If you listen hard enough, you can just hear the backroom whispers now.
“We’ve got to take a bigger role in the next round of primaries to ensure that ignorant average citizens don’t choose un-electable candidates again. The Republican Party can’t afford to have another Christine O’Donnell, Judge Roy Moore, Hershel Walker, Blake Masters or Mehmet Oz in 2024. The grassroots doesn’t care about winning – and their input just spoils the soup.”
Of course, the ones doing the murmuring are consultants, pollsters, lobbyists and the upper echelon of the GOP’s leadership, the self-appointed experts who make the rounds collecting big checks and therefore assume they know what’s best for everyone. They’re mostly lumped together inside the term “establishment”, but their dominance goes much deeper than that. They want swamp bodies in the legislative seats, and they don’t care what they have to do to get them.
In a piece titled “Establishment Republicans worried about repeating 2022 mistakes”, Ryan King reported at The Washington Examiner:
“As Republicans try to recoup from their 2022 midterm losses, party leaders are at odds over how to address the GOP's electability problem.
“Senate leadership has been adamant that the party's goal must be to win across the board in 2024, but the anti-tax Club for Growth is seeking to elevate fiscal conservatism and even meddling in early primaries to achieve wins next cycle. The developments highlight a growing rift between top Republicans and the influential conservative group.
“Already, the Club for Growth has managed to alienate both Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and former President Donald Trump, two fierce political rivals. The group publicly chastised McConnell as a member of the ‘establishment Republicans’ and snubbed Trump at a donor retreat, drawing his fury. Most notably, the group has begun drawing battle lines in Republican primaries that are seemingly at odds with the National Republican Senatorial Committee in at least three states: West Virginia, Montana, and Ohio.”
The Club for Growth doesn’t always choose great-on-paper candidates, but they do their research and opt for the ones who stand apart from the establishment. The Club came out against Trump in the presidential primary because of the former president’s lukewarm-at-best commitment to fiscal conservatism. These things tend to work themselves out over time. But will 2024 be different? I can’t imagine, if Trump wins the nomination, that the Club will stay silent or go with the Democrat. That’s a no-brainer.
Other than that, here we go again. It used to be the “electability” term never applied to Democrats because it was presumed that they were all true believing liberals to some degree, so merely being a Democrat guaranteed that they could win elections. Republicans were the ones who had to scratch their eyes out worrying about whether a local or state candidate could win on Election Day.
Bernie Sanders brought the concept of “electability” to Democrats, though the term still primarily relates to Republicans. Establishment elites like Karl Rove are notorious for hanging around party headquarters meeting rooms so they can flash their statistics on a white board and dazzle the suits with election predicters and forecasts for probably every race in the country.
That’s what parties do – they strive to win elections. Most of the upper tier crowd couldn’t care less about what a candidate believes or whether they’re intending to reverse rotten current trends. Just show me the scoreboard, baby! Establishment members don’t identify as the type but they sure enjoy being photographed together with serious looks on their faces – and don’t ever feel constrained by the truth and facts.
In all of this, perhaps it’s not entirely clear what anyone means when they talk about “the establishment”? Wikipedia tried defining it: “In sociology and in political science, the term The Establishment describes the dominant social group, the élite who control a polity, an organization, or an institution. In the praxis of power, The Establishment usually is a self-selecting, closed élite entrenched within specific institutions — hence, a relatively small social class can exercise all socio-political control.”
Not a bad effort to nail down the term, but I believe, over the course of time, the political establishment, at least in American politics, are the ones who control the money and the power. Everyone who’s not in the establishment isn’t necessarily a rebel, outsider or, gulp, an insurgent, but if you’re not one of the brains deciding on allocation of resources, patronage positions, issue influences or strategy for the party, chances are you’re not getting a lot of invites to fancy cocktail receptions or admittance to the proverbial backroom “negotiations” taking place over party priorities, either.
