Editorials

Why would Kansas GOP cancel 2020 presidential caucuses and deny voters their say?

Trump supporter leaves Kansas caucus line to talk to protester

A supporter of Donald Trump for president talks to protesters outside of Century II in Wichita before the Kansas caucuses on Saturday, March 5, 2016. Oliver Morrison/The Wichita Eagle
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A supporter of Donald Trump for president talks to protesters outside of Century II in Wichita before the Kansas caucuses on Saturday, March 5, 2016. Oliver Morrison/The Wichita Eagle

Kansas Republicans seem ready to take themselves out of any role in picking their presidential nominee in 2020.

Outgoing party chairman Kelly Arnold said last week that the Kansas GOP may cancel its caucuses in 2020, presumably handing the state’s convention delegates to President Donald Trump.

“I don’t think (the caucus) is as needed when you have one candidate,” he said.

Canceling the Republican caucuses is a terrible idea.

Trump may not be the only candidate seeking the GOP nomination. Several Republicans, deeply troubled by the president’s unpredictable behavior, could challenge the incumbent. Those voices should be heard in Kansas, and Republicans deserve to hear them.

And what happens if Trump decides not to run? How will Kansas Republicans allocate their delegates without a caucus or primary? The party will have to scramble to make itself relevant.

Even if Trump ends up being the only candidate, Kansans Republicans should have the chance to gather to talk about his campaign, and register any concerns they may have. No one — not even Donald Trump — should be handed the nomination on a silver platter.

Republicans say they’ll save money by canceling the caucuses, which are usually held on a Saturday. But the savings are miniscule compared with the loss of engagement and relevance party members will face if the plug is pulled on the caucuses.

In fact, Kansas should consider holding a presidential primary in 2020, early enough to play a role in the nominating process. Kansas can hardly complain that candidates ignore the state during the general election when it makes itself irrelevant in the primaries.

Kansas could also use a presidential primary to test different voting options, such as mail-in ballots. That would make the election worth the $2 million cost.

Sadly, there isn’t a lot of enthusiasm for this idea. Kansans in both parties would rather spend taxpayer money in other places.

But canceling caucuses would send a horrible signal to the country — and to voters in Kansas, who already suspect Republicans are not very interested in what they have to say.

The Democrats’ field of presidential candidates is growing. We can expect a robust debate about the party’s policies and approach to government in the next 18 months. By holding caucuses of their own, Kansas Democrats can be a part of that discussion, to the benefit of the candidates and the state.

It is true that Kansas has canceled primaries and caucuses in past election years. But the stakes will be enormously high in 2020, and citizens will demand access to the nominating process in both major parties.

The Kansas GOP should think carefully before closing the door on its members.

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