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How the GOP Misreads Its Base

BEGIN TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: There are a couple of interesting stories here that I found that are indirectly related to the specific nature of the argument going on between Trump and Cruz right now.  I mean, they obviously include that, but that's not specifically why these articles are written.  One's in National Review by David French, and the other is at TheAtlantic.com by Molly Ball.  And both of these stories are dealing with the precarious perch in which the Republican Party finds itself and what this presidential campaign foretells for the future of the Republican Party. 

In the case of The Atlantic story: "Portrait of a Party on the Verge of Coming Apart," is the headline.  The subhead of this story:  "With the Iowa caucuses just two weeks away, can Republicans reconcile themselves to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz? Or will the GOP break into pieces?" As a prelude to this, I want to remind you of something that we unearthed last week. On the eve of the South Carolina primary the whole RNC was in town.  They had one of their annual confabs where they get together and strategize and plan their conspiracies for winning this and winning that.  And remember we found this piece written by a young Millennial Republican by the name of Ford O'Connell. He's a ranking member of the GOP strategist class and he's one of their planners. 

This is not an outlier, is the point.  This is the guy who presented a five part plan for saving the party.  He said the worst thing that could happen for the Republican Party is for Ted Cruz to win the nomination and be elected president.  The second worst thing that could happen for the party is for Trump be elected president.  The two worst things that could happen to the Republican Party is if either of these two guys is the nominee and then wins the presidency. 

Now, why is that bad?  Well, as a reminder, Mr. O'Connell said because it would delay the much-needed "modernization" of the Republican Party. The Republican Party must modernize.  It's stuck in the mud, it's stuck in the past, and it must get hip and it must get with it.  And how did he define modernization?  Very simply.  We've got to "hug the gays." Ford O'Connell, Millennial GOP, ranking strategist, analyst, whatever, says we have to embrace the gays. We have to embrace the LGBTs. We have to embrace this counterculture and let them know we love them. 

We must be on the leadership team that advances the whole notion of "comprehensive immigration reform." In other words, amnesty.  There was one other.  I forget the fourth point.  It might have had to do with... (interruption) No, that's number five.  The one I've forgotten might have to do with minorities or African-Americans.  I don't know.  But number five probably should have been at the top of this guy's list because they say it's probably the most important thing, although I think "hugging the gays" and getting rid of Reagan are a close first and second in terms of what's important to these guys.

But he said we gotta get rid of "the fetish" of Reagan. We have to stop being tied to the Reagan past.  It is dooming us and it is preventing modernization.  And this guy went on to say that the best thing to happen for the party would be for, if the nominee is Cruz or Trump, to lose.  Because if either of them win, then people are gonna get the wrong idea about the Republican Party and what it stands for.  And we can't have guys like this winning.  We want them to lose (which means this guy and whoever he's speaking for would actively work for the defeat of Cruz or Trump, which means supporting Hillary). 

So you got Republicans admitting they would do that in order to, in their words, save the Republican Party from being destroyed and being prevented from "modernizing."  So with that as a reminder, David French's piece, National Review, "Republicans Have Overestimated the Conservatism of the Base." Now, this is a fascinating piece.  As you know, I'm a regular consumer of what they do there at National Review.  Now, let me just cut to the chase.  Oh, yeah, the other thing that Ford O'Connell said that GOP needs to change the primary system to prevent things like this happening. 

I forget the details.  But those are the five things. 

But, anyway, this is a fascinating analysis by Mr. French at National Review. Depending on who you read they're in bed with the Republican Party or they're not.  They've got people that believe in the GOP establishment and others who don't.  But this piece is fascinating because its premise is that all of this panic on the Republican Party is based in a profound misunderstanding of who their base voters are.  Now, the reason why this is important?  Don't forget the hoped-for, the all-eggs-in-the-winner basket for Jeb Bush.

That's who this establishment and Republican Party wants, and I saw Lindsey Grahamnesty on TV today and he's saying (summarized), "Oh, sure, Jeb can win this thing. Jeb can win Iowa, and then that changes everything.  Oh, yeah, you watch. Jeb can win Iowa. That would change everything!  Jeb's the only guy in this current field qualified to be commander-in-chief.  He's the only guy to stop what Obama's intending to do."  He said, "Donald Trump's insane.  He literally insane.  He's crazy.  And Cruz is just dangerous 'cause everybody hates him. Nobody would ever be able to get anything done."

The point is here the establishment has by no means thrown in the towel on Jeb, which makes this piece in National Review even more interesting, because remember the premise of Jeb's campaign, how he was gonna win. He was gonna do it without the base. Proudly.  They were gonna get the Republican nomination, Jeb Bush was gonna win it, and his support team and all the consultants and all the money people, they were gonna get it by basically flipping the bird at their own base.  And they were proudly gonna do this, and be very happy after they've done it. 

