This could turn out to be exactly what they wanted. To hold the Senate, close the gap in the House, and get rid of Donald Trump—that’s a big, big win for establishment Republicans in and out of office.
They’ve lived in Washington, D.C., for a long time. Life’s been very good to them, and so has the swamp. If you don’t live here, if you’ve never worked in an agency or met with congressional staffers or been to the dinners, it’s hard to imagine the sublime air in which these people circulate. It’s like Versailles under Le Roi Soleil, an American version of courtiers and entourages, rivalries and intrigues, who’s up and who’s down and who’s next, what is the king’s and the duke’s and the general’s pleasure. Most importantly, the whole scene is limited to insiders.
Oh, Republicans and Democrats battle nonstop for federal power, and they dislike and mistrust each other, but they downright loathe outsiders who try to break in and change the modes. “D.C. is a legacy town,” a journalist told me a while back, and a simple Google search of local personages reveals how much networking, nepotism, favoritism, back-scratching, alliances by marriage, patronage, and influence-peddling runs throughout the city. Hunter Biden is just an extreme and reckless version of what happens all the time. As an article in the Daily Beast from 2014 put it, “Get Elected, Get Your Kids Rich: Washington Is Spoiled Rotten”
Did you see the looks on the faces of the dignitaries sitting behind President Trump as he delivered his inauguration speech? It wasn’t a political reaction, it was a socio-political reaction. They heard him violate the first rule of D.C. governance: Don’t spoil the party. When he said that national politicians sold the American people a hustle, that they embellished themselves at the expense of the citizenry, Republicans and Democrats alike got nervous, embarrassed, uncomfortable. “The guy meant what he said on the campaign trail,” they thought to themselves. “That’s not how the game is played. He’s not one of us and never will be. He’s gotta go.”
It was the kind of class war even the most liberal figures on the dais abhorred, a definition and denunciation of a political class, a distinct group whose own interests clash with the interests of (most of) the very people they presume to represent. When President Trump floated the idea of moving agencies out of the city, relocating them hundreds or thousands of miles away, he struck at the very heart of class membership. Live and work in the provinces? No way!
When other politicians derided him in 2015, candidate Trump recalled the times in the past that those very same individuals came to him for money. The game was revealed and their credibility slipped in humiliating ways. This was the greatest of his un-presidential lapses: he exposed what you’re not supposed to expose.
They had to call Trump a racist because he went straight to African Americans and Hispanics with the message that the Democratic Party had been conning them for years. He sounded like Broderick Crawford in All the King’s Men after realizing the machine has played him for a fool, and he turns to the people and hollers that the politicos are playing everyone else for a fool, too.
The establishment Republicans really believe that if they rid the town of President Trump, things will go back to normal. We’ve had a rain delay, that’s all.
The vision is this: Republicans keep the Senate and get close to parity in the House, assuming once more that role of “principled opposition,” blocking a White House plan here and getting a regulation removed there, losing most of the time but standing proudly for “conservative principle,” and persuading the donor class to keep writing checks.
A Biden Administration will bring in an army of woke officials who will assail conservatives and harass their churches, schools, media, and businesses, force employers to turn Title IX, et al., into filtering and censoring tools, and replace President Trump’s various America First initiatives with America-Is-Guilty initiatives. Establishment Republicans won’t do anything about these moves except to complain and whine.
In truth, they don’t really care. They aren’t affected. Their children and grandchildren don’t attend public schools, they don’t have enough cultural interests for the conversion of museums and historic sites into race-sex-politics spaces to bother them, they don’t run small businesses strangled by federal employment requirements, and they have limousines and security details to shield them from the dysfunction and coarseness that steadily overwhelm the public square (abetted by liberal-libertarian dogma).
They believe, too, that a President Biden and (soon enough) a President Harris will be disasters, producing big gains in the midterms and a takeover of the House. This will pave the way for a triumph in 2024—President Romney, maybe, or another figure of apparent probity who won’t draw back any more curtains.
Without President Trump to unite them, establishment Republicans really seem to believe the Left will crumble into grievance groups, bringing suburban moms and some liberal moderates to the Republican side. It means giving up the culture war that President Trump has waged, but the political war will be theirs—tax cuts, fewer regulations, free trade, perhaps a small war here and there . . . standard establishment policies.
What a bunch of drips. What unimaginative minds and spineless characters. They have no idea how much a good portion of the conservative electorate despises them. They don’t realize how much the Republican shtick of 1995 and 2006, replayed today, disgusts the Trump electorate. They have no idea how beaten and bullied the conservative man on the street feels after 50 years of liberal cosmopolitanism and leftist guilt trips, all the while betrayed by politicians who promised to fight for them and afterward withdrew into the Beltway bubble where business is done differently.
People are seething over the shenanigans in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, but they’re no longer furious with the Democrats. As a friend put it to me the other day, “Hey, the Left has been working on this for a long time—they deserve it.” Yup, and a rival party that hasn’t the competence or the backbone to fight and win doesn’t deserve it.
Any Republican politician who is not at the front, pushing the legal challenges, decrying the media for their shameless partisanship, and rousing the conservative electorate with stump speeches should be understood quite well as one who never wanted President Trump to win in the first place. He must be told, his office flooded with phone calls and emails. No, he must be berated and rejected. Politicians respond to one thing: loss of office. Without that threat, why should they change their ways? If the Republican Party in Michigan always plays catch-up, outmaneuvered by local Democrats every time, then fire the leadership.
We’re tired of it. We’re tired of Republican calls for civility in the face of a Resistance that denies us democratic due process. We don’t want to hear any acknowledgements of “systemic racism,” not when woke zealots aim to remove conservatives from the schools and cultural institutions wherever they can. We’re not interested in diversions, not when the Left has said “everything is political” and proceeded to make everything political, even down to school locker rooms and football games. I recently attended a live web discussion with Senator Ben Sasse (R-Neb.), who at one point talked about how he just loved watching ESPN, to which I typed in the question: “Does the senator not know how much contempt ESPN has for social conservatives?”
We’ve had enough of these fakers. The establishment Republicans are delusional—not, however, in their expectation that the Democrats will fail and open the door for Republican takeover. They may be right about that. No, their error is to believe that we want them to be the ones taking over when that happens. They actually think they can still be the champions of conservative Americans. Only many years inside the Beltway would produce enough ego for them to be so happily assured of their own high designation.