The Establishment’s Path to Victory
(Originally published in February 2016)
The Republican primaries are once again a civil war between the so-called grassroots (those who seek genuine representation in a representative republic) and the Party establishment (those who believe representation is their innate privilege, and that the grassroots should just bend over and be “represented”). This time around, however, we are witnessing the full roll-out of the Party bigwigs’ new strategy for victory in these increasingly establishment-hostile times: grassroots identity theft.
Prior to 2008, the line separating the GOP’s two factions was clear. Voters could know when or whether they were voting for the establishment or the grassroots—the entrenched power apparatus or the Constitution, paternalism or natural rights, Bush or Reagan. Even when, as was often the case, there was no serious anti-establishment candidate, voters for whom the status quo was unsatisfactory could at least see what they were up against.
Since 2008, however, things have changed. The combination of Bush’s compassionate cronyism and Obama’s Marxism finally pushed America to a breaking point that roused the conservative grassroots to throw off the chains of “electability” and “compromise” once and for all, and to demand principled elected representatives, come hell or high water. For their courage and steadfastness, they have thus far been rewarded with both hell and high water.
The hell, of course, is a second Obama term assisted in all its subversions by congressional Republicans willing to sell their souls and their nation’s future for committee memberships and a chance to meet Mark Zuckerberg personally. The more insidious result, however, is the high water: the GOP establishment’s brilliant propaganda strategy to drown the principled resistance in a flood of fake constitutionalist candidates and coordinated smear campaigns against the genuine articles.
Thus, while the choices before Republican primary voters are in a sense starker than ever, distinctions that would have been obvious in previous years are being obscured by a deliberate disinformation campaign issuing not from the discredited mainstream media—does anyone care if the New York Times “endorses” John Kasich?—but from the GOP establishment and its fellow travelers in the “conservative” media.
To demonstrate the change, compare the dynamic between Ronald Reagan and the Rockefeller establishment in 1976 or 1980, to the dynamic in 2011-12.
Reagan’s opponents were straightforward about why they opposed him. He was “too extreme,” “unelectable,” “scary,” etc. The establishment certainly didn’t try to persuade voters that Reagan was really an establishment sell-out. On the contrary, they wanted people to support an establishment candidate, and they were not hiding it. They used their “extremist” rhetoric against Reagan because in those days it usually worked: history suggested that principled conservative voters would succumb in the end, and accept the business-as-usual party man being foisted upon them.
Since 2008, however, the establishment, realizing they can no longer subdue the grassroots with intimidation and sheer numbers, have cleverly chosen to fight them with duplicity and dissembling aimed at siphoning Tea Party fuel into the tank of the Washington status quo.
The activist vanguard in this propaganda effort is symbolized by two Super PACs, Karl Rove’s American Crossroads and the John Boehner-backed Congressional Leadership Fund. (Interestingly, between 2010 and 2014, American Crossroads and its pro-Mitch McConnell spin-off group Kentuckians for Strong Leadership, along with Boehner’s Congressional Leadership Fund, received combined donations of $210,000 from one Donald J. Trump.)
Their strategy has effectively turned GOP primaries into contests between legitimate constitutionalists and establishment men pretending to be constitutionalists. Specifically, the establishment spin-masters now dress up their preferred candidates as principled conservatives, and co-opt conservative media venues and voices in an effort to confuse people regarding which candidates really represent the grassroots.
In the fall of 2011, for example, everyone knew that the establishment had bet all their chips on Mitt Romney. He was a moderate progressive, an insider with a family history in the party, and was hopelessly compromised on 2012’s central campaign issue, Obamacare. So this was going to be your straightforward “establishment vs. grassroots” primary, right?
But then Ann Coulter, a supposed conservative firebrand, jumped in the tank for Romney. Then there was Matt Drudge, supposed royalty in the conservative media, using his clever headline-selecting smear tactics against Tea Party candidates, to Romney’s advantage. Then there was Fox News handing half its programming day over to Karl Rove, Dick Morris, and other establishment propagandists. Suddenly, a simple, old-fashioned “establishment vs. grassroots” campaign was muddied, conservatives were talking about electability and the safe bet, Mitch McConnell’s “Repeal and Replace” became the sell-out slogan du jour on Obamacare—and a Rockefeller Republican who spent months stalled at twenty-five percent in the polls was the nominee.
Likewise today, rather than the establishment running against Reaganism, they are actively seeking to claim the mantle of Reagan away from the grassroots candidates. A constitutional conservative may therefore be forgiven for becoming confused about which side is which, what with “conservative icons” Coulter and Drudge in the tank this time around for their fellow Romney-endorser Donald Trump (just sayin’). This is exactly the confusion the propagandists for the status quo have been hoping to create.
Allow me, therefore, to make a small contribution to sorting all this out, by way of a simple, fact-based formula for determining which candidates the establishment really prefers this year, and which it does not.
Do you remember the TV quiz show scandal from the late 1950s, in which NBC was alleged to have rigged popular game shows, such as Twenty-One, by giving contestants the answers in advance and coaching them to win or lose? One of the people who finally exposed the fraud was a former contestant, James Snodgrass, who cleverly sent his answer sheet to himself by registered mail before the date of his appearance on the show, thus proving beyond a doubt that the game had been rigged.
