Jim Hartman: GOP makes Trump opposition ‘symbolic’
While nearly a dozen Democratic presidential aspirants seek support from Nevada Democrats in their Feb. 22 caucuses, Nevada Republicans will have no presidential preference choices.
On Jan. 23, 2019, one year ago, the Republican National Committee voted unanimously to express “undivided support” of President Trump’s re-election and encouraged state parties to cancel their nominating contests outright — primaries and caucuses.
Following the lead of the national party, the Nevada Republican Party last September adopted a rule change canceling the February presidential preference caucuses to avoid any challenge to Trump’s renomination. Nevada’s controversial five-term Republican Party Chairman, Michael McDonald, a strong, early supporter of Trump in 2016, said the action would “protect resources” for the November general election.
Nevada is now among 14 states where Republican parties have decided that Donald Trump will have no primary competition — either canceling caucuses, primaries or listing only Trump’s name on the ballot. Those states include: South Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maine, Arizona, Virginia, Hawaii, Alaska, Minnesota, Kansas and North Carolina. Additionally, California’s Republican primary will now be “non-binding” with all national convention delegates bound to Trump.
Some inside the GOP blasted the state parties’ decisions. Former tech executive Carly Fiorina, a Trump GOP primary opponent in 2016, tweeted that “in this country, we pledge allegiance to the flag, not the president.”
The Republican Party is now tightly bound to Trump. Since his election, 40 Republican state party chairmen have turned over and the GOP leadership is unrecognizable from that prior to Trump.
Ironically, Trump’s often repeated refrain about a political “rigged system” certainly now applies to the Republican presidential nomination process put in place by his agents. The rule changes effectively kneecapped any Trump challengers to his renomination.
Three Republicans announced their candidacies to oppose Trump in 2020. The challengers included former South Carolina Gov. and Rep. Mark Sanford, former Massachusetts Gov. Bill Weld and Joe Walsh, a former Illinois congressman. Each opponent is credible but also politically flawed.
Sanford, 59, had two six-year stints in Congress (1995-2001)and (2013-2019) as well as being South Carolina governor for two terms (2003-2011). He’s most newsworthy for an extramarital affair while he claimed to be “hiking the Appalachian Trail.” Sanford has now withdrawn from the race contending Trump’s impeachment makes any presidential issues debate impossible.
Weld, 74, was a moderate GOP Massachusetts governor (1991-1997). He supported Obama in 2008 and was the Libertarian Party vice-presidential candidate in 2016.
Walsh, 58, a Tea Party activist elected to one congressional term from Illinois (2011-2013), was an enthusiastic Trump supporter in 2016, but is now disenchanted.
Trump dismissed this trio of opponents as “The Three Stooges, all badly failed candidates.”
All three of the challengers share a criticism of Trump that he has abandoned Republican principles of limited government, free trade and a strong national defense.
They point to a national debt recently surpassing $23 trillion, rising $4 trillion since Trump took office. The annual deficit in fiscal year 2019 was $984 billion — that’s a seven-year high and was incurred in good economic times. Trump pledged in 2016 that he would wipe out the entire national debt within eight years.
On trade, Republican orthodoxy on fair, free trade was abandoned by Trump in favor of protectionist “managed trade” chiefly through the bludgeon of tariffs. Tariffs are taxes ultimately paid for by American consumers — imposed by Trump on Chinese goods but also on our trading partners’ products. The economic consensus: tariffs hurt U.S. manufacturing and agriculture in 2019.
The president’s record staff turnover — like Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and national security adviser John Bolton — highlights Trump’s erratic, inconsistent and transactional security instincts undermining national defense.
Weld and Walsh will make their largely symbolic case to Republican voters in Iowa (Feb. 3) and New Hampshire (Feb. 11).
Jim Hartman is an attorney residing in Genoa, NV. He’s former Vice-Chair of the California Republican Party. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.