That Donald Trump is an establishment Republican should not even need to be stated. Trump’s fans believe he will turn Washington upside down — and that’s perhaps true if we’re talking about George Washington somersaulting in his grave. In reality Trump would do nothing to change DC, but would continue his life’s work of enriching himself and his friends.
This Republican presidential primary is all about a wave of distrust for establishment Republicans. The establishment Republicans are those who tend to
- Value acquiring and retaining power over standing for principle
- Believe in hiding their views to win elections
- Be loyal to people and follow the 80/20 rule
- Are willing to cut deals to get some of what they want
This is normally set in contrast with grassroots conservatives, who tend to
- Value standing for principle over gaining and retaining power
- Believe in proclaiming their views to win elections
- Be loyal to ideas and insist others be of like mind
- Do not want to cut deals if it means the other side gets what they want
As with most things, none of that is black and white. These are tendencies.
People don’t fit into nice categories. While there are some DC politicians with only cynical regard for principles (“My principle is winning”) and who just want to acquire power without regard to them, most people have a bottom line, a value they will not sacrifice.
Some people think of the Establishment as a DC cabal, meeting in darkened, oak-paneled boardrooms to arrange strategy for manipulating the people into giving the Establishment power. Sure, there is some of that, but mostly there is groupthink on email lists from people nodding along as they read about how smart they all are. Then they go to a fundraiser and write a check to Right to Rise. As Steve Berman wrote at The Resergent,
I write “Establishment” in quotes because the term has acquired the same meaning as boogeyman, monster, zombie, Sasquatch, or SMOD. It’s an undefined, amorphous bad thing that shows up at the worst time and ends you. But there is a real GOP establishment. It’s the crowd that funds, staffs and supports Super PACs like Right to Rise, that spent nearly $100 million on nothing whatsoever, but failed to take out Donald Trump.
The GOP Establishment is not just the politicians in state capitals and DC, but the donors and voters who share their desire to retain power, rather than to stand for principle and American ideas.
All of Donald Trump’s message revolves around winning, the polls, and acquiring power. He makes some vague promises about walls, puts out position statements he has apparently not read, and promises to make everything great. These are establishment practices.
Trump says he gets his foreign policy views from watching the talking heads on Sunday morning television — “the shows.”
When the Tea Party groups were marching on DC over the bailouts, Donald Trump was telling people how to get theirs.
This is not a man of principle, but of power. He is without question an establishment Republican — well, with one question, and that is if he’s a Republican at all.