Two years ago, sickened by the GOP subterfuge, and abyssed-off, if you will, at America’s 2012 vote to end modern civilization, I decided to do a little James Snodgrass routine myself. Specifically, I set out to explain the precise platform of the next GOP presidential nominee, before even seeing the candidates. Thus, in April 2014, long before anyone was thinking about specific names or hot button issues for this year’s primaries, I wrote an article entitled “Meet the 2016 Republican Nominee.” I invite you to read it for the full details on my methodology—it includes a Venn diagram and everything!—but for today’s purposes a brief synopsis will do.
My analysis began with three simple premises:
(1) The Republican and Democrat wings of the Washington establishment play enemies on TV, but are actually in fundamental agreement on basic aspirations, namely soft despotism for you and ruling class authority and wealth for themselves;
(2) The immediate practical aim of these two wings is to maintain their joint stranglehold on power while slowly dragging America away from representative government and toward progressive authoritarianism;
(3) The Democrats and Republicans play their roles in this TV show by representing, respectively, the long-term “ideals” and the pragmatic “realism”—the Future and the Present—of the progressive continuum.
From these premises, I inferred that if you want to understand where this united establishment is leading you, watch the radical vanguard of the Democratic Party; but if you want to understand what the establishment hopes to achieve right now, look at the intersecting area of the two parties’ platforms. (That’s where my Venn diagram came in.) If my premises are true, then by identifying that area—the basic points of agreement between the two party establishments—you will have identified the core platform of the next GOP nominee.
So here, using my formula from 2014, are the seven key points I isolated as the range of essential agreement between the party establishments, hence identifying the 2016 GOP nominee in all but name—and today I will update the list by naming the South Carolina primary candidates who were clearly (or possibly) aligned with each plank:
(1) He supports a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants.
Bush, Kasich, Rubio. (Possibly Trump. His fan-baiting bluster about “sending them all home” masks the other half of his plan, which would obviously come forward in the general election: bringing almost all of them back on an expedited track to legal status, i.e., amnesty—a plan supported by a majority of illegal immigrants and endorsed by the New York Times.)
(2) His position on man-made climate change is “evolving,” i.e., supportive of crony capitalist regulation of the economy in the name of a phony “scientific consensus.”
(3) He criticizes Obamacare (of course), but proposes a “Repeal and Replace” government-regulated alternative euphemistically called “market solutions.”
Bush, Kasich, Trump. Trump may deserve two points for this one, since he is the only candidate who has advocated single-payer healthcare, and accuses critics of socialized medicine of having “no heart.”
(4) He insists no one should impugn the motives and patriotism of the Democratic candidate, and when asked during a debate whether his opponent would make a good president, he answers “Yes, but….”
There is so much anger this year about what the Democrats have become, and about the fact that a woman who should probably be in prison remains their presumptive nominee, that only a suicidal candidate (or a Democrat plant) would openly espouse this “reach across the aisle” bromide during the primaries. During the general election, however, we may assume, on past evidence, that Bush and Kasich would take this position if pressed during an October debate. (Possibly Rubio, given his Gang of Eight past and his support from many progressive donors. And possibly Trump, who is the only candidate in the field to have funded a Clinton campaign, to have said she would be a great president, to have espoused many of the views for which she is most hated, to have boasted of great relationships with her ideological kin, and to have made deal-making with socialists his campaign’s central promise. Therefore, he could hardly turn around and call her a lying nasty person whom no one likes during… oh wait, what am I saying?)
(5) He supports Common Core standardization of education.
(6) He unequivocally supports the NSA’s secret communications data collection against all privacy objections.
(7) He is absolutely silent on the question of whether the federal government has any responsibility to abide by its constitutional limits, which is to say he sees no need to weigh his promises against the constitutionally-defined role of the president.
Bush, Kasich, Rubio (foreign policy at least), Trump.
Now let’s add up these results, and complete my two year old prediction by putting a name on the Washington establishment’s paint-by-numbers Republican nominee:
Bush 7; Kasich 6 (or 7); Trump 3 (or 5); Rubio 3 (or 4).
These were the South Carolina candidates who, to varying degrees, matched the will of the pragmatic realism faction of the progressive establishment—the “Present” end of that unified continuum which pretends to be a rivalry.
The floor has caved in under the establishment’s preferred choice, but their contingency plan—fake anti-establishmentarianism to divide and conquer the constitutionalist grassroots—is succeeding brilliantly, as it did during its test run in 2012. And the GOP elite are being assisted, once again, by some influential members of the so-called conservative media who will help them blur the line separating the establishment from the grassroots.
They clearly believe their brilliant new confuse-a-cat strategy will allow them to win in the long run, regardless of the immediate outcome. For now, they can sit back and let their second-best choices, Rubio and Trump, use the debates and the cheerleading media to eviscerate the real anti-establishment option(s), the one(s) who did not register a single point on our bipartisan establishment checklist.
Thus, although the establishment’s one hundred percent pure option never gained traction (as they probably always knew he would not), they will still have the survivor of their orchestrated, Fox News-approved “anti-establishment” melee as a satisfactory back-up plan, which will be good enough to achieve their twin purposes: to remain the entrenched power brokers and chief beneficiaries of American politics in perpetuity, and to expand the range of government social control wherever possible.
The establishment can no longer win in a straight fight, but its propaganda machine has enticed many grassroots voters right to the crossroads—the American Crossroads, to be precise. These voters’ next step may seal the fate of their nation, and the world.