By now, just about everybody — by everybody I mean those of us in the political junky class — knows that a number of Republican conservative elites, including the National Review, have launched a Stop Trump campaign. At the same time congressional type Republican elites have launched a separate attack on Ted Cruz. Both attacking camps say they're doing it to save the Republican party. But what will they have saved if they succeed?
The following exchange between Hugh Hewitt and George Will occurred last week on the Hugh Hewitt Show. It seems to capture conservative thinking on the supposed danger of a Donald Trump presidency.
HUGH HEWITT, HOST: So, George Will, we got two minutes, so expound on this for me. Donald Trump is a learning machine. I watched him at Liberty University, I watched him in New Hampshire with Scott Brown the day before, he was incredibly gracious to a disabled woman. He is getting better and better at this. And Steve Schmidt thinks he’s going to be the nominee. If he is the nominee, how many Democrats cross over to vote for him and how many Republicans cross over to vote for her if she isn't indicted?
GEORGE WILL: There would large numbers going both ways. It would be a very interesting migration. I think you would have more Democrats going to the Republicans than Republicans going the Democrats but you would also figure that there would be movement to have a third-party candidate because if the election is Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump, this will be the first election since God knows when, there was no real conservative candidate. And I don’t think that both of us, who have started our political careers, and I cast my vote for Barry Goldwater.
GW: Who valued that classic, creative defeat of his because he took the Republican Party and said henceforth it will be a Conservative party. Those of us who feel that way are not about to sit idly and see the Republican Party which was saved by William Howard Taft to 1912 for conservatism that was reclaimed by Barry Goldwater in 1964 for conservatism, we’re not going to let it disappear in 2016.
Ordinarily, I like George Will. He strikes me as a very smart guy who usually cuts to the core of an issue, but I have to disagree with him here for a number of reasons.
First, his there's his point that an election pitting Hillary against The Donald would "be the first election since God knows, when there was no real conservative candidate." It's a bit off the mark. Perhaps we disagree on the meaning of "conservative," but Will completely skipped over the presidency of Richard Nixon who saw fit to impose four phases of wage and price controls as his weapons of choice in the fight against inflation. Wage and price controls are hardly what you would call conservative policies, and it came as not surprise to me and a lot of others, that they didn't work. Inflation raged through the 1970s. In fact, it wasn't until after Jimmy Carter had appointed Paul Volcker Chairman of the Federal Reserve, and Volcker's tight money policies had time to work, that inflation finally began to come under control, but not before mortgage rates hit the 18 percent to 20 percent range.
But all that was later. During the time Nixon had his wage and price controls in place, he is reputed to have said, "We're all Keynesians, now," capitulating to liberal wisdom that was in force then and now, holding that the government should engage in deficit spending to stimulate the economy — another prized liberal policy that didn't work then, and doesn't work now.
Which brings me to my next point of disagreement. Goldwater did not rescue the Republican party for conservatism as Will claimed. Just the opposite. The Republican party took a such a shellacking with Goldwater in 1964 that by the time the 1972 presidential elections rolled around, fringe candidate John G. Schmitz fashioned his campaign on the theme that the two major parties could more accurately be described as Socialist Part A and Socialist Party B. According to Schmitz, the Republicans were Socialist Party B, and it was hardly what you would call a conservative bastion. Through the early 1970s Democrats and Republicans waged a battle over which party would out-compassion the other, naturally at the expense of fiscal and monetary sanity.
It wasn't until 1980 that a conservative revolution finally took place in the Republican party, and that event was inspired by Ronald Reagan. It happened because Reagan had a talent for getting his message past the typically antagonistic (to Republicans) news media. This ability to get the message across is the one area of similarity between Donald Trump and Ronald Reagan. Reagan used wit and charm to win converts. Trump on the other hand is rude and crude, denying his opponents the sanctuary of their politically correct rhetorical edifices. Both have tapped into the anger of long frustrated middle class voters for their support. Lots of them.
And why might frustrated Republican voters be so furious. This October, 2015 Breitbart article captures it perfectly.
House Republicans won the majority by campaigning on a robust agenda of blocking and fighting the policies of the Obama Administration. Over three election cycles they promised to scrap ObamaCare, roll-back regulations, cut spending and block Obama’s executive orders granting amnesty to illegal immigrants.
Mind you, they were not forced into these positions, but spent hundreds of millions of dollars promising these things to voters across the country. They, if you will, volunteered to take up these fights. Only long after they had secured majorities in both the House and the Senate did Republicans in Washington inform their supporters that Obama’s veto pen blocked their promised actions.
Republican voters are not children and are well aware that Obama can, and probably would, veto any reforms measures that reached his desk. By forcing Obama to make these vetoes, however, the campaign of 2016 can be waged on clear political differences.
Standing for something is really the only promise Republican voters needed to be kept. The failure of Republicans in Washington is now reshaping politics across the nation.
Clear outsiders, who have never before held elective office, are dominating the Republican nomination campaign.
In a number of polls, more than 60 percent of Republican voters want a candidate with no ties to Washington.
That was back in October. Here we are a week away from the Iowa Caucuses, and along comes a determined George Will, promising that he (and his allies?) are not going to let their conservative Republican party disappear in 2016. A two pronged attack is under way. While elite conservatives in the pundit class went after Donald Trump, elite conservatives in the congressional class attacked Ted Cruz.
In a candid interview with The New York Times, the 92-year-old former Senate majority leader and 1996 Republican nominee for president said he thinks Donald Trump would fare better as the Republican nominee.
"I question his allegiance to the party," Dole said referring to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). "I don't know how often you've heard him say the word 'Republican' — not very often." Cruz often refers to himself as "conservative" rather than "Republican." Dole added he thinks there's a better word for Cruz to use to refer to himself: "extremist."
"I don't know how he's going to deal with Congress," he said. "Nobody likes him."
The simultaneous attacks on Trump and Cruz, by Republicans or self styled conservatives, is going on just as two national polls, one by CNN/ORC and the other by ABC News/Washington Post, show Trump leading the second place Cruz by 41 - 19 and 37 - 21, respectively, for the Republican presidential nomination. Add 'em up. If these polls are to be believed, our conservative elites are actively trying to torpedo the two candidates favored by 60 percent of Republican voters by one measurement, and 59 percent by another.
Keep in mind that these are the voters who are positively fed up with establishment congressional Republicans and the conservative elites that support them. Exactly what kind of a party do George Will and Bob Dole expect to save if by succeeding in their attacks, conservative elites manage to alienate roughly 60 percent of likely Republican voters?
Hat tip Don Surber.