In Canceling Primaries, GOP Demands ‘Let the People Decide’ on Impeachment

“We are less than a year away from an election, let’s let the American people decide.”

That was U.S. Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, after announcing that he intended to vote against impeaching President Trump. During the course of the impeachment, nearly all of the Republicans said some variation of this plea, along with its sister-mantra, that impeachment was ignoring the will of the sixty-three million Ameticans who voted for Trump.

But at the same time, these same Republicans are either canceling the Republican presidential primaries in numerous states or, in the case of Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Washington, doing it North Korea-style and just letting Supreme Leader Trump on the ballot:

Other state Republican parties, like North Carolina and Michigan, attempted to have only Trump on the primary ballot, but ultimately failed.

Fergus Cullen, a former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party, has been taken aghast by this trend, telling the Hartford Courant it is the “drip drip drip of autocratic tendencies in the Trump Administration” and that “this is the kind of thing that happens in autocratic nations led by dictators. One way to ensure that the president of Russia gets 98 percent of the vote is you don’t allow anyone else on the ballot.”

After the Georgia Republican Party moved to make Trump the only candidate on the primary ballot, former Republican Congressman and 2020 presidential candidate Joe Walsh said, “The Republican Party apparatus has effectively become an instrument of despotism.”

Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld, the other major Republican presidential candidate, quipped, “Apparently Donald Trump’s bromance with Putin extends to emulating Russia’s approach to elections.”

Overall, as shown in the table below, thirteen states representing seventy-three million people—approximately a quarter of the U.S. population—will either have a Trump-only primary ballot or not have a primary at all: 

*Trump is alone on these ballots due to paperwork challenges.

To make things even more baffling, Trump may end up keeping himself off the primary ballot in other states: California passed into law a requirement that presidential candidates must disclose their recent tax returns in order to appear on ballots. Although this law was recently ruled unconstitutional by the California Supreme Court, eighteen other states are considering similar legislation. 

Trump need not fret, however: The California Republican Party had planned on bypassing the primary in the event the law went into effect and other state Republican parties will likely bypass voters as well if a “tax return” law passes in their state. 

Of course, all of this is built on a foundation of not “letting the voters decide” in the first place. Trump lost to Hillary Clinton by three million votes in the 2016 election. And Senators deciding Trump’s impeachment fate aren’t a result of “letting the voters decide” either: The fifty-one Senators that voted for a witness-free kangaroo court of an impeachment represented fifteen million fewer people than the forty-nine Senators who voted against it.  

To look at it another way, California has a higher population than the combined total of the twenty smallest states, yet two Senators represent California, and forty Senators represent the twenty smallest states. Of those forty Senators, twenty-six are Republicans and make up about half of the Republican’s fifty-three seat majority. 


All of this is especially hard to stomach in Wisconsin, where “Fighting Bob” La Follette championed the nation’s first direct primary in 1905. By 1912, the primary system had spread to about a dozen other states, and both La Follette and Theodore Roosevelt used it to challenge incumbent President William Taft in the Republican primary. 

If there was ever a really important time to have primary elections, this would be that time.  

La Follette defeated the Repubulican incumbent in Wisconsin with 73 percent of the vote and went on to also win North Dakota. Roosevelt won all but two of the rest of the primaries, including Taft’s home state of Ohio, but ultimately the party bosses prevailed and insured that the nomination would go to Taft. 

The 1912 election ultimately resulted in Roosevelt running third party as a Progressive Party candidate and paving the way for Taft to lose in the general.  

In large part because of this Republican party debacle in 1932—that happened because party bosses insisted on renominating the incumbent—the following presidential election increased the number of primaries from thirteen to twenty.

But, here we are again.

Trump is not only an unpopular president, but he is just coming out of an impeachment vote where the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, voted in favor of removing Trump from office and said in a searing speech, “The President is guilty of an appalling abuse of public trust. What he did was not perfect. No, it was a flagrant assault on our electoral rights, our national security, and our fundamental values.” 

If there was ever a really important time to have primary elections, this would be that time.

You know what the Republican Party should do?

Let the people decide.

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» In Canceling Primaries, GOP Demands ‘Let the People Decide’ on Impeachment | Jud Lounsbury | Radio Free | https://www.radiofree.org/2020/02/06/in-canceling-primaries-gop-demands-let-the-people-decide-on-impeachment/ | 2021-06-18T12:32:22+00:00
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