Sunday, May 1st, 2016
By Reed Galen
Quote by a Smart Person: “When nothing is owed or deserved or expected
And your life doesn't change by the man that's elected
If you're loved by someone, you're never rejected
Decide what to be and go be it.” - Avett Brothers - Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise
Next Contest: Indiana
Welcome to the American Singularity.
The crest of the Trump for President wave reached new heights with The Donald’s clean sweep last week. In response, Ted Cruz’s campaign went to red alert and rolled out Carly Fiorina as the Texas senator’s running mate in an attempt to stem Trump’s momentum and change the race’s dynamics before this week’s (now proclaimed) pivotal Indiana primary. As Cruz began building his Hoosier State Alamo, many in the Republican professional class (yours truly included) began once again preparing for a Trump nomination ahead of Cleveland’s GOP convention. Last week wasn’t the first such realization, but with primary season coming to an end next month, Trump’s path, barring significant losses in upcoming contests, appears as clear as it has been. Ted Cruz’s journey, meanwhile, seems destined to end short of his goal, newly minted running mate or not.
My Friend Isn’t My Enemy’s Enemy (Enough) So He’s My Enemy
Several strata of the Republican party have splintered in the last year. Voters have rejected the Establishment and their preferred candidates. The Establishment itself has been unable to move in concert or in earnest to stop Donald Trump or even understand how he came to be. Those within the Republican elite have divided into three groups: The forces of the #NeverTrump army, those who have decided to join forces with Trump and those in the middle - unaffiliated with any of the campaigns, disdainful of Trump and his bombast and actually willing to admit that, for better or worse (likely worse) Donald will be the GOP nominee in the fall.
Trump will carry the Republican banner in the fall. That is my opinion and analysis based on what we’ve seen to date. That is not rocket science. But my belief that he will be the likely nominee does not equate to acceptance of him as qualified for the office, good for the country or good for the GOP. There are those, however, that see this belief as some sort of surrender. Nothing can be further from the truth. He has managed to co-opt the primary process, but that is much the fault of the Establishment as anyone’s. The irony is that it is normally the activist class of the party, or hardliners that demand purity in all things. Now, the roles have reversed. For some, if you’re not just #NeverTrump, but blindly so and forever, you’ve knuckled under.
If Trump runs against Hillary Clinton, as now seems likely, he will be crushed in the Electoral College. Yes, there are states in which he may be more competitive than some might expect, but ultimately his brand of politics will drive Democrats to the polls in droves and leave many moderate Republicans and conservative independents either staying home or holding their noses for Clinton. And there are real consequences for down ballot races in the US Senate and House. But making that argument to an angry primary voter appears self-serving. They don’t believe the House or Senate have looked after them up to now, what difference does it make who’s in charge of it? We've given you majorities and what have you done with them? They're waiting for an answer.
And next January, as First Lady turned Senator turned Secretary of State Hillary Clinton completes her political evolution and is sworn in as President, Republicans and conservatives will look around at the battered remains of their movement and decide which way to go. There will likely be terrible internecine battles as each side tries to reassert its dominance over the party. Both sides of the argument have things to offer and things to learn. But that process, of attempting to restitch a viable conservative party back into a winning electoral machine will not be easy nor quick.
A Long Time Coming
The environment in which Donald Trump is succeeding did not develop overnight. Republicans have the seeds of populism, nativism and disdain for the Establishment in their DNA; whether those inside the Beltway choose to believe it or not. Republicans opposed American involvement in World War 1. America Firsters (apparently the framework of Trump's foreign policy) wanted nothing to do with World War 2. Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, Pat Buchanan and the Tea Party movement of the last six years represent those people outside traditional power structures rising up to make their voices heard. Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are carrying the torch for millions of Republican and conservative voters who feel disassociated from the process and are in many ways, returning to their ideological roots.
Only Ronald Reagan was able to bend the process to his will and reframe the country in the terms of his vision. But as you discard one Establishment, you build a new one. His lasted for the better part of 30 years, ending not with Bill Clinton’s election in 1992, but with that of Barack Obama in 2008. And in response to Obama's ascension, the grassroots of the right began deepening their roots and expanding their reach. No longer just angry and fist-waving, they began electing their own in earnest in 2010, 2012, and 2014. Not just at the Federal level, but in statehouses across the country, newly elected members are as conservative and anti-government as they’ve been in recent memory.
The voters that nominated both John McCain and Mitt Romney, ultimately found them wanting (as did the country) and this year, rejected their 2016 analogs. The Jeb Bushes and Marco Rubios of the world are gone. Left in the wreckage of this unprecedented primary are Trump and Cruz - 180 degrees away in many respects to anyone the GOP has nominated since Reagan in 1980 or Goldwater in 1964. What we’re seeing is no accident. And it is not simply a matter of Washington politicians not being conservative enough. Washington conservatives don’t stand on principle, are too eager to compromise and don’t look after Joe American. There is truth in all those things. And as Trump and Cruz voters watch Official Washington fawn over itself this weekend with the annual White House Correspondents Dinner, it’s not hard to imagine them reading their phones or watching the news and saying, “See, I told you. They’re all part of the same club and we’re not invited.”