Romney May Be the End of the Line for the Republican Establishment

So writes Scott Rasmussen in an article today at Rasmussen Reports. Rasmussen makes several points in his piece. First, he notes that the gap between Republicans and Democrats is small compared to the gap between the self-anointed “elites” in the Washington Establishment of both parties (that would be the people who got us into this mess) and the American people over whom they wish to lord (that would be us serfs out here in flyover country who pay the bills they rack up):

Mitt Romney’s comments about 47 percent of Americans being dependent on government and locked in to vote for President Obama highlight a fundamental reality in American politics today: The gap between the American people and the political class is bigger than the gap between Republicans and Democrats in Washington, D.C.

Romney’s remarks are the GOP equivalent of Obama’s notorious comments about small-town Pennsylvania voters bitterly clinging to their guns and religion.

Both Romney and Obama highlighted the condescending attitude that political elites hold of the people they want to rule over. A National Journal survey found that 59 percent of political insiders don’t think voters know enough to have meaningful opinions on the important issues of the day. That’s a handy rationalization for those who want to ignore the voters and impose their own agenda.

Rasmussen continues by noting that the Republican Establishment is in a far more precarious position vis-a-vis their base than their Democrat Establishment counterparts. This is not surprising given that Democrats believe Obama’s fictitious “Julia” character, who’s dependent on government from cradle to grave, is the ideal role model to which we all should aspire. Democrat voters, therefore, are more amenable to a paternal government doling out a few crumbs so they can eke out a meager living, hitting the lottery their only chance to get ahead. Republicans, on the other hand, are far less likely to accept the bleak, demeaning lifestyle of government addiction, and are consequently far less tolerant of a party establishment which treats them like children who are unable to fend for themselves:

In the nation’s capital, this gap creates bigger problems for Republicans than Democrats. Democratic voters tend to think that their representatives in Congress do a decent job representing them. That’s because Democrats are a bit more comfortable with the idea of government playing a leading role in American society. However, 63 percent of Republican voters believe their representatives in Washington are out of touch with the party base.

Rasmussen next points out that there is little difference between Establishment Republicans and Establishment Democrats when it comes to crony capitalism. Democrats send billions of taxpayer provided dollars to their favored constituencies (Solyndra, public employee unions, etc.) and Republicans subsidize their own (farm bills, defense contractors, etc.). Many of these favored industries receive money from both parties (see Wall Street). Its one thing to be pro-free market, and quite another to be pro-business. This is a point Governor Palin has been making all along, and a cause which the Washington Establishment has been eager to sweep under the rug.

Establishment Republicans in Washington broadly share the Democrats’ view that the government should manage the economy. They may favor a somewhat more pro-business set of policies than their Democratic colleagues, but they still act as if government policy is the starting point for all economic activity.

Republican voters reject this view. They are more interested in promoting free market competition rather than handing out favors to big business. They detest corporate welfare and government bailouts, even though their party leaders support them.

The GOP base sees government as a burden that weighs the private sector down rather than a tool that can generate growth if used properly. Ninety-six percent of Republican voters believe that the best thing the government can do to help the economy is to cut spending and free up more money for the private sector.

That last statistic highlights the yawning divide between Republican voters and Washington Republicans. Though Rasmussen doesn’t provide any data, I’m guessing that the proportion of Republican insiders who share this view is far less than 96%. Republican insiders are no more favorably disposed to ceding power back to the people than Democrat insiders, and to seriously cut spending would result in exactly that.

Rasmussen continues by citing the key difference between Ronald Reagan and the sorry lot of Republican Establishment candidates who’ve been nominated since  — and offering a prediction:

The Republican base is looking for someone like a 21st century Ronald Reagan, who will display his faith in the American people. The Washington Republicans are more comfortable with politicians like George W. Bush, Bob Dole, John McCain and Mitt Romney. Though the establishment has dominated the party since Reagan left the White House, the 2012 election could well be the end of the line.

He’s exactly right. Reagan trusted the people … and the people trusted him. It was a presidency based on mutual respect, and the country rewarded him with a landslide re-election victory of historical proportions. Does anyone remember this?

The Establishment Republicans, who’ve run the party since 1989, obviously do not. The concept of limited, constitutional government preferred by their base is anathema to their power. They’re answer: screw the base. I’m convinced it’s because they’d rather lose elections with moderates they can control than win with conservatives they can’t. Even though their party is out of power, this arrangement still allows them a cushy, inside-the-beltway existence. Limited power but no real responsibilities.

Could this be the end of the line for them, as Rasmussen suggests? I sure hope so. It couldn’t happen to a more deserving group of guys. I really do believe that if the Republican Establishment foists another stiff (like those mentioned above) on the Republican base in the next election cycle, they’ll revolt and Governor Palin’s warning about the GOP going the way of the Whigs may well come to fruition. Rasmussen closes out his piece by taking a look at a couple alternative scenarios that could play out after November:

If Romney loses in November, the Republican base will no longer buy the electability argument for an establishment candidate. From the view of the base, the elites will have given away an eminently winnable election. Someone new, from outside of Washington, will be the party’s nominee in 2016.

I’m not quite as optimistic as Rasmussen on this point. On the one hand, McCain was also an establishment favorite in 2008 running at least partially on the electability argument … and he lost. On the other hand, lending credence to Rasmussen’s point, McCain had a much tougher election to win given the financial meltdown, the unpopularity of Bush, and the unprecedented media adoration of Obama. In 2012, given his disastrous record, Obama should be down by double digits in his re-election campaign. But he’s not. In fact he’s up four points in today’s RCP average. So on balance, Rasmussen has an excellent point: the electability argument won’t wash in 2016 if Romney loses an election he should win going away, but can’t because he’s unable to challenge Obama on ideological grounds because he and his ilk in the Establishment have no consistent ideology other than their desire for power. And if the Mittster wins?

If Romney wins and does nothing to change the status quo, the economy will falter. He will end up as the second straight one-term president, and the nation will desperately be searching for an authentic outsider in 2016.

It’s always been my argument that a President Romney will indeed do nothing to significantly change the status quo, and Republicans will give up all the gains they made in the 2010 midterms in the 2014 midterms, leaving the GOP in worse shape in 2016 than they were in 2008, a point I attempted to make almost a year ago. Can you say President Hillary Clinton? That would almost certainly spell the end of the Republican Party as we know it. Either conservatives will rise up and take the GOP back from the Establishment, or the Republicans will be consigned to the ash heap of history and a new conservative party will emerge based on the principles of limited, self-government and fiscal responsibility. And there’s no doubt who my choice would be to lead that new conservative party.

There would be a certain amount of irony in all of this. The Republican Establishment chose Romney to perpetuate their hold on power because they know he won’t make any material changes to the way things are done in Washington. He was their guy all along, and they did everything they could to grease the skids for him. Wouldn’t it be apt, then, if the Mittster becomes the proximate cause of their demise? That’s what I’d call poetic justice.



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