I am a former official of the Charleston County Republican Party and former chairman of the Charleston Young Republicans. I am a conservative and a Republican. I am also appalled at the decision of the South Carolina Republican Party for canceling the state’s 2020 presidential primary.

Emotionally, I became a Republican during President Ronald Reagan’s address following the Challenger explosion. Rationally, I became a conservative believer in free markets, free enterprise, free trade, and fiscal prudence while in college at UCLA. Finally, I became an American in 1999 during a naturalization ceremony promising to uphold the freedoms that make this country beautiful.

Why am I appalled at not having a primary? Because it is undemocratic, unconservative, and absolutely un-American.

Two reasons were given for canceling the primary. First, the South Carolina GOP wants to save $1.2 million of taxpayer money because there isn’t a “credible” opponent to President Donald Trump. That reasoning is based on polling showing the president at 90 percent approval within the GOP, and that made up the second reason.

Democracy and the right to vote are emotional subjects for me as a former resident of Iran, a country where you are told who to vote for.

If there was only one candidate for my party’s nomination and they wanted to save $1.2 million, sure. I, and many others, should accept that. But we have at least three candidates seeking a challenge. Trump is facing opposition from former Mass. Gov. Bill Weld, former Illinois Congressman Joe Walsh, and now, former S.C. Gov. Mark Sanford.

Essentially, our right to a democratic process as Republicans has had a price tag put on it: $1.2 million. Are you kidding? Some 49 state executive committeemen — one brave soul voted for a primary — have taken my right, and yours to vote. Not only that, but they’ve broken the South Carolina GOP charter promising members a vote as the first Southern primary after New Hampshire’s early contest.

Another reason given is that President Trump reportedly polls about 90 percent among South Carolina Republican voters. I’m not aware of any polls conducted on behalf of the Sanford camp, but I’m pretty sure in a head-to-head poll between Sanford and Trump, the latter wouldn’t be at 90 percent. That does not imply that Sanford would take all of the delegates in the state’s winner-take-all primary; but at least our voices would be heard. Isn’t that the point of democracy?

As a Republican, why am I not allowed to vote for the candidate of my choosing? If you haven’t noticed, I’m a little pissed.

Does the 123-word Republican Creed not matter anymore? What precedent will this decision set?

Are we letting the state party dictate who we vote for based on the opinion of 49 people? If that’s the case, how would you like to explain that to conservatives who want their voice heard through their right to vote?

How will the voice of fiscal conservatives who are outraged by a Republican president who is outspending his Democratic predecessor be heard?

How will conservatives who believe in free trade, for which President Reagan fought, have a voice?

How will conservatives who care about our way of approaching climate change, for which Sen. Lindsey Graham is fighting, have a voice?

Is Republicanism formally separating itself from Conservatism in South Carolina over $1.2 million?

In the hours following the SCGOP vote, I received outraged texts from friends I’ve tried to keep engaged with the party. One person even told me, “Well, I was a Republican in ’16, and after today they’re dead to me.” When I asked why, he said, “I know Trump will win the nomination, and I probably would have voted for him in the general election given the alternatives. But this isn’t right.”

Regardless of polls, I am a conservative and a Republican, and I’m appalled. But no one will be able to coerce me to vote for a candidate of the party’s choosing. After all, I live in a democracy now, right?

Rouzy Vafaie is a former Charleston County Republican Party leader.

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