Trump vs. the GOP Establishment - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Trump vs. the GOP Establishment
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Donald Trump spars with CNN reporter in 2016 (Law&Crime Network/YouTube)

Missouri Republican Sen. Josh Hawley, typically, got it exactly right. The senator succinctly tweeted: “The old party is dead. Time to bury it. Build something new.”

Exactly.

Today, former President Donald Trump is expected to announce the beginning of what Newsmax’s Dick Morris calls The Return: Trump’s Big 2024 Comeback

But just as significantly, in addition to a presidential announcement, Trump has taken direct aim at the GOP Senate leader, Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell.

Unbelievably, McConnell spent the 2022 midterms sabotaging Republican Senate candidates, taking aim at Arizona’s Blake Masters, New Hampshire’s Don Bolduc, and Alaska’s Kelly Tshibaka. Masters and Bolduc were defeated by their well-funded Democrat opponents, while Tshibaka still holds a lead over Alaska’s anti-Republican “Republican,” Lisa Murkowski.

The Alaska Republican Party has censured Murkowski for her constant opposition to Republican policy, and censured McConnell as well for funding her over the party-endorsed Tshibaka. Why would McConnell do this? Because, of course, Murkowski has said that she wants McConnell to remain as Senate Republican leader. Murkowski also supported Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola for reelection over the GOP’s Nick Begich. Which is to say that both she and McConnell have effectively supported an ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi — a move that could have denied the GOP control of the House.

Collectively, all of this illustrates exactly what Trump faces as he announces for 2024. This is no longer about who is or is not running for the GOP presidential nomination. What Trump represents is a battle for the soul of the Republican Party.

And yes, it recalls an earlier battle — the war between Ronald Reagan and the GOP establishment of his day.

Speaking at CPAC in 1975, Reagan said this of the Republican establishment and the constant effort by “RINOs” — Republicans In Name Only — to push a “Me Too” agenda that was but a paler version of the Democrat agenda of the moment. Reagan, like Trump today, rejected RINOism outright, saying this:

Our people look for a cause to believe in. Is it a third party we need, or is it a new and revitalized second party, raising a banner of no pale pastels, but bold colors which make it unmistakably clear where we stand on all of the issues troubling the people?

And, without a doubt, the Trump-supported candidates who won their Senate races were and are exactly bold-color Republicans. Morris reminded of Trump’s 2022 success in this way:

“The Democrats are launching an anti-Trump disinformation campaign saying he lost everything, and he didn’t,” Morris said on Newsmax’s “Saturday Report,” adding that there are several GOP candidates who would not have won their senatorial races, including J.D. Vance in Ohio, Ted Budd in North Carolina, Markwayne Mullin in Oklahoma, Eric Schmitt in Missouri, and Sen. Ron Johnson in Wisconsin.

Amazingly, over there at the New York Post, the game is on to stand up for the anti-Trump GOP establishment by denying him the credit for those Senate victories Morris has noted — with the Post rallying to defend McConnell.

But Trump is not alone in pinning the blame on McConnell. Here is this headline from Mediaite:

Ted Cruz Blames Mitch McConnell for Republican Losses in Scorching Rant: ‘Mitch Would Rather Be Leader Than Have a Republican Majority’

That’s right. It isn’t just President Trump who is pointing to McConnell’s role in betraying his party. The Cruz story says this:

On Monday, Cruz released a special edition of his podcast Verdict with Ted Cruz to discuss the latest development.

Co-host Ben Ferguson opened the show by asking the Texas Senator who exactly was to blame for the Republicans’ poor showings in the midterms.

“Well, Ben, let me start off by saying I am so pissed off, I cannot even see straight,” Cruz said bluntly.

“We had an extraordinary opportunity. We had a generational opportunity. This should have been a fundamental landslide election. We should have won the House and the Senate. We should have a 30, 40, 50 vote majority in the House. We should have 53, 54, 55 Republicans in the Senate,” he continued.

As the conversation continued, Cruz blamed the GOP losses in important states including Arizona on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, and encouraged people to donate to the runoff election in Georgia.