Put it this way, Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene is probably the poster child for anti-establishment these days. Her face is well-known and some in the establishment media seem open to putting her on TV, but only because they hope she’ll say something kooky like advocating for a “national divorce” or decrying the living conditions of the hated J6 prisoners, which the ruling class has already deemed guilty of sedition deserving of long prison sentences – or the death penalty.
In this country, the Washington political establishment is sometimes referred to as the “Uniparty” which is made up of elites from both parties who cooperate on certain subjects, like the Iraq War (remember how Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton both voted to authorize it?) or, more contemporarily, subsidizing Ukraine in the country’s regional conflict with Russia (the invader).
The establishment loves war because it provides them an excuse to toss large sums of taxpayer money at causes that many (if not most) “common” folks oppose. Remember how Mitch McConnell said that the most important issue in the world today was supporting Ukraine? Similarly, president senile Joe Biden, on his trip to Eastern Europe, vowed to help the Ukrainians for “as long as it takes”.
Establishment “Uniparty” members also frequently join arms to back “bipartisan” legislation such as Omnibus (which must be establishment-speak for “No one reads it”) budgets, continuing resolutions, debt ceiling increases without concessions, and, at least prior to Joe Biden’s presidency, huge and wasteful COVID federal spending to pay people not to work (where not a single Republican voted for Biden’s unnecessary cash cow).
The establishment also generally agrees on enormous “infrastructure” bills because it sounds nice on campaign commercials to tout how each politician can “work across the aisle” to “get things done.” Yes, that’s it – the establishment “gets things done”.
Therein lies the crux of the issue for preeminence in the Republican Party. The Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan types want candidates who will step foot in Congress and rubberstamp the current leadership of each chamber without demanding any kind of commitment to principle. The establishment loves the status quo, and members or senators who step out of line are usually severely punished, since the party elites know what’s best for the big donors.
The grassroots, the ones with the votes, often get stepped on when the establishmentarians meet to select candidates who will perpetuate the malaise. We then hear things like “Candidate quality matters” and “Such and such wasn’t electable” when really they meant, if the voters of state or district X decide to elevate a “wacko bird” (John McCain’s term for conservative boat-rockers and constitutional textualists), then we’re not going to give them endorsements or money to run a viable campaign.
In essence, the establishmentarians make it a self-fulfilling prophecy that said candidate isn’t electable. Conservatives have seen it happen too many times to disregard it as coincidence. Good candidates selected in on-the-level primaries lose in the general election because the ruling elites didn’t kick in help with resources in time.
In 2022, one of the most egregious sellouts of a principled conservative candidate took place in Washington (state), with outspoken leadership threat Joe Kent narrowly losing to his Democrat opponent because GOP leaders wouldn’t honor their commitment to providing resources in the final weeks of Kent’s campaign, just when it was needed most. For the record, Kent is running again in 2024.
It’s also well-known that “Turtle” Mitch McConnell starved Arizona conservative Blake Masters of vital money to help in his effort, but poured millions into the coffers of RINO Senator Lisa Murkowski, who was basically running against another Republican (Kelly Tshibaka). Murkowski ended up winning and the Washington establishment secured a “yes” vote for another six years.
The GOP senate leadership always chooses candidates who are regarded as so-called “moderates” believing them to be more appealing to centrist and independent voters. Democrats never worry about such things. Look at Pennsylvania in 2022. The Democrat establishment stepped aside as party voters opted for a half-brained stroke victim who couldn’t speak or campaign (John Fetterman).
Republicans should look for candidates who enjoy the most grassroots support, or simply stay out of primaries and let the people decide. Local and state residents know the candidates and the issues that are most important to them, not arrogant and egotistical “pros” who only care about majorities for guaranteeing pork and favors.
In every campaign season, you win some and you lose some. Getting wrapped-up in promoting “electable” candidates is a losing proposition. If the voters believe the establishment is butting in – again – they won’t do the work to get that person elected. There’s two-sides to the “candidate quality” coin, and the elites must be shown who’s boss in next year’s primary contests.
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2024 presidential election