Why Does the GOP Elite Hate Its Own Base?

It is one of the most bitter and tragic ironies of our contemporary politics that the leadership of one of America’s two major political parties, the Republican Party, utterly despises that party’s very own voting base.

The GOP elite’s scorn for its own voters has, at this point, been a long time in the making. The trend accelerated during the 2009-2011 rise of the Tea Party, a grassroots movement fueled by constitutionalism and anti-elite populism. The crustier elements of the Republican establishment ran as far away as possible from the Tea Party, and the 2012 presidential coronation of private equity plutocrat Mitt Romney effectively killed the movement. Four years later, the Republican establishment fought tooth-and-nail against presidential candidates Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas), the two candidates who most vociferously condemned the establishment’s myriad shortcomings; as an unsurprising corollary, Trump and Cruz fetched the most primary votes that cycle from actual rank-and-file Republican voters.

The Trump presidency saw the continuation of the same basic dynamic. Republican voters, by nominating a loudmouth non-politician like Trump, were clamoring for something new. Those voters were sick of the same-old Republican pablum: willful complicity in globalization and all the harms wrought by reckless immigration compromises and myopic supply chain outsourcing, and the ideologically driven pursuit of various right-liberal economic and foreign policy dogmas more generally—even when those dogmas came at the expense of the median American’s tangible interests. Nonetheless, with precious few exceptions, the conservative intelligentsia refused to treat Trump’s deviations from previous decades’ failed orthodoxies as anything other than a blip on the radar, to be conveniently discarded at a time when the GOP’s “dead consensus” might rise anew.

Now, in the midst of a lame-duck Congress and in the aftermath of a severely disappointing midterm election, we have gleaned even more indicia about the level of scorn Republican elites reserve for their own voters.

Perhaps most notably, 12 Republican senators and a whopping 39 Republican congressmen have rushed to add their imprimaturs of legitimacy to the so-called Respect for Marriage Act, which would not only statutorily enshrine an erroneous definition of marriage in federal law but would also further weaponize the leftist lawfare apparatus to subjugate conscientious objectors to the Western world’s new same-sex marriage dispensation. While it is true that Republicans nationally are now split on the issue of same-sex marriage, it is also true that religious Christians still comprise the very core of the GOP’s base. Nonetheless, a sizable portion of Republicans in Congress voted for a bill that would open the floodgates of litigation for those Christians, Jews, Muslims and others who still adhere to the biblical (and historically uncontroversial) definition of marriage.

On the always-thorny issue of immigration, where Republican elites have historically sold out their own base perhaps more than any other, Republican leaders are using the perfidious backdrop of the lame-duck Congress to get the amnesty band back together again. Specifically, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) is now teaming up with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) to push a prototypical “comprehensive immigration reform”-style “compromise”: amnesty for millions of young illegal aliens (tendentiously called “Dreamers” by our propagandist press) in exchange for promised milquetoast “enforcement” measures. The obvious problem with such a “deal” is that, absent the most strenuous of border enforcement measures, such as a sprawling Texas-to-California physical border wall and a return of the highly successful Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” policy, amnesty for illegal aliens will only exacerbate the border crisis by emboldening the very drug cartels, coyotes and human trafficking rings that are the most ruthless thugs in the Western Hemisphere.

There may well be other lame-duck Congress betrayals, as well. One week after the election last month, the Biden Administration requested an additional $37 billion in “emergency” aid for Ukraine. One can only imagine how many Senate and House Republicans are all too eager to abide the administration’s desire to bolster Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s quixotic crusade to recover Crimea and the Donbas. Meanwhile, despite last month’s electoral disaster and grassroots Republicans crying out for change at the top, the entirety of what National Pulse Editor-in-Chief Raheem Kassam has dubbed the GOP’s “McLeadership”—Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel—appears poised to remain in power. Republican leadership to the Republican rank-and-file: Shut up and go away.

It says nothing particularly good about the moral integrity of an individual who, for self-interested careerist purposes, seeks to lead an organization or movement while simultaneously harboring an intense disdain for the organization’s very rank-and-file. And organizations that feature such a yawning chasm between their leadership and grassroots elements typically face two options: The leadership can ameliorate the chasm by listening to or better accommodating the rank-and-file, or the organization will cease to exist. Because for the GOP, the status quo is simply unsustainable.


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About Josh Hammer

Josh Hammer is senior editor-at-large of Newsweek. A popular conservative commentator, he is a research fellow with the Edmund Burke Foundation and a syndicated columnist through Creators. A frequent pundit and essayist on political, legal, and cultural issues, Hammer is a constitutional attorney by training. He is a former John Marshall Fellow with the Claremont Institute and a campus speaker through Intercollegiate Studies Institute, Young America’s Foundation, and the Federalist Society.

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