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It’s a word that gets thrown around with more frequency than anyone would really care to know. For some it means, “Those who will not commit political suicide,” while for others it means, “Those who have no spine.” But despite being near useless in explaining who is at the top of the Republican Party, the word “establishment” does have a meaning, and it does have members. The power of the establishment is debatable. On one hand, the performance of the national party inside Washington DC is more than capable of being orchestrated by these select few. After all, what good is having a leadership apparatus if it cannot exert some form of influence within its own sphere. However, on the other hand, it’s powerless to influence individuals like you or me to do anything when it comes to campaigns, including vote, if you do not succumb to their efforts. I will explain this.
First, the political establishment is made up of the folks one might expect. These would be the people in high positions of power in the Republican National Committee (RNC) and the leadership positions in the House and Senate. So yes, Reince Priebus and Sharon Day, the second in command at the RNC, would fit this description. We all know about Priebus, but who is Sharon Day? Day is someone described by the Florida paper The Sun-Sentinel as an “uber [sic] Republican.” She hails from Florida, obviously, and was elected to the number-two spot in 2011. She stays behind the scenes mostly, speaking to dedicated GOP crowds during elections, and trying to wash the smears of “War on Women” off of the GOP. Since she is from Florida, it is hard to imagine that she has not had close contact to folks like Jeb Bush or Marco Rubio, but that is pure conjecture and not enough to go on to claim that she is secretly a leftist, as many wish to paint the Establishment as being.
The Establishment members at the RNC are in charge of one thing: get Republicans elected to federal office. To the extent that they succeed in this or not is dependent on raising money. Individual donors such as you are probably not where they are gathering most of their funds for campaigns, so they must go elsewhere. Groups like the US Chamber of Commerce or private businesses such as Boeing are where the RNC garner their war chests. For the Chamber, these donations are given directly to the candidates, as depicted by the campaign finance watchdog website Open Secrets. However, the same individuals who donate to these candidates and PACs can very easily give to the National Committee. Conjecture? Sure, but sometimes assumptions have more truth to them than not. The Chamber of Commerce has made its goal for 2016 defeating Conservatives in the House and in the Senate.
Now the political leadership. The political leadership, we all know their names, but do we know their actions or their purpose? Like the RNC, these folks must get re-elected, but unlike the RNC they also have to move legislation through Congress, or stop bad legislation from getting through it. This second part is where they get into the most trouble. I am sure we have heard many times how the elected leadership constantly seeks to pass legislation that is more bad the good in the hopes of getting it out of the way, so they can focus on lower-hanging fruit in political battles that they claim to be able to win. Sometimes they do not even attempt to win battles for that low- hanging fruit, they just keep on trying to pass bad bills such as the Import-Export Bank. Who likes the Im-Ex Bank, as it is known? Read the previous paragraph.
Finally, we arrive at how the Establishment gets its message out. The RNC has a responsibility to get the message of the Party out to the people, but, human nature being what it is, when you see or hear something with the official stamp of “POLITICAL PARTY,” it is difficult imagine that message carrying any weight.So political parties must rely on talking heads in the media who carry with them a certain amount of intellectual clout to explain the process in a message that does not have the taint of “paid for by the Republican National Committee.” This is not to say that these folks do not believe in what they are saying. The most certainly do. But more importantly, they all think in terms of what is best for the country and what can win. The people who make up this cadre are George Will, Charles Krauthammer, David Brooks, and Bill Kristol.
It’s easy to dismiss this aspect of the premise, but messaging is a key component to politics and the Establishment understands this like no other when it comes to what strategy to employ when battling the Left or what candidates are acceptable or electable in a given election cycle. The four men listed above do a good job telling us what strategies will work and which ones will not. Recall just this week, when the GOP House announced that it will seek to impeach IRS head John Koskinen, that it was both George Will and Charles Krauthammer who said this will go nowhere, although with differing opinions as to whether or not to do it. Some of you might say that this is a rather disjointed message for two members of the same Establishment, but it is important to keep in mind that they both acknowledge that it will go nowhere which will give the cover to the Senate side of the Establishment to vote against it or not even bring it up.
This is but one example of how this works. Another example is foreign policy, and on most major foreign policy issues, all four, Will, Kristol, Brooks, and Krauthammer, have sounded the same alarms on Obama and international relations. Also, take a look at how they regard the possibility of a Trump candidacy in the GOP presidential primary. One might say that they are simply applying the voice of reason, but they have applied this voice with every top tier candidate not named Bush or Rubio. This election cycle it appears that the Base of the GOP is just not listening.
It is true that the Establishment does not sit around and pick the candidate with no input from voters. Rob Long is absolutely correct, we do pick our candidate. However, he is wrong to think that this is done in a vacuum, or that there is no outside influence steering the voters into what choice to make at the polls. There is a concerted effort by the Establishment, each cycle, to see to it that the right people get the nomination and that the right people implement the right strategy. To think that this does not happen is naive, simply and utterly naive. This is how politics works.
The GOP Establishment is hoping to influence you to support candidates and ideas that will not get them lambasted in the leftist press, and you can see it in the comments here on Ricochet that this influence has worked. We have people worried that Ted Cruz will get tarnished with being “for Wall Street,” yet believe that Marco Rubio will not receive the same treatment. Or that any loss by a Republican after 2013 was the result of a partial government shutdown, despite ample evidence from left-wing media that the loss had nothing to do with the shutdown, for they themselves did not tout it.
If conservatives are going to change the thinking of the GOP Establishment, we are going to have to change the leadership in its respected segments. It will do no good to just gain one or two slots here or there, because the rest of the Establishment will set out to hamper, influence, or outright destroy the people in those positions — just ask Ted Cruz or Ken Cuccinelli or Richard Murdoch of Indiana or Joe Miller of Alaska. The Establishment does have one major obstacle, and it gets back to what Rob Long always says: At the end of the day, it is we the People who select our candidates. We just have to be sure that we can see through the Establishment camouflage when we make our pick.