following our own rules and values is a basic necessity as a party and cannot be overlooked for convenience sake, ever.
The invocation of Rule 11 alienated large chunks fo the Maryland Republican Party, started fights at the state party level, became an issue in the races for National Committeeman and National Committeewoman in 2012, and opening wounds that took years to heal, if they have ever healed. It’s the reason why the Maryland GOP’s cooperation with the Hogan re-election campaign in 2018 did not kick into gear until the Governor did not have a primary challenger.
Even when Red Maryland endorsed Bob Ehrlich in that primary, we did not support the idea of the invocation of Rule 11, particularly in the way that it was invoked by the state party.
Look, I get it. President Trump is supported by large swaths of the party. He is likely going to be renominated. But he is not entitled to the nomination by fiat. We are finding ourselves in a reverse situation that we found ourselves in 2016, when Trump supporters at this stage in the race though that the game was being rigged for Jeb Bush. That was obviously not true, seeing the outcome, but the juxtaposition that the game should now be rigged for Trump instead of against Trump is curious.
If the President were running for the nomination unopposed, then all of this would be a simple exercise and there would be no concerns about the level of cooperation between the state and national GOP and the campaign. But he is not unopposed. The President should have to earn the nomination of the Republican Party, the same as he did in 2016. If he’s as popular as his campaign believes and as popular as his poll numbers indicate, this exercise should be routine. But regardless, the voters should decide, not party elites.