Of course, if Bruni were correct, Hillary Clinton’s claim that the Alt-Right has “effectively taken over the Republican Party,” would be false. But he somehow did not mention this. However, Bruni is wrong. There was a reason Donald Trump won the Republican nomination for president running on an America First platform 100% at odds from the globalist Bush/McCain/Romney establishment GOP agenda that has dominated the GOP. As authorities as diverse as Bill Clinton’s Labor Secretary Robert Reich and GMU political scientist Justin Gest have argued, Trumpism is here to stay
Bruni cites three “mini Trumps” to demonstrate the failure of the America First message: Paul Nehlen, who lost a primary challenge to Paul Ryan in a landslide; Mike Pape, who lost to James Comer in an open primary for Kentucky’s First Congressional District; and Carlos Beruff who appears poised to lose to a U.S. Senate primary challenge to incumbent Marco Rubio in Florida.
But of these candidates, only Nehlen can be considered a Trump Republican.
Paul Nehlen, however, did lose despite adopting Trump’s America First platform and making it the centerpiece of his campaign.
But had Nehlen won, it would have been unprecedented. No sitting Speaker of the House has ever lost a primary election. In fact, Tom Foley was the only Speaker in the last 150 years to lose at all.
Indeed, incumbents in general very rarely lose primaries. During 2010, the year of the great Tea Party rebellion, only three Republicans lost primaries. One, Parker Griffith of Alabama, had just switched parties to avoid sure defeat in the general. Another, Lisa Murkowski, still won in the general election as an independent.
Nonetheless, as is invariably the case in immigration patriot vs. Establishment contests, Nehlen scared Ryan into spending an astounding amount of money. The last reports are from three weeks before the election: as of July 20, according to Open Secrets.org, Paul Nehlen had raised just $867,955 and spent $692,195, but Paul Ryan had raised an astounding $14,887,390 and spent $8,006,506. Perhaps even more significant, Ryan announced he would not schedule a vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership [TPP] managed trade deal even after the election [House Speaker Ryan: No point in lame duck vote on TPP deal, CNBC.com, August 4, 2016).
Significantly, Bruni omitted two strong Trump Republicans who have much better chances of a strong showing.
Beruff and Nehlen deserve credit for taking brave positions on immigration, but they were both businessmen with no political experience and (unlike Trump) no base or experience in the spotlight. In contrast, both Ward and Stewart are elected state politicians who are running serious campaigns. Regardless of whether they win, it shows that there is a growing Trump-style movement.
Of course, Bruni is quite correct that the vast majority of Republican Party politicians and institutions are openly hostile to Trump’s message, and that his nomination did not immediately convert them.
But Trump’s success show that Republican voters are on board. The fact that Ted Cruz ended up strengthening his position on immigration and completely reversing himself on trade shows that key Republicans recognize this.
Furthermore, the America First movement was growing by leaps and bounds even before Trump. Until a few years ago, Pat Buchanan was the only person of any public prominence arguing for immigration patriotism, non-interventionism, and trade protectionism. Now other major figures like Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter, Tucker Carlson, Jeff Sessions, and publications like the Drudge Report, Breitbart, and Daily Caller have all moved very strongly in this direction.
The lack of any Trump-oriented candidates winning (so far) is not evidence of his idea’s lack of appeal—but of the fact that the GOP has not caught up with his revolution.
Win or lose, Trump is only the beginning.
Washington Watcher [email him] is an anonymous source Inside The Beltway.