President Donald Trump speaks to the press prior leaving for Texas on Wednesday. Alex Wong/Getty Images
Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images
Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

A Georgia GOP pioneer on why Donald Trump needs a primary challenger

Lee Raudonis is one of Georgia’s pioneering Republicans. He is a former executive director of the Georgia GOP (during the 1988 cycle). For years, he served as Paul Coverdell’s right-hand man, during the latter’s time in the state Legislature, then in Washington. He’s penned the following piece on the need for a Republican presidential primary – even if the incumbent, Donald Trump, is the presumed winner from start to finish. Have a read, and know that a well-crafted response would be welcome:

By Charles Lee Raudonis

On almost a weekly basis, it seems that more Democrats announce their intention to seek their party’s nomination for the presidency of the United States.

There are young candidates and old candidates, male candidates and female candidates, white candidates, black candidates and mixed-race candidates. There are also gay and straight candidates. The candidates come from all sections of the country, and there are moderates, liberals and those who call themselves democratic-socialists.

And, most importantly, there are candidates with all types of political and governmental experience and an abundance of ideas as to how to address our nation’s many challenges, from health care, to immigration, to foreign policy and climate change. 

Meanwhile, as the Democratic presidential hopefuls work hard to impress voters with their personality and knowledge of issues, the sole Republican candidate, President Trump, seems to be working almost as hard to convince Americans that the solution to all of our problems is to build a wall on our southern border. 

He has no proposals to improve health care; no proposals to address climate change; no proposals to address the challenges of the working poor; and seemingly no concrete proposals for addressing any issues, except for building a “great wall” on the Mexican border.

And, apparently, there is no one in the Republican Party who is willing to challenge an incumbent president who lies incessantly, cozies up to dictators, has limited knowledge about major issues and is obsessed with building a wall.

The unfortunate fact is that President Trump has successfully taken control of the Republican Party as thoroughly as any American president has ever controlled a political party. This is an amazing accomplishment, given that Mr. Trump was registered as a Democrat from 2001-2009, and as late as 2011, marked a box claiming, “I do not wish to enroll in a party.”

According to recent polls, this on-again, off-again Republican, with all of his scandals, lies and investigations, has an incredible 90 percent approval rating among the party faithful, and there are no signs of any imminent slippage in that support. In fact, the conclusion of the Mueller investigation—and Robert Mueller’s finding that neither the president nor his campaign colluded with Russia—has almost certainly further solidified Trump’s GOP support.

The president’s popularity among his Republican base is so strong that the vast majority of Republican government officials and party officials— even those who have previously questioned Trump’s sanity, morality and abilities (and called him all manner of unflattering names) — have decided that loyalty to their party’s president is far more important than any loyalty they may have to their party’s principles — or even to the nation’s founding principles.

For many, many reasons, this blind (as well as deaf and dumb) loyalty to the incumbent president may prove to be a major mistake for the GOP. 

Rather than discouraging primary opponents for the 2020 presidential nomination, loyal Republicans should be encouraging a vibrant primary contest with one or more candidates challenging President Trump on all of the major issues facing the nation and on his general fitness for the presidency of the United States. Not only would the competition be good for the country, it could save the Republican Party from disaster in 2020.

I believe there are three important reasons to encourage a competitive Republican Primary.

The first reason would be to stimulate a healthy discussion about important voter issues that the Democrats are currently debating vigorously. Clearly the president has no plans to deal with most of the major issues confronting the nation, from health care to climate change to economic disparity, and unless the GOP can come up with capitalistic solutions to these issues, the Democratic nominee will have a great advantage during the 2020 campaign. (Republicans are correct that Americans generally do not like “socialism,” but many of these same Americans like not having health insurance even less.) 

Another reason to encourage a Republican primary is to prepare the Republican nominee for a far more challenging general election than Trump faced in 2016. Because he was a novice politician, voters forgave many of Trump’s gaffes, inaccurate statements and lack of basic issue knowledge, but voters this time around may not be so forgiving of an incumbent for the same sloppiness—particularly if debating a far more knowledgeable and likeable Democrat.

Trump should have to prove to his own party that he is truly up to the task of debating the issues that will be front and center in the general election campaign.

And, finally, perhaps the major reason to hold a Republican Primary is to provide an additional test to determine if Donald Trump is truly mentally and morally fit to lead the nation for four more years. Any open-minded observer would have to admit that there are serious questions about the president’s fitness for another term in office. Consider the following recent events.

Three times in a week the president said his father was born in Germany when he obviously should know that he was born in New York. Was President Trump lying or has his memory deteriorated? (Trump even said he wanted to visit the area in Germany where his father was born.)

When talking about the “border crisis,” Trump claimed that only one percent of all asylum seekers ever return for a court hearing about their case after being released into the United States. All studies and government statistics prove clearly that the vast majority of asylum seekers actually do show up. Was the president lying or was he grossly misinformed? Should we expect either from our president?

The president also recently claimed that the sound created by windmills causes cancer. Is he grossly misinformed again, or was he just lying?

Even the president’s supporters have to admit that he says things that are not true as readily and as often as he says things that are true. Is this a trait Republicans actually want in a president? Also, why does the president consistently take the word of dictators over evidence presented by the U.S. intelligence community? And, why is his management style so chaotic? Are these traits we want in our president?

I believe the Republican Party has an obligation to the entire nation to do everything possible to make sure that the candidate it endorses for the most important and powerful office in the world is mentally and morally fit for that office.

He needs to be challenged in debates by his opponent(s) and the media about his lying, mental capacity and policies. By not encouraging a competitive primary, the GOP is, in essence, saying that Donald Trump is the best candidate for president the party has to offer. And that is a real shame.

About the Author

Jim Galloway
Jim Galloway
Jim Galloway is a three-decade veteran of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution who writes the Political Insider blog and column.