In defense of the GOP “Establishment”

This post needs to be said because of the shrill rhetoric against an amorphous bogeyman.

The Establishment stands in for the failure of “strong” and “true” conservatives who have lost the last two elections and didn’t win the popular vote with Bush in 2000 and that can’t read America accurately (so they will continue to lose until the do).

This post updates and corrects the article when it appeared at American Thinker on Feb. 3, 2016.

When you were a rowdy teen, your parents were the Establishment (whatever that is). Now that you’re a parent, what are you? The anti-establishment, cool parent? Not likely.

Rather, you’re a grownup who tries to keep the peace in your discordant household; who tries to negotiate among self-interested, imperfect family members who have competing goods and goals; and who tries to instill a long-range vision for the future in your desire-ridden family who wants instant self-gratification.

Welcome to the Establishment. You’re a bona fide member now.

Here’s a defense of the amorphous, ill-defined, notional Establishment, as I see it, if it even exists in organized reality.

  1. The Establishment believes the Constitution says good government grinds slowly and finely.

What happens when the government is divided? It grinds even more slowly and finely.

This frustrates and angers the anti-establishmentarians. Solution? Throw rocks at their own side?

The best way to break the gridlock is to stop angrily tilting at Establishment windmills and win the White House in 2016 by focusing on the DNC.

  1. The Establishment sees that America is center-right, not hard right.

This has been said before, but let’s take it in another direction. Starting off, let’s imagine that twenty-five percent of the electorate self-identifies as liberal and thirty-three percent as conservative.

What about the forty-two percent? (We could break them down further, but let’s not get complicated in a post like this.)

They wait and see. They’re easily spooked. And the Establishment wisely knows a significant percentage of them always decide presidential elections.

The Grand Illusion, typically perpetrated by the anti-Establishment radio talkers as a class (with some exceptions): it is easier to drag the persuadable forty-two percent to the hard right than it is to bring them center-right.

Brute Reality, typically perpetrated by the Establishment: society doesn’t work that way. It moves by degrees. It is easier to coax the forty-two percent toward the center-right.

  1. The Establishment believes it is better to win elections.

That’s the main goal of political parties. The DC GOP Establishment needs to build a big coalition among competing members in society and win elections with as many voters from the forty-two percent as the Establishment can muster.


  1. The Establishment looks for candidates who can realistically appeal to the easily scared forty-two percent.

How many anti-establishment, “true” conservatives who primaried the Establishment candidates in statewide or House elections actually won? Precious few.

The right candidate: the man who lifts people up, doesn’t traffic in anger, knows the issues cold, projects a positive, smiling, friendly image—so important among the Selfie voters—doesn’t scare away Hispanic voters, and can work with other members of the Washington Establishment.

Who? Easy. Rubio. But will the Establishment get credit when (not if) he rises and wins the nomination and the White House (but only after confusion)? Of course not.

It’ll get blamed for mysteriously blocking Trump or Cruz—the shutdown artist—both of whom are tapping into a small, angry subset of the thirty-three percent (and a little from the forty-two) and who therefore could never win the calmer, rational swing voters among the forty-two.

Something about nominating the most electable conservative comes to mind (WFB).

Am I saying Rubio is a moderate or centrist? Am I saying he’s an official member of the Establishment? No, I’m not. Rather, I’m saying he’s the only candidate who has the greatest chance of drawing the most voters to the GOP among the forty-two percent, because of his tone and image. Politically and substantively, he’s a conservative.

Image counts more than substance nowadays.

  1. The Establishment celebrates Guy Fawkes’ failure.

In 1605 he loaded Parliament’s basement with gunpowder to blow it up during the first session with King James present. The plot was discovered and foiled.

Americans generally and most of the forty-two percent specifically don’t like explosive politics. Obama, the Quiet Radical, moved too fast. His party lost the House in 2010, almost lost the Senate in 2012, and finally did in 2014.

So what makes anti-establishmentarians think they can win over the forty-two percent with explosive candidates like tough-talker Christie, over-the-top pious loner Cruz, or erratic Trump?

A variation on the Grand Illusion.

  1. The Establishment believes that incrementalism is the only way to retransform America.

In a huge, extended family, which society is somewhat like, it is best to be a peacemaker, negotiator and visionary (not that those standoffish cousins or feisty brother will listen to you). It is bad to act like a tyrant and impose law and order from on high. You must move slowly, incrementally to keep the majority of the family coalition together.

Liberals have been smart, it must be conceded. After eighty-five years of the steady growth of government, wandering far from what the Founders envisioned, Americans by and large now like the state—perhaps even a big one (except when it hurts their self-interest as Obamacare does). Liberals have gradually transformed America with lots of speeches about how the big state will benefit people and how the private and public sectors need to “work together.”

But even when FDR moved too quickly, he was rebuffed (e.g. attempting to pack the Supreme Court).

So how comes it that anti-establishmentarians believe that if they perform lipo on obese Uncle Sam with a rusty, smoky chainsaw, they can win elections?

Yet another variation on the Grand Illusion.

  1. The Establishment acts like you and me—a realistic, mistake-prone grownup.

Each human is imperfect—including you and me. We can’t see all the factors swirling around us and make the perfect decision, so we act badly out of ignorance (Socrates / Plato); and we act badly out of our selfish sin nature, which is not the same as ignorance (Christian doctrine).

Ignorance and sin. Toxic. Lethal.

Yes, under Bush the GOP leaders shouldn’t have grown government so much. They shouldn’t have racked up the debt.  Maybe they acted out their inability to see all the factors (as if we can). And maybe they have been moved by selfishness (you and I often are).

At least the leaders, under Boehner, have recently reduced the deficit. Under Speaker Ryan and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell they have sent bills to the White House defunding Planned Parenthood and dismantling Obamacare, and so on. (Predictably, he vetoed them.)

Let’s wrap this up.

In your family you tried to lay down the law on your wife or husband. Maybe you’ve even thrown a fit—how did that work out?

Now, however, growing in your family skills, you calmed down and became more “established” in your methods.

You’ve kept the family together as best as you can. You have not killed your recalcitrant son or daughter. To boot, you get along well enough with your extended family, though you learned the hard way, sadly, that you can’t please all of them.

You’ve done a pretty good dang job. You’ve become a peacemaker, negotiator, and visionary for the huge family.

I say the imperfect, DC GOP Establishment, if it exists in organized reality, has the most difficult job in politics. And I say they have done it well enough in the face of the Quiet Radical from the left and “true” conservatives from the right.

It’s time to drop the anger and unite in the Grand—as in big and great, the party of Lincoln—Old Party, both “Establishment” and anti-Establishment, and win in November.


Twelve reasons to vote for Rubio;

Five reasons not to vote for Ted Cruz;

Ten reasons not to vote for Trump;

Figuring Trump out culturally;

How conservatives can finally read America accurately (for a change);

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