So I think those people also subscribe to the theory that the party must be "modernized."  And let me give you what the real definition of that is.  If you go through Ford O'Connell's five-point plan, everything in that plan is designed to so offend and anger conservatives that they leave the party.  That's what the establishment means when they talk about "modernizing" the party. That means getting rid of the conservatives.  Mr. French comes along here and says these people in the establishment have totally misread and misunderstand who the people in their base are. 

They have "overestimated the conservatism" of the base. Now, don't let the headline fool you.  This is not a piece which says that the base of the Republican Party's not conservative.  It's saying that the establishment has got a total erroneous idea of their conservatism and how it's defined, and it has skewed everything they have done.  Now, let me cut to the nub of this.  "The GOP underestimated Trump in part because it overestimated the conservatism of its own southern, rural northern, and Midwestern base.

"It underestimated the extent to which many of its voters hadn’t so much embraced the corporate conservatism of the Chamber of Commerce or the constitutional conservatism of the Tea Party as much as they had rejected the extremism of the increasingly shrill and politically correct Left." Now, I read this, and I have to tell you, I was blown away.  The fact that the Republican establishment does not understand that what really animates its own base is an opposition to the Democrat Party, what animates and informs its own base is a vehement opposition to liberalism and the American left. 

According to Mr. French, they don't get that.  They don't think that's who you are.  They think you're a bunch of pro-life hayseed hicks.  They have accepted, for all intents and purposes, the Drive-By Media/Democrat Party/Hollywood definition of conservatives and image of conservatives, and that's who they think you are.  And that's why they're embarrassed of you, and that's why they want to "modernize" the party without any of you in it.  'Cause they don't know who you are.  And it follows that they campaign on this idea that they're gonna stop Obama. 

I mean, they know what to tell you.  They get elected and they don't move a little finger in that direction of stopping Obama, and they don't understand that what you really want is for what's happening -- for the Democrat and the American left are doing -- shut down and stopped.  They don't understand that what is the most animating or informative aspect of conservatism today, aside from the tenets of conservatism that we all believe.  What motivates us is opposition, strident opposition to the left and the Democrat Party. 

And that's what Mr. French contends they don't understand.  They have... The GOP establishment has constructed a three-legged stool of conservatives that make up their base.  And one of those legs is a bunch of corporate conservatives, Wall Street conservatives who like the Chamber of Commerce -- and they're all-in for amnesty and this kind of thing.  Then there's another group of conservatives that they consider the Tea Party, and these are the constitutional conservatives, and these are the ones that they hate.  These are the ones they don't understand. 

These are the ones they don't understand their complaints, they don't understand the focus, the interest.  The Tea Party to them is speaking a foreign language.  They don't think the Constitution's under threat, in peril.  They don't think the country's in peril. I'm talking about the establishment.  And so all these people, these conservatives running around worried about what's happening to the Constitution and Obama's executive orders, the GOP establishment just... They disregard it.  "They're kooks." 

And then the third leg of conservatism that they have not recognized is the conservatism, which I think is a combination of the constitutional conservatism and the base majority that opposes the left.  The extremism of the Democrat Party and the left.  And what they don't understand is who is in that group of people.  It's not just Republicans today.  That group of conservatives also has as members blue-collar, white male, disaffected, abandoned Democrats.  But because the GOP establishment does not understand or chooses not to, whichever's the case.

Either they choose not to or they literally do not understand the thing that animates most conservatives is opposition to the Democrats.  In other words, they think you're bad for them because you're a bunch of hayseed pro-life hicks who want to get together and redo the Constitution 'cause you think it's imperiled.  They don't think any of that.  They don't think there's any crisis whatsoever, and they wish you were all part of the corporate conservative crowd, which is okay with Wall Street and the Chamber of Commerce. 

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: So the theory stated here by David French at National Review: The Republican Party "underestimated Trump in part because it overestimated..." This is a key point: "overestimated the conservatism of its own southern, rural northern, and Midwestern base. It [the GOP] underestimated the extent to which many of its voters hadn’t so much embraced the corporate conservatism of the Chamber of Commerce or the constitutional conservatism of the Tea Party as much as they had rejected the extremism of the increasingly shrill and politically correct Left."

In other words, the theory is the GOP misunderstands its base and thinks it is something it isn't (a bunch of pro-life, bunch of hayseed, gun nut kooks), when what it really is made up of people who are animated, motivated, whatever, by their opposition and strident dislike of the Democrat Party and the left.  Now, to believe this, we would have to accept the fact that the Republican Party, the establishment, whatever they call 'em, is literally blind and doesn't see this, because they certainly know enough to campaign the right way. 

