The Kansas Republican Party’s decision to forgo a presidential caucus next year is more evidence that the GOP considers voters irrelevant.
The party announced the caucus cancellation Friday. The Kansas GOP decided to kill its caucuses, it said in a tweet, because President Donald Trump is an elected incumbent, and the party always endorses Republican presidential incumbents. Nothing to see here.
The decision angered GOP candidates opposing Trump. Joe Walsh, a former congressman and Republican presidential candidate, compared the decision to cancel GOP caucuses and primaries in Kansas and three other states to “something a mob boss would do.”
Bill Weld, a former Massachusetts governor also seeking the GOP presidential nomination, called the cancellations “appropriate in a monarchy.”
We hold no illusions that either candidate, or any Republican, will offer a serious to challenge the president for the party’s nomination. Trump’s grasp on the GOP is just too strong. “There is no Republican Party,” one-time GOP consultant Rick Wilson said last week. “It’s the Trump party now.”
And the party is certainly free to pursue any convention delegate allocation process it wants. If that means picking convention delegates in a smoked-filled back room, Kansas Republicans can light up whenever they want.
But the cancellation sends a horrible signal to ordinary Republican voters, and all Kansans, that their views are unimportant.
It may also suggest some nervousness on Trump’s part. In 2016, he was crushed in the Kansas GOP caucuses, defeated by more sensible Republicans, of which there are many in the state. Perhaps he’s concerned he would be embarrassed again.
In 2012, Kansas Democrats caucused for incumbent President Barack Obama because the meetings energized rank-and-file party members. Six years later, Kansans elected a Democratic governor and a Democrat to the U.S. House. The Republicans’ disdain for ordinary voters may hurt them down the ballot in 2020.
It isn’t as if Kansas Republicans are disinterested in presidential politics. In 1992, more than 200,000 Kansans cast GOP presidential primary votes, even with President George H.W. Bush in the race. Thousands of party members no doubt would have shown up for caucuses had the state party decided to hold them.
The party’s zeal to clear a backroom path for Trump is unseemly and undemocratic. We need more people taking part in politics, not fewer.
Remember, the GOP fiercely defends the Electoral College as protective of small states’ interests. Now, though, the Kansas Republican Party has given all the GOP candidates, including the president, a reason to skip the state, and ignore its voters.
Eliminating the voters’ role in presidential politics is always a mistake (Missouri is thinking about canceling its 2020 primary, which is also a bad idea.) The Kansas GOP should reconsider, this time with their own voters in mind.