It has been annoying in recent weeks to hear again and again the notion that Donald Trump and his followers are currently engaged in a battle with the Republican establishment. Talk radio hosts seem to have a penchant for saying this. I’ve heard Rush Limbaugh speak in such terms a number of times, and so have some of the less familiar voices. What is annoying about this notion is that it’s not true.
I’m not saying Trump and the establishment like each other. I’m not saying they’re in cahoots. They might in future find a way to work together if at some point it seemed advantageous, but in general I think their attitude toward each other is something like that of rivals in the old Western movies: “This town ain’t big enough for the two of us.”
The reason Trump is not presently duking it out with the establishment is that at present the establishment is down for the count. It will be back up someday. Its members have money and ambition, and you can be sure they’re already scheming how to get the upper hand again. But in the current primary campaign the aroused Republican rank and file have made it abundantly obvious that they are out of patience with the establishment. The establishment has taken a beating. Mr. Establishment himself, Jeb Bush, saw his campaign go absolutely nowhere. Chris Christie fared about the same. Marco Rubio talks a good, conservative fight some of the time, but his record linked him a little too clearly to the establishment, and that was a ball and chain on his campaign. Then there’s John Kasich. He too was given short shrift by the voters, but he seems unable to take a hint. He has remained in the race as the sole representative of the Republican establishment. As such he scarcely draws 20 percent of the vote. Have you noticed Trump attacking Kasich lately? Neither have I. For the time being, Kasich, like the rest of the establishment is not a threat.
So whom is Trump fighting against right now? He’s fighting against conservatives–that is, against Ted Cruz and those backing him. Trump’s henchmen at pseudo-news outlets National Enquirer and Drudge Report are not putting out hit pieces against the Republican establishment. They’re attacking Cruz. Trump thug Roger Stone is not threatening violence against establishment delegates. It wasn’t the Republican establishment that trounced Trump in Wisconsin and beat him fair and square in Colorado and half a dozen other states in the last couple of weeks. It was grassroots conservatives backing Cruz. For the past month, at least, the only real battle within the Republican presidential race has been between Trump and the conservatives.
The practice of saying that everyone fighting against Trump is part of the Republican establishment, or that every time Trump loses it’s the result of an establishment plot, is not only ludicrous, it’s also a repetition of Trump’s own dishonest propaganda line. It’s his game to deceive voters into believing all who oppose him are part of the vast establishment conspiracy, and only by voting for him can they defeat the establishment and “make America . . .” etc.
Yes, the establishment might try to snatch the nomination at the convention, but in the meantime everyone, both those who support Trump and those who do not, need to be very clear about the fact that right now a battle is going on between Trump and his supporters on one side, and principled, grassroots, constitutional conservatives on the other.