If it were any other year, the GOP race would already be over. The Trump campaign is already working to lower expectations for Tuesday’s Wisconsin primary, with Katrina Pierson predicting it will be the “last competitive state at this level”. [Donald Trump Spox: Wisconsin ‘Last Competitive State,’ Schedule Forward ‘Very Complementary’ to Trump, by Alex Swoyer, Breitbart, April 2, 2016] But even after one of the worst weeks of his campaign, Trump still has a “yuge” lead in the next primary in his home state of New York, 56% to Cruz’s 20% and Kaisich’s 19% . [Poll: Clinton, Trump up big in New York, by David Wright, CNN, March 31, 2016] Cruz has to win an overwhelming majority of the delegates in every upcoming states for his nomination to remain even mathematically feasible. Only Trump has a realistic path to the nomination before Cleveland.
However, both the Republican Party and its Conservatism Inc. flunkies seem to be looking past the general election. There’s a palpable sense that the entire American Right, outside of Trump and his supporters, are actually indifferent as to whether they can win in 2016. There are even reports the Republican Establishment is preparing to nominate a candidate who hasn’t even competed in the primaries this year, most likely Open Borders fanatic and Jack Kemp clone Paul Ryan. Obviously, they can’t expect to win over the millions of voters who supported Trump in such a scenario. But that seems not even to have occurred to what critics sarcastically call the “GOP Smart Set.” As in 2012, they just know the donors will like it.
What makes these machinations all the more infuriating is the sanctimonious rhetoric accompanying them. According to the Beltway Right, Donald Trump is not just a bad candidate, but a threat to the Republic far more dire than Hillary Clinton. Eliminating him, says Matthew Continetti [Email him] of the neoconservative Washington Free Beacon—who has actually written sensible stuff about immigration, although he’s Bill Kristol’s son-in-law—is the task of “liberal democracy” itself. He writes:
The GOP survived the departure of Pat Buchanan and his acolytes. If it can’t survive the departure of Donald Trump, maybe it needs to take a good long look in the mirror and think about some of its life choices. Conversely, if the Republicans horrified at the prospect of the least qualified and most disliked president in American history are forced to leave the party, and to run an independent conservative candidate in a last-ditch attempt to deny Trump the presidency, the populists and nationalists might want to do some soul-searching of their own. None of us is exempt from standards of morality, decency, and responsibility. Not me, not you, not five year olds, not even Donald Trump and his supporters.Needless to say, it’s hard to take this kind of exercise in virtue-signaling seriously. Why, after all, is Donald Trump such an affront to morality? Is he worse than Tom Delay, who in response to lobbying by Jack Abramoff cut a corrupt deal to deliberately undermine American workers? Is he worse than the innumerable Republican elected officials who merrily conduct extramarital affairs while preaching about Christian values? Is he worse than pederast ex-Speaker Dennis Hastert?
[How to Dump Trump, April 1, 2016]
Besides, even the most vocal “movement conservatives” trace the beginning of their political journey to Barry Goldwater, a man who helped his daughter have an illegal abortion [There’s something about Barry, by Daniel McCarthy, The American Conservative, November 5, 2007]
The main problem with Trump, it seems, is he occasionally says rude things on Twitter. And the supposed moral guardians who are lecturing us about tone are Beltway pundits, political consultants, and politicians themselves. It’s self-discrediting.