“Oh, look, I’m sure he will raise money and invest in the race,” Cruz said discussing if McConnell would donate to Herschel Walker’s campaign. “But if you look at this last cycle, Mitch McConnell pulled the money out of Arizona. We could have won — won Arizona. We nearly won Arizona and abandoning Blake Masters was indefensible,” Cruz said.

“Explain to me, Senator, why in a race where the polling showed that we had a legitimate chance of winning there. Why did he pull out that money from Masters who desperately needed it?” Ferguson asked.

“Because Masters said he would vote against Mitch McConnell, and so Mitch would rather be leader than have a Republican majority. If there’s a Republican who can win, who’s not gonna support Mitch, the truth of the matter is he’d rather the Democrat win. So he pulled all the money out of Arizona,” Cruz said bluntly.

Got that?

The New York Post writes: “No, Don, it’s not Mitch who ‘blew the Midterms.’ It’s you.”

Sorry, but, as Sen. Cruz says, yes indeed, it was Mitch — and, as Cruz noted, “Mitch Would Rather Be Leader Than Have a Republican Majority.”

Bingo.

The bottom line here is eerily like the situation when Reagan was running for president. To remind for those not around in Reagan’s day, here are some samples of the GOP establishment attacks on Reagan. These come from historian Steven F. Hayward’s book The Age of Reagan: The Fall of the Old Liberal Order 1964-1980.

•Vice President Nelson Rockefeller dismissed Reagan as “a minority of a minority” who “has been taking some extreme positions.”

• New York Republican Sen. Jacob Javits: Reagan’s positions are “so extreme that they would alter our country’s very economic and social structure and our place in the world to such a degree as to make our country’s place at home and abroad, as we know it, a thing of the past.”

• Illinois Republican Sen. Charles Percy said Reagan’s candidacy was “foolhardy” and would lead to a “crushing defeat” for the Republican Party. “It could signal the beginning of the end of our party as an effective force in American political life.”

• President Gerald Ford: “I hear more and more often that we don’t want, can’t afford to have a replay of 1964.” If the Republican Party nominates Ronald Reagan, “it would be an impossible situation” because Reagan “is perceived as a most conservative Republican. A very conservative Republican can’t win in a national election.” Asked if that meant Ford thought Reagan can’t win, Ford replied to the New York Times: “That’s right.” The Times story went on to observe that Ford thought “Mr. Reagan would be a sure-loser in November” and that Reagan held “extreme and too-simple views.”

Substitute “Trump” for “Reagan” and nothing has changed.

In short, the rush to condemn Donald Trump is the same old Republican/Washington establishment ploy that was used against Ronald Reagan.

And right there is the core of the battle that lies ahead.

One last thing. The allegation that Trump made the election about himself is bunk. As someone who made a point of listening to those Trump rallies, not to mention attending one in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, I have heard the Trump message repeatedly. It was focused like a laser on the issues of the day — energy independence, the economy, the border, and more. But when he brings up the 2020 election, he has every right to believe the election was deliberately rigged against him.

Read the Federalist’s decidedly serious investigative reporter Mollie Hemingway’s recent book Rigged: How the Media, Big Tech, and the Democrats Seized Our Elections. The book’s intro sums up the story of 2020 this way:

As accounts of irregularities aroused doubts about the integrity of America’s electoral system, the media, marching in lockstep, dismissed every expression of skepticism as self-evidently baseless. But as Hemingway’s dogged reporting reveals, there are abundant reasons to suspect that the election was rigged at every step.

That is to say, the issue of election integrity, which Trump has repeatedly discussed and doubtless will continue to discuss, is an issue, and, until changes are made to protect that integrity, it will continue to be an issue.

So.

Today, we are told, is the day of the Trump 2024 announcement. Good for him.

Let the battle for the soul of the Republican Party begin.

Again.

Jeffrey Lord
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Jeffrey Lord, a contributing editor to The American Spectator, is a former aide to Ronald Reagan and Jack Kemp. An author and former CNN commentator, he writes from Pennsylvania at jlpa1@aol.com. His new book, Swamp Wars: Donald Trump and The New American Populism vs. The Old Order, is now out from Bombardier Books.
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