The @GOP: Stuck in the Middle with Trump
Sunday, August 21st, 2016
By Reed Galen
Quote by a Smart Person: “Clowns to the left of, jokers to the right. Stuck in the middle with you.” Stealer’s Wheel/“Stuck in the Middle with You”
It wasn’t supposed to be this way. With a field of more than a dozen qualified candidates, a president they couldn’t beat on the way out the door, and a likely Democratic nominee who was damaged and unpopular, 2016 was going to the year the GOP retook the White House, held Congress and embarked on reversing eight years of Barack Obama. They had arranged the primary calendar as to avoid a Romney-like slog into the late spring. They’d cut down on the number of debates to ensure that campaigns didn’t have to do one a week and open their candidates to the possibility of a fatal mistake.
But it was not to be. In just six months, Donald Trump would transform himself from real estate mogul and reality TV star to the Republican Party’s tangerine nightmare and there was little that anyone could or would do about it. To ensure Trump would stay inside the Party’s tent, they asked the candidates to sign a loyalty pledge. Trump did them one better. Not only did he sign it, he had Chairman Reince Preibus go to New York and participate in a flashy show of the event, complete with a press conference.
Time and again The Donald broke every known rule of American political life — from his hard line on immigration to insulting Senator John McCain over his seven years in captivity to initiating that Fox News anchor (and debate moderator) Megyn Kelly had asked him tough questions because, perhaps, and some people say this, maybe she was, you know having women’s troubles. All this happened before Labor Day 2015.
The Republican National Committee is not a public organization. It is a political party with its own rules, is privately funded, and exists for the purposes of electing candidates that fit within its ideological framework. Donald Trump represented RINO Prime: a man who held few, if any traditional conservative views yet consistently out-thought and out-fought a lethargic and sclerotic GOP establishment that could not understand with what they’re were dealing and would not take him directly to task for his words and deeds.
This hesitancy may prove lethal to the modern Republican Party. The GOP’s fight or flight instinct failed it miserably. Like a patient whose sympathetic nervous system has been damaged, it could neither stand and defend itself against an attacker, nor flee fast enough to put enough distance between itself and the predator to live to fight another day. Now Republicans across the country are backed into a corner with a crazed bear blocking their only escape. Hold still and he may eat you. Try and run and he will surely attack.
Thousands of articles have been written about how Republicans missed the disaffection among its voters that allowed Donald Trump’s rise. Thousands more will be written about Trump’s long-term effects on the GOP. Regardless of what happens on Election Day, Republican leaders will have to take honest stock of themselves and decide who they are and what they believe. All the talk of “purges” and “recriminations” that are sure to come in 2017 continue to miss the overall: those fights will be among party elders, consultants and politicians.
The lifelong Republican voter sitting at home does not, and will not care, what a bunch of people inside the Beltway have to say about one another. While County Chairs and uber-consultants duke it out in committee meetings and the Washington Post, the man or woman who was so fed up by the process that they turned to a wraith like Donald Trump as their savior will turn further away from Republican politicians and conservative ideals. As they watch GOP poobahs argue over money and ideology, all ultimately for their own benefit, why wouldn’t voters look out for themselves as well?
The White House, control of the United States Senate and the Republican margin in the US House are imperiled by Donald Trump’s ascendance as GOP standard-bearer. His statements are typically offensive or nonsensical. His policy positions, if they can be found, are rooted in early 1940s nativism. Trump’s power is derived from the anger of his followers — a not insignificant portion of the American people as a whole. The latest iteration of Trump’s campaign leadership has more contempt for the GOP than any Democrat ever could. While it will be easiest to blame Trump for the political bloodbath that is headed Republicans’ way in November, that is a cop-out.
Trump is not the cause of Republican decline, nor is he a symptom of it. The GOP has been hemorrhaging voters and support at the national level for years. Like a person who has dedicated themselves to eating fried chicken three meals a day and washing it down with a bottle of vodka, the Republican Party became a ripe target for a viral agent like Donald Trump. When the time came for the GOP body politic to defend itself, its ability to do so had long passed. Now the once-proud elephant lays on its side, gasping for breath as it is attacked both from within and without.
With less than 80 days to go before American voters choose their next leader, the GOP remains in neutral, as it has been the entire election cycle. If they cut Donald Trump loose and focus on saving the US Senate, Trump will firebomb the establishment as he did in the primaries. If they draw him closer, hoping that his (dubious) ability to raise money can help them save a few down ballot seats, they could watch the whole Republican superstructure, in place for decades, implode.
Copyright 2016. Jedburghs, LLC.