You would think that after the complete repudiation of the mainstream GOP establishment by its own voters that it might do some soul-searching. You would think that it might ask itself what it did wrong to facilitate the rise of Donald Trump. And you might also believe in unicorns.
No, instead of learning the lessons from 2016 that might help it avoid pain in the future, the establishment has chosen to learn different lessons, lessons that – shockingly – reinforce the same pre-existing notions that got us into this mess in the first place.
Who in the Republican establishment has stood up and said, “Hey, you know, the base really doesn't want millions of illegal aliens flooding into this country, so we need to stop trying to make amnesty happen.” Is there anyone who doesn’t think we’d have Marco Rubio as our nominee today if he hadn’t decided to ignore the voters and cozy up to Chuck Schumer?
Who in the Republican establishment has stood up and said, “Gee, maybe all these trade deals are great for the giant corporations who write us checks, but our base is made up largely of people who see themselves getting a raw deal.” Don’t fool yourself – Donald’s Trump’s resonance has less to do with him being a reality TV star than with his addressing the economic issues the Chamber of Commerce groupies hand-waved away. Dismissing him as some idiot box novelty bedazzling the proles with his glittering glamour is super-convenient – you both get to feel superior while avoiding having to consider the possibility that you might have to change.
And who in the Republican establishment has stood up and said, “Gosh, maybe we should actually do what we promised our voters we’d do when they sent us to Washington.” Remember that stuff about defunding Obamacare? You didn’t defund Obamacare. And when you get annoyed at your voters for expecting you to do what you promise to do – “But everyone here in Washington knew we didn’t mean it!” – that annoys your voters even more.
The result? About 80% of Republicans supported an outsider, a Trump or a Cruz or a Carson – anyone but one of the squishes you trotted out. Jeb Bush – are you kidding me? This is a guy who supports amnesty, supports Common Core, and hung a medal around Hillary’s wrinkly wattle. And you establishment types seriously thought, “Well, he sounds like the perfect successor to Presidents McCain and Romney!”
Nor did it help that John Boehner recently put down his tumbler of bourbon long enough to demonstrate from exile exactly why he is the quintessential establishment stereotype. Ted Cruz is the antichrist? What, for actually fighting for the same stuff Boehner and the rest of you kept telling us you’d fight for?
It’s probably wasted effort since your motivation isn’t ideology but, rather, your own personal power, privilege and pocketbook, but here are some lessons you might want to take away from all this.
Stop lying to us.
Stop prioritizing K Street and Wall Street over Main Street.
Stop trying to shove amnesty, Common Core, and big government down our throats.
Stop rolling over and presenting to every liberal nursing a fake outrage.
But you won’t learn from your humiliation. Instead, you’ll tell yourselves comforting lies to avoid facing the painful truth. You’ll tell yourself that the base is just stupid, that they’ve been hypnotized by Trump’s magic and don’t understand that he’s a charlatan. But there’s no one who doesn’t know exactly what Trump is, and the most important things that he is are that he is not Hillary and that he is not one of you.
You call the voters “angry,” as if that somehow invalidates their critique. You made them angry with your lies. Your incompetence. Your betrayals. You did it.
So, we have Paul Ryan announcing that he’s taking his ball and going home, somehow relieved of his promise to support the GOP nominee because the guy he wanted didn’t get picked. And what’s his big legislative priority right now? Is it cutting off funding for Obama’s latest executive orders? Nah. How about reining in the brownshirts in the executive branch with their hatred of coal miners and bizarre desire to ensure men can be present when women pee? Nah.
No, it’s bailing out Puerto Rico. A Democrat commonwealth squanders its money and comes looking to us for a handout, and that’s what Paul Ryan chooses to focus on. That’s his priority! Yeah, because for Republican voters, there’s nothing more important than spending our money to pay off big bondholders! And don’t insult our intelligence by claiming we won’t be paying for it – if the Puerto Ricans who spent like drunken Greeks aren’t paying for it, someone else is, and that someone else is always us.
Well, you’ve been warned. We told you and told you, but you thought, “Nah, they don’t mean it. They’ll forget and fall-in at election time. They always do. And we’ll keep feeding at the trough.”
But it kind of didn’t work out that way this time, did it? You may think you’ll just wait it out, that during four years of Hillary or Trump the fever will break and it’ll be back to business as usual. But it won’t. That's done. That's over. It isn't going back to how it was. The base isn't going to suddenly wake up and see that you were right all along. Trump and Cruz changed things. The insurgency is the future. And you’re the past.