They campaign on stopping the Democrats.  They campaign on stopping Obama.  But the real point is here they're embarrassed because they don't understand conservatism (which is true) and they have a totally skewed definition of it (which is true).  And it's the definition and the image that's been advanced by Democrat Party and Hollywood and what have you.  And because of this overestimation... Meaning: The conservative base is not nearly what the GOP thinks it is, and there's no reason to cast it aside like they are doing.

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

Molly Ball writes here in The Atlantic: "Portrait of a Party on the Verge of Coming Apart -- With the Iowa caucuses just two weeks away, can Republicans reconcile themselves to Donald Trump and Ted Cruz? Or will the GOP break into pieces?"  The question's asked and answered.  The Republican leadership, establishment, whatever, certain elements of it, certain members have already said, and some for quotation, that they're not gonna support Cruz or Trump if either is the nominee, that they will support Hillary.  They'll openly support, vote for, Hillary.  Don't forget the guy who claimed we can't afford to let these guys win it, it would set back the modernization of the party. 

But the Drive-Bys are out there, this is a story they want.  They want the Republican crackup story.  They want the story that the Republican Party's blown to smithereens and no longer exists as a functioning political operation, because the name of their game is the absence of opposition.  So they would love for that to happen, whatever it takes.  If it's Trump getting the nomination, they'll take it.  If it's Cruz getting the nomination, they will take it, whatever it takes for the Republican Party to implode.  And when that happens, they'll be the first in line trying to find Republicans claiming they've had it, this is it, they're voting Hillary, you watch.  That's gonna be on.  But that would not be.  If that happens, if the Republican Party caves in, gives up, goes over to Hillary or elements of it do, folks, that's an opportunity.  

Whenever the subject of third party comes up here, and it has routinely over the entire 27 years I've been hosting the program "Rush, do you think the GOP will go third party?"  No.  It's a guaranteed loser, right?  Splits the vote, whoever, you go third party it guarantees the Democrats win.  The objective has always been that conservatives need to assert control over the Republican Party.  Well, if the Republican Party establishment decides to abandon the party, well, we move in and take it over.  So there are any number of different ways of interpreting this. 

Here's a pull quote in this Molly Ball story from Ron Kaufman.  Ron Kaufman is from Boston.  You've seen him on TV, but you may not know who he is, but during campaigns he's a routinely and regularly sought out and quoted Republican, call him a committeeman.  Now, a committeeman, in every state, partisans in every state elect a committeeman and a committee woman to serve in the RNC.  And that's who he is.  He's on the RNC, so he's a moderate, establishment type.  And he says of the GOP right now, "It's like the NFL.  There are two leagues: the centrist-conservative league, and the right-wing league. We’re in the semifinals to see who’s going to represent each league in the finals."

Note here he says we have the centrist conservative wing.  I guess that means the Romney, McCain, Pataki, whoever you want to throw in there, and then the right-wing league, which would be people like Cruz and Mike Lee, and probably most of you.  And so we're in the playoffs here, and it's us against them in the semifinals to see who's gonna represent each league in the finals that will be the Republican primary.  So that's his analysis. 

Another pull quote here: "If Trump or Cruz does win, he will have laid bare the vacuum where once sat the Republican establishment. Yes, there are the donors, people who give the party a lot of money and think this ought to get them something in return; Trump is running against them. ... There are the lobbyists and consultants, but Trump doesn’t listen to them either. There are the elected officials, but they are held hostage by their constituents. There is no smoke-filled room where the poo-bahs could go to work out a deal and end this. In an age of radical disintermediation, parties can’t tell the people what to do."

And then she says, "(The Democrats, it should be noted, are struggling with their own version of this same problem.)" So basically Trump is running against the establishment, K Street, the lobbyists, the consultants, the big money types.  And so's Cruz.  

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: We'll start in Indianapolis with Brad.  Hello, sir.  Glad to have you with us on the program today.

CALLER:  Mega dittos, Rush.  I have a question that has puzzled me throughout the primary, and I was hoping you could enlighten me on it as you do daily.  Why are we, as conservatives, not in the leadership positions of the party?  Why are we not Priebus?  Why are we not the establishment?  It puzzles me that we don't seem to have the voice we should.

RUSH:  You mean because you think that we are the majority of the party, why are we not the establishment?

CALLER:  Yes.

RUSH:  Well, I mean it's not about majority-minority.  It's about power brokers.  The establishment is a club.  There is specific requirement for membership, and it does not include conservatism.  The establishment happened to be the people that run the party, even if they are the minority.  They happen to win their elections, and they are elected as leaders of the party.  The RNC, the same way.  I know what you're getting at.  If there's so many conservatives, if the base is conservative and the establishment is made up of a bunch of minority Republicans, they come how come they run the show? 

