The Bushes Created Trump
GOP establishment has no one to blame but itself
In the aftermath of the Fox News debate, the elites in the Republican Party were smugly tweeting and talking amongst themselves that Donald Trump was finished. His careless bombast had gotten the best of him. Women would protest in droves. Room would finally be made for the “adults” in the race to emerge.
Like clockwork, I was bombarded with emails and calls from the best-known political reporters in the country who were looking for quotes to write their latest “Trump, RIP” narrative. Oooh! A RedState forum disinvited Trump! Conservatives are turning on him!
Wishful thinking is not sober analysis.
Trump, lo and behold, still sits pretty atop the polls. An online tracking poll of Republicans and GOP leaners by Morning Consult, conducted Friday through Sunday, has Trump leading the field with 32 percent of the vote, up seven points over a poll conducted the week before. Jeb Bush came in with 11 percent.
All the most anti-establishment candidates’ numbers went up in polls save Rubio, and you can argue that he cast an anti-establishment message as well, at least after he gave up comprehensive immigration reform.
But more important, Trump, Cruz, Fiorina, Carson and Rubio spoke most eloquently in the debate about America and what the problems are and what the solutions are. They talked the most about America as a great concern and America’s future.
They understand, at least instinctually, that the GOP and America are going through enormous changes.
For the umpteenth time — Republicans don’t have a Trump problem. The GOP has a policy problem.
The GOP leadership brought this whole problem on itself. Led by the Bushes, GOP leaders (John Boehner, Paul Ryan, John McCain, Bob Corker) were the ones who decided to unilaterally change GOP policy on immigration. They were the ones who kept pushing for open borders and more foreign workers, despite increasing signs that their voters didn’t want them to do so.
They were the ones who insisted on giving fast-track trade authority to Obama, even though a big section of the base opposed that move. They were the ones who decided not to fight on issues like Obamacare and Planned Parenthood. It was Republican-nominated justices who refused to strike down Obamacare, and who cast the key votes to strike down any limits on gay marriage. And finally, it was the GOP establishment who decided to promote the candidacy of a guy who is on the record as making numerous open-borders comments, repeatedly criticizing the base, and pushing Common Core.
In short, the Republicans created the wedge that is now being driven into the heart of their party — a wedge that risks separating them from a huge swath of voters who they will desperately need next year.
This division didn’t begin with the candidacy of Trump. If there is a time to peg it to, it might be 2006 or 2007, when President George W. Bush and some Republicans in Congress tried to ram through both immigration amnesty and the Supreme Court nomination of the president’s pal Harriet Miers. Conservatives from outside the political establishment rose up in protest, offered substantive arguments, and were instrumental in stopping both. The Bushes never forgot or forgave them.
Republicans don’t have a Trump problem. The GOP has a policy problem.
Amid growing dissatisfaction with the president, the GOP in the 2006 midterm elections got a “thumping” — in Bush’s own words — losing control of both the House and the Senate.
Despite what some are saying about Jeb Bush’s “flat” and “unimpressive” debate performance, let’s not forget he has raised $120 million, and is supported by the richest, most powerful Republicans in the GOP. Grassroots voters feel another cram-down coming — and for now, at least, Trump presents the possibility of creating a Bush blockade.
At every step along the way, base voters urged the GOP establishment to change course. They refused. And now the consequences may put Hillary Clinton in the White House.
But they have no one to blame but themselves.