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Republican presidential candidate and former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford holds a press conference while standing beside a life-size cutout of Donald Trump along with a large check for $1 trillion "pay to the order of burden of future generations" to protest canceled GOP primary. Andrew J. Whitaker/Staff

If you are a Republican in South Carolina, you should be more than bothered by the state Republican Party Executive Committee’s decision to cancel the South Carolina primary. This means that your voice in the 2020 political process was just knocked out.

In President Trump’s campaign, he promised to “drain the swamp” but if this isn’t a display of “politics as usual,” I don’t know what is. It is pure law of the jungle and brute force politics. Shutting down elections always is good for the incumbent and this benefits the president.

I understand the strategy, but the question for the rest of us as South Carolinians is whether it benefits us.

The answer is no, for three reasons.

First, each of us loses our voice and our right to vote. The idea of taking electioneering tactics from China and North Korea is in itself troubling, but the more practical question for each one of us rests in South Carolina’s historically unique status as the “first in the South” presidential primary. This has meant that candidates have crisscrossed our state many times as they attempt to connect with voters. They don’t bother to go to many other states with populations of the same size or greater, but doing so means that South Carolinians could go to town hall meetings and actually talk to candidates and the national press corps. As one who has run his share of races, I can say that those conversations matter. Those opportunities will now be lost with the Executive Committee’s decision to deny South Carolinians the chance to express their beliefs and views on the national stage. Sadly this chance comes only once every four years.

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Mark Sanford

Second, we lose collectively as a state. We are certainly a great people, but there are many talented individuals in different states across this country. Yet over and over again, our state has seen South Carolinians elevated to plum political assignments because of our “first in the South” primary. That includes former Gov. Jim Edwards as  secretary of energy under Ronald Reagan. Former Gov. Dick Riley became secretary of education under President Clinton. Former state House Speaker David Wilkins became ambassador to Canada. In the last election cycle, former Gov. Nikki Haley became U.N. ambassador, and Ed McMullen became the ambassador to Switzerland.

Certainly, each of these individuals was talented in his or her own right, but the question of talent lies in whether or not it has the chance to be recognized. Our early primary status gave us this opportunity. What this has in turn meant is that we have had profound influence in the decisions that get made in Washington based on the people that we sent there. This matters in money for the Port in Charleston, a federal pilot program in Marion County or a vendor selection in Anderson.

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Finally, there are issues at play in this election cycle that need our deliberation, discussion and focus. I’m running for president as a Republican to raise awareness of the enormity of the financial disaster our country faces and its impact on each one of us. We are walking our way toward the most predictable financial storm in the history of our nation. Our debt has seen the fastest increase in our nation’s history under this president, and his proposals on domestic discretionary spending put his budget about 20% above President Obama’s. We will now run a more than $1 trillion deficit this year, and we have never done that before under benign economic conditions. This president declared and promised to eliminate the debt over the eight years that he might be in office, and yet his own budgets propose raising the debt by $9 trillion over the next 10 years. These empty promises are worthy of a debate.

If you agree on these points, contact state GOP Chairman Drew McKissick.

What’s transpired here is an error in judgment by Executive Committee members and a neglect of their responsibilities to present all Republicans with a choice of candidates. They are breaking their own party rules to do this. And it’s never been about money, a point well made in a recent Post and Courier editorial. It is my hope that committee members will take it upon themselves to correct their decisions.

Mark Sanford is a Republican presidential candidate and a former South Carolina governor and 1st District congressman.