The GOP Establishment vs. Donald Trump
January 14, 2016
The commentariat has been besotted by illusion of the GOP establishment's opposition to Donald Trump's nomination. Of course some trepidation about his nomination is to be expected: he is not one of them. However, their feelings about Trump needs to be put in context.
The GOP has lost the last 5 out of 6 presidential elections. As no less an expert on GOP politics as Joe Scarborough has said, a loss this cycle will endanger the continued existence of the GOP as a national political party. With the stakes being so high in 2016, Republicans have pulled out all stops. They are seeking to (1) promote the Republican contender whom they consider to have the best of winning the general election; (2) sabotage the Democratic candidate they perceive to be the strongest with dirty linen; and (3) elevate the Democratic candidates they consider to weakest when competing against their nominee.
The GOP establishment's favorite candidate was undoubtedly Governor Jeb Bush. Governor Bush, however, has not performed well as a candidate in the early going, except in his ability to raise $100 million. By December, Governor Bush had spent more than any other candidate, about $40 million, but stood at only about 5% in the national polls.
As decidedly as Jeb Bush’s hopes for 2016 sank, Donald Trump’s expectations for the GOP nomination have risen. Mr. Trump has led the field of GOP contenders for all of seven months, although it has only been in the last few weeks that the GOP establishment has seemed to recognize Mr. Trump’s predominance. Donald Trump is a gifted entertainer and a remarkably effective communicator. He is also a bigoted nationalist who has not demonstrated that he is prepared for the sensitive and important task of being the President of the United States. Nonetheless, as the probability of Mr. Trump being nominated by the GOP increases, members of the GOP establishment are beginning to admit publicly that if he receives the nomination, then they will support him.
Although most members of the GOP establishment still refuse to admit that Mr. Trump is the likeliest candidate to receive the nomination, it is increasingly clear that, in fact, the GOP will support the nominee, even if it is Mr. Trump. The GOP establishment would undoubtedly prefer one of their own to receive the nomination, but they will accept Mr. Trump in order to win the presidency. Because Mr. Trump may prove to be a tougher opponent for Secretary Hillary Clinton than any of the other GOP contenders, a full-blown “stop Trump” effort may not materialize until the establishment becomes less ambivalent about what he can offer the GOP.
Secretary Clinton began her campaign for the Democratic nomination as the presumptive winner and odds on favorite to win the presidency. Republican hopes centered on wishing that domestic issues rather than international issues would take precedence in the election because of the weakness of their candidates in foreign policy. While some pundits made ominous warnings about Secretary Clinton’s weakness because of past Clinton scandals the GOP seemed to focus on finding new scandals. To drive her support down Republicans resurrected suspicions that as Secretary of State, she was somehow responsible for the deaths of four Americans at Benghazi. GOP House Whip, Kevin McCarthy, admitted as much in an interview on Fox news.
In addition, House Republicans used leaks to the mainstream media to raise the specter that Secretary Clinton either acted illegally or compromised national security when she used a private, rather than government, email service. As this gambit began to lose air because neither of these accusations could be sustained, the GOP turned to their second stratagem.
Before Vice-President Joe Biden announced that he was not going to run for the nomination, various Republican pundits went out of their way to praise Mr. Biden as someone that the Democratic Party needed, if not to be the nominee, then certainly as someone needed to compete against and ready Hillary Clinton for the general election. That Mr. Biden’s run would deprive his family of the support he could offer following the death of his son and that Mr. Biden’s run lacked both the rationale and the money did not deter these pundits.
The GOP establishment is rightly panicked that if Mr. Trump is nominated he will undermine other Republicans running for office in 2016 and will cause long-term harm to their party as their candidate, and even as President. Notwithstanding these fears, their concerns about losing another presidential election will drive them to pull out all stops to get Mr. Trump elected. (Watch for purged voter rolls, long lines, and vote totals that are inconsistent with turnout and exit polls.) The GOP establishment has created the environment of anger, hostility to government, and hatred toward other that he now flourishes in. The media, too, acknowledge their worry about his capability as they give him wall-to-wall exposure. The media and the GOP establishment have led the bull into the china shop and now can’t stop the damage.