Harold Hutchison / Nov. 28, 2018

How the Establishment Can Win Back the MAGA Wing

Republican infighting continues to be one of the biggest hurdles for the Grand Old Party.

As we discussed earlier, the 2018 election was a disaster for House Republicans and a disappointment in the senatorial and gubernatorial races. We explained that one factor was the infighting between the MAGA and establishment wings of both the Republican Party and the conservative movement.

Yes, there are two establishments. The Republican establishment we hear much about (and that is derided as RINO) tends to be very moderate. But there have also been otherwise solid conservatives who went Never Trump as well. Folks in these two establishments feel that the MAGA wing has made some deals with the devil in supporting Donald Trump’s successful presidential campaign, to put it mildly, and there’s no doubt the Trump wing has some work to do to win back the suburbs.

But the problem is, the establishments managed to rack up some intense levels of mistrust. In 2016, the GOP had a number of successful governors running for president, including Bobby Jindal, Jeb Bush, Scott Walker, and Rick Perry. Other luminaries such as Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio also were strong candidates. But Trump beat them all.

Why? The big reason is that the Republican and conservative establishments failed to effectively address some big issues. There was the IRS scandal, an initial manifestation of the deep-state threat. There was also the ObamaCare shutdown of 2013 — a major tactical and strategic miscalculation on the part of the more conservative House Republicans and Sen. Cruz. The long-running failure to secure our borders also became a festering sore.

Moreover, when Democrats made outlandish claims, like Michelle Obama claiming that opposition to her failed school-lunch program meant people were okay with kids “eating crap,” the establishments didn’t fully fight back — or so MAGA voters perceived. Even much worse slanders, like those directed at the late John McCain, went largely unanswered by the establishments. The slanders were turned up to 11 after the 2016 election, and some of the failed establishment types joined in. In some cases, it was to cover up their own bad track records.

Worst of all, in some cases, establishment Republicans who were defended by MAGA Republicans in the past, like George W. Bush — the beneficiary of many Republicans and conservatives defending him on a wide spectrum of issues — often repaid that defense with trashing those who defended them. Not surprisingly, that didn’t go over well.

At this point, a MAGA Republican or conservative has every right to trust an establishment Republican or conservative about as far as they can throw a Nimitz-class supercarrier. The lack of trust means that MAGA Republicans are less likely to stick their necks out for an establishment Republican. Some establishment Republicans and conservatives may never regain that trust.

The good news, though, is that many Republicans still in office have learned some of these lessons, and they now fight back. Two of the most notable examples are Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio. Both have taken major stands and have begun to punch back — Graham was particularly notable in his blistering rebuke of Democrats in the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. Given his history of “working across the aisle,” this was a welcome show of GOP spine.

But this has to be a routine among Republican party leaders, as well as conservative leaders outside the GOP. This is particularly important when slanders like being okay with “kids eating crap” and worse are uttered.

The conservative and Republican establishments have a long way to go to regain the trust of MAGA voters. They may never fully regain it. But unless they try, they will find themselves shunted to the sideline — and our liberties and the future of the country will be paying the ultimate price.

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