Following a string of Super Tuesday II victories which placed Donald Trump firmly in the driver’s seat for the GOP nomination and a fellow insurgent candidate, Ted Cruz, as the only viable alternative to Trumpmania on the Republican side, the self-destruction of the Republican Party by its own praetorian guard has apparently been fully engaged.
Already, a gaggle of Washington movers and shakers advertised as having vetted Republican candidates for decades had agreed to appear on Showtime’s political reality series The Circus at The Prime Rib, a tony K Street steakhouse, to discuss their alarm at the Trump phenomenon, with the results playing out all over cable news. The three-minute video segment of such long-time establishmentarians as former Republican National Committee chair Mike Duncan, former Congressman Vin Weber, and GOP pollster and McCain adviser Ed Goeas complaining about Trump and telegraphing their efforts to torpedo his campaign is dumbfounding in its tone-deafness and breathtaking in its snooty arrogance.
“He’s not articulate, he’s not poised, he’s not informed,” complains former Reagan and Bush advisor Ed Rogers, currently partners with former Mississippi governor and ex-RNC chair Haley Barbour in the prominent K Street lobbying firm BGR. “All he has going for him is a lot of votes.”
That so many high-end Republican establishment figures would appear on television in a setting designed to look like they’re conspiring against the party’s frontrunner is a perfect manifestation of how brainless the GOP has become.
No sooner had the conspiratorial cabal played out on Showtime than even more questionable antics were to follow. By Wednesday, a day after Trump’s victories put GOPe favorite Marco Rubio out of the race and made Ohio governor John Kasich a mathematical certainty not to be the nominee, the latter was all over television openly discussing brokered conventions and how he would win in Cleveland without the support of any voters outside of his home state.
That was amplified by a foolish statement out of the mouth of Curly Haugland, a North Dakota businessman and longtime RNC member, who went on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” and declared “The media has created the perception that the voters choose the nomination. That’s the conflict here,” implying that it’s party bigwigs and not the GOP electorate who have the real power. Haugland’s dumb statement was a follow-up to a letter he wrote to all the presidential campaigns back in November suggesting a rule change opening the convention to whomever would like to engage in a floor fight in Cleveland, regardless of whether the voters had rejected said candidates.
Then Mitch McConnell, the radioactively unpopular Senate Majority Leader whose record of failure in stopping Barack Obama’s agenda since Republican voters had given him his current position in the 2014 elections created Trump and Ted Cruz as GOP frontrunners, demanded that Cruz apologize for rightfully calling him a liar in exchange for the support of his Senate colleagues virtually nobody in the Republican electorate believes has much value. When McConnell’s deposed House counterpart John Boehner emerged from a cloud of spray-tan and cigarette smoke in his retirement to declare his support for current House Speaker Paul Ryan as the nominee, something Ryan had to quickly disavow, the explosion of political stupidity was complete.
Anyone looking for evidence that the insiders were attempting to steal the nomination from Trump, or Cruz for that matter, hasn’t had to look far. The funny thing about it, for those who have paid attention to the complete incompetence of the Republican Party’s inner circle over the past 15 years, is they’ve been far more successful in creating the perception they’re going to try to steal the nomination than they’ll ever be in actually doing it. Either Trump or Cruz will be the nominee, because by the day of the convention those two will have at least 80 percent of the delegates between them and if there is to be a brokered convention of some kind it will be Trump and Cruz, or their surrogates, serving as the brokers.
But making unforced errors creating the perception of evil where idiocy actually lies is a specialty of the Republican establishment. Take the Jeb Bush campaign, for example, which fleeced its donors to the tune of $100 million and set it all aflame in running tens of millions of dollars in TV ads to destroy other center-right candidates; the primary target of that blood money, Marco Rubio, outlasted Bush. Take Karl Rove, who blew through $400 million in donors’ lucre in the 2012 cycle with next to nothing in the way of positive results to show for it. And take Kasich’s atrocious campaign guru John Weaver, who is in his third straight cycle running a Republican presidential candidate (John McCain in 2008, Jon Huntsman in 2012) whose chief message appears to be thinly-veiled contempt for the party’s voters.
Trump and Cruz have emerged as the last two candidates standing mostly thanks to the incompetence and tin ear of the Beltway consultants and muckety-mucks, whose only communication with the American people seems to come via the lobbyists and donors they eat with at The Prime Rib.
