Let's Have Ourselves a Raucous, Robust Republican Presidential Primary

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File)
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Donald Trump may just be a victim of his own success. Hear me out on this one.

When Trump finally decided to run for president in 2016 — having teased his desire to do so for years — many people did not take his candidacy seriously. I have some friends who were early and ardent Trump supporters (and still are). They had confidence in candidate Trump long before he won the Republican nomination, but the old guard GOP and many in conservative media treated his entrance into the race as a joke. Obviously, the joke was, ultimately, on them.

Remembering all the way back to 2015, Jeb! Bush was the odds-on favorite; he was everywhere, even slow jamming the news with Jimmy Fallon. He was the clear establishment favorite, with many relishing the thought of Obama’s administration being sandwiched between the Bush bros. Ted Cruz had a lot of grassroots support; I, personally, was a fan of Scott Walker, but he fizzled out pretty quickly.

The GOP has a long history of pre-anointing the next presidential nominee based on the “it’s his turn” mentality. You serve your time in various party-approved positions, then it’s your turn. This gave us a slate of terrible candidates, including Bob Dole, John McCain, and Mitt Romney. Jeb! would have fit right in, but Along Came Trump.

Donald Trump smashed the GOP’s old way of doing things to smithereens. Despite not having much support from the party structure and continual sneering from the self-appointed spokespersons for the conservative movement — remember that sniveling NRO edition devoted entirely to trashing Trump? — he summarily knocked Jeb! off the GOP pedestal and quickly picked up steam amongst the grassroots, who were tired of all the BS coming out of DC. By the time he secured the nomination, leaving a large part of the the establishment in stunned disbelief (sorry, NRO!), Trump had broken the traditional Republican nominating system.

He now finds himself in the peculiar position of being both a former president and a current presidential candidate. Pre-Trump, this would likely have led to very little, if any, primary competition for the presumed nominee. But he, himself, blew up that process, having demonstrated that voters are open, even eager, for non-traditional candidates and brash campaigns. They are heartily sick of holding their noses and voting for the establishment’s picks.

Thanks to Donald Trump, all bets are now off.

So, where does that leave us as we head into the 2024 presidential election cycle? Right here: Let’s have a raucous, robust presidential primary! Why the heck not? The old way didn’t work, so let’s try something new.

Let’s have everyone who wants to run, well, run! I mean, let’s have it be a real brawl — of ideas and policies, of course. Whereas candidate Trump of 2016 didn’t have a record to run on, candidate Trump of 2024 does. And he should brag about what he accomplished and be forced to defend his missteps and missed opportunities. As should any of the candidates who throw their hat into the ring.

It’s looking more and more likely that Trump will indeed have some serious competition. As I reported here, several potential candidates have released, or will be releasing, leadership books touting their blueprints for America. This includes Ron DeSantis, Mike Pence, Nikki Haley, and Mike Pompeo. History has proven time and again that a book released in or around a big election is a sure sign someone intends to run.

Now, some of these folks have said they won’t run if Trump is a candidate, but I argue they should. Trump would, if he were in their situation. He wouldn’t think twice about it. He proved in 2016 that waiting for your turn is a fool’s game.

Trump, too, should welcome the competition. He’s at his best when he has detractors to play off of, and our list of authors, and likely future candidates, would certainly give him that opportunity. He might come out the winner, he might not. There may be 2024’s version of 2016 Trump waiting in the wings to make their play, and we should be open to that.

If Donald Trump has taught us anything, it’s that American voters (at least the sane ones) are eager to support candidates who see them, hear them, understand their troubles, and have the backbone to take action. The best way to find that person is to have a crowded, competitive presidential primary.


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