Hey, how come the media is so powerful if most people don't like what they do?  The establishment, ruling class, elites, they define all of these things, and they have exclusionary practices, people they admit and don't admit into their club.  And it's not a matter of numbers.  It's power and money and connections and any number of things.  And it's true not just in politics.  It's true in any number of other institutions, where a small, little clique actually runs the whole shebang.  There's a  whole bunch of psychological reasons why people get away with this.  But in politics it's all about money and who has it and who's willing to spend it on whom to maintain positions. 

And the perfect explanation for this -- and you're probably reading, or if you listen to the news you hear about something called the donor class all of a sudden.  It's a relatively new term.  I mean, I've been doing this 27 years.  I never heard of the donor class 'til this year.  Now, they may have be talking about themselves that way, but we've had the political class, the elected class, we've had this class, that class. But the donor class, they are the money people and they run the establishment.  They are the people that pay and fund the campaigns of the people who get elected and stay in office.  That's been the rule of thumb for politics since before any of us were alive. 

Tom, Spring, Texas.  You're next.  Hello, sir.  Great to have you.

CALLER:  Good day to you, sir, and I hope you're doing well.

RUSH:  Well, I'm getting through, doing pretty well.  How about you?

CALLER:  I'm doing fine, sir.  Thank you for asking.  The establishment Republicans are going to such great lengths to try to impugn Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.  On Election Day, if one of those guys gets the nomination, are there gonna be enough people that stay home and hand this election to the Democrats?

RUSH:  Well, yeah.  There are members of the Republican establishment who have said they're gonna vote Hillary if either one of these two guys gets the nomination.  It's not a matter of staying home; they're gonna vote Democrat.  Republicans are quoted, some of them by name, some of them not.  Most of them not.  But they're telling members of the media, whoever will listen, this would be unacceptable, and if either of these guys are the nominee and end up being the presidential candidate for the Republican Party, can't in good faith support it.

They would have to vote for Hillary, because Hillary would keep Washington functioning. Hillary would keep the gravy train going.  Hillary would keep the status quo of the establishment in power and running the show.  Cruz is gonna come in and blow it up.  Trump would come in and blow it up in his own way.  Cruz would blow it up ideologically and do what he could for small government, reduce intrusive government. Trump would come in and do it a different way, but either way they think they'd be out.  They don't want to be out. If it takes voting for Hillary to keep the establishment running the show, then that's what they've said they'll do.

BREAK TRANSCRIPT

RUSH: Here's Danera in West Memphis, Arkansas.  Great to have you on the program.  Hello.

CALLER:  Hi, Rush.  I'm so excited.  I can't believe it.

RUSH:  Well, I'm glad you got through.

CALLER:  I love you.  I'm like the biggest Dittohead ever.

RUSH:  Well, thank you very much.  I appreciate that, and welcome.

CALLER:  Okay.  Well, I just wanted to say, I'm a little sad because with the state of the country and the track record in the last few years we have a huge opportunity to win by a landslide, but we're totally messing it up with the GOP establishment.  It's like we're gonna screw ourselves over.

RUSH:  Now, let me ask you, who is this "we"?  'Cause I understand your frustration, and, by the way, I have to agree with you.  If we can't make the case against liberalism now, we'll never be able to make it.  We're living it.  It's not theoretical.  We don't have to warn people.  I mean, we're living the disaster.  If we can't make hay out of this now -- so when you say "we" seem to be screwing up, who is "we"?

CALLER:  The GOP.  The people who are catering to the liberals.  And I want to know what can we do with the base to get it across to them that we need and want a real strong conservative.

RUSH:  Hey, they get it.  Danera, they totally get it.  They don't want any part of it.  They're not gonna acquiesce.  Politics is not about majority rule winning.  It used to be that when an election was held and the people won, the side that won took a look at what the people wanted and tried to keep doing that, and the people that lost tried to figure out where they had lost touch with people and get back in touch.  That's not what happens today. 

When the Democrats lose an election, they blame the voters.  When the Republicans lose an election, they blame their own base.  Neither party thinks they have to modify, moderate, or change.  It's always the voters problem.  So then they look for ways to do what they want to do no matter what the voters say, either in an election or in any other venue.  So now politics has become about the establishment, both parties, finding ways around popular majority public opinion.

CALLER:  Well, it's so very frustrating.

RUSH:  I know it is, but that's why the battle is being waged here.  You've got two candidates here who are explicitly running against that establishment.  One's Cruz, the other's Trump, and some people might say, "Well, Trump is, but he doesn't know that he is. Cruz definitely is."  

END TRANSCRIPT

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