And, though it might be unfortunate to say, the donors are as much of a problem as the consultants are. Because Republican donors are shockingly easy marks for scam artists.
It’s not that they’re stupid people, or some species of rube. It’s that the donors are out of touch with regular folks and unable to see the big picture.
Here’s why. Your standard big-money Republican donor is a self-made multi-millionaire, who built a terrific company with his bare hands and is now enjoying the fruits of his labors. He lives in a mansion, in a gated community on a golf course in a tony section of town. He’s successful, which means unlike the rest of us he doesn’t watch a lot of TV and what he does watch is CNBC and Fox News. He never listens to Top 40 radio, he goes to the movies only once in a while, and he vacations in exclusive locales. He and his wife shop in upscale retail locations, even for groceries. He has season tickets to the local NFL team; he’s in a suite. His kids go to expensive private schools and, rather than hooping it up on a public basketball court in town, play tennis or golf at the club in the afternoons.
In short, he has bought himself out of regular American culture. What he knows of the status quo is that it’s great — that status quo is what enabled him to make his millions. And all he really needs to do, he thinks, is to buy politicians who’ll keep things as they are.
He has no idea that his status quo, along with American culture, is melting beneath his feet. He has no idea who Big Freedia or Lil’ Wayne are. His knowledge of meth comes from the one time he watched Breaking Bad and decided it wasn’t his thing.
And that donor can be had by a consultant selling snake oil — “we’ll inundate the airwaves with 30 second ads and seal up the election; just make that check out to XYZ PAC.” He’s shocked to find out that the American people are buying what Trump is selling. He’s appalled that the working class, which he might even have originated from, is resentful of Pedro, the hard-working and respectful young man who immaculately manicures his lawn. And so he writes another $10,000 check to the PAC which the consultants swear will insure Trump won’t win in Tennessee. Or Kentucky. Or Illinois.
Meanwhile, every left-wing blog with 5,000 page views in a week can find a six-figure grant from George Soros or some other left-wing philanthropist or foundation, and crank out pseudo-academic nonsense covering the implications of heteronormative patriarchy on social justice in post-colonial countries at risk from global warming. And because the Republican donor class never understood the value of properly bankrolling quality publications like the one you’re reading or to compete in the culture wars, those conservative media operations which haven’t fallen under a corporate umbrella (The Weekly Standard and Washington Examiner under Clarity Media, Townhall, RedState, and Hot Air under Salem) have found survival and prosperity thanks to Trump’s constant chumming of the news cycle.
If you’re in conservative media and you want to build a small enterprise into a medium-sized one, you don’t have access to capital from those donors; the idiot consultants have monopolized it for those terrible 30-second spots that run on TV stations and networks mostly owned by liberals (the consultants get 15 percent of the money spent, the Left gets 85 percent). What you can do is write screaming headlines (Trump Tells The Truth About Mexicans And You’ll Never Believe What Happens Next; Jeb Bush’s Plan To Bring Sharia To America; Sarah Palin DESTROYS Liberal Reporter) and let Trump’s legions of fans share your links into the stratosphere. If you can hook Google AdSense and Taboola up to your site to pay you $8-12 per thousand page views, turning your blog into a Trump propaganda outlet could be worth $1500 per day in ad revenue with the traffic his antics bring in. That’s enough to pay a few writers a living wage and plow a small fortune into promoting your publication on Facebook, which is why most of our readers’ social media feeds are covered with links to conservative sites they’d never heard of until six months ago.
Critics have accused conservative media, and Breitbart in particular, of being on the take from Trump. For most of the Trump-pumpers on the web, that’s not how it works. He brings them traffic, not checks, and he’s making his blogger allies into the upper middle class entrepreneurs the establishment donors never would help them to be. And now, getting a message out that most of what Trump says is contradicted by other things Trump says, which the Establishment desperately needs to do, is hopeless. There’s no traffic in that.
All this has happened in the open over the past decade and these geniuses at The Prime Rib were oblivious to its development. Now they’re forced to contemplate long-shot bids to steal the nomination at their own convention, which naturally they’re not competent enough to keep a secret.
Trump might be awful for the country, and he might well seal Hillary Clinton as the 45th president. But to the extent that his rise decouples these people from the gravy train they’ve been on to the detriment of the conservative movement they’ve purported to be serving, well… maybe there’s a silver lining in this disaster after all.