The truth is that Trump is hated by Conservatism Inc. for the same reason he is loved by so many angry American workers. His movement would represent the birth of a populist, nationalist GOP which would actually serve the interests of its constituents on trade and immigration, rather than constantly (and consciously) betraying them [Pat Buchanan: Trump as nominee could transition GOP to ‘a different, new, exciting, robust party,’ by Jeff Poor, Breitbart, March 24, 2016]
But in that kind of a party, the Conservative Inc. functionaries and political consultants don’t have a place. Trump may have had a bad week, but he identified a core truth when he slammed the “cooked system” in place and suggested the GOP bosses “want to knock out the outsider, because they want to keep their little party going” [Trump: Republican Party Bosses Want “To Knock Out The Outsider, They Want To Keep Their Little Party Going,” by Tim Hains, RealClearPolitics, April 3, 2016]
Thus the Beltway Right is not just determined to “Dump Trump,” but to render his supporters in the Conservative Movement unemployable. Former communications director for Ted Cruz and current CNN talking head Amanda Carpenter received wide coverage for her call to “blackball” all Trump supporters, including Jeff Sessions, Sarah Palin, Rick Scott, Dr. Ben Carson, and Chris Christie. [Scarlet ‘T’: Trump Foes ‘Blacklist’ Supporters, by Douglas Ernst, WND, March 18, 2016]
But if she were serious about proscribing all the conservatives who made Trump possible, she’d have to put her old boss’s name at the top of the list. As Jim Newell accurately noted:
It was for that reason so many people (including me) were anticipating a possible “apocalypse ticket” of Trump/Cruz, uniting the “true conservatives” with the nationalist populists in a new GOP.
[Cruz] wasn’t just keeping his distance from Trump in the campaign’s early stages, as you could argue Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio were. He was actively courting and boosting Trump. The two had met in person “at least five times” by late August, the Daily Beast reported. One of those meetings, which produced a cheery thumbs-up photo op, went down at Trump Tower—by Cruz’s request. “I’m a big fan of Donald Trump. I think Donald Trump is bringing a bold, brash voice to this presidential race,” Cruz said before the meeting. “One of the reasons you’re seeing so many 2016 candidates go out of their way to smack Donald Trump is they don’t like a politician that speaks directly about the challenges of illegal immigration.”[Links in original]
[Why Did Ted Cruz Spend Seven Months Sucking Up to Donald Trump?, Slate, March 25, 2016]
Instead, the “true conservatives,” led by Cruz, now look like they are riding to the rescue of Open Borders Republicans like Paul Ryan.
The tragedy of all this is much of it is due to circumstance. A source inside the Cruz campaign told me at CPAC as many as 75% of Cruz voters would break for Trump if the Texas Senator dropped out of the race at that time. If Trump had knocked out Cruz in Texas instead of Rubio in Florida, he’d likely be cruising to the nomination and a Cruz/Trump partnership would be likely.
But as it stands, “Lyin’ Ted” and “Sleazy Donald” appear to have come genuinely to hate each other, and it’s likely neither will support the other if their foe wins the GOP nomination. The wishes of lonely figures like Laura Ingraham and Joseph Farah notwithstanding, a nationalist populist (Trump)/grassroots conservative (Cruz) alliance may be off the table.
The problem for Conservatism Inc.: even if they purge every last Trump sympathizer from Fox News and conservative media, the forces Trump tapped into will still be there. Cruz constantly calls Trump not a “real conservative,” but he is now shamelessly copying Trump’s position on trade and immigration. But it was less than a year ago Cruz was writing Wall Street Journal editorials with Paul Ryan in favor of granting more power to President Obama to impose trade agreements on the beleaguered American workers [Putting Congress in Charge on Trade, by Paul Ryan and Ted Cruz, April 21, 2015].
Unless Mr. “Consistent Conservative” is willing to say he was just kidding when it came to his Trump-like stances on trade and immigration, the Beltway consensus has already been broken—because it’s been shown Republican voters simply don’t want it.
Clearly, at this point Conservatism Inc. doesn’t care about the general election or even what Cruz needs to say in order to slow down Trump. The “conservative movement” is no longer interested, if it ever was, about changing policy—least of all immigration policy—or even in winning the election. They simply want to keep their jobs and their control over The Microphone so they can keep telling patriotic Americans what they are and are not allowed to believe.
Bottom line: it’s getting harder and harder to pretend the Beltway Right isn’t just filled with direct mail scams; it just IS a direct mail scam writ large.
And if there is one message coming from Conservatism Inc. in 2016, it’s that the scam must go on—by any means necessary.
James Kirkpatrick [Email him] is a Beltway veteran and a refugee from Conservatism Inc.