The RINOs are Coming! The RINOs are Coming!
Too bad Paul Revere didn’t have Twitter. Or maybe not. The pundits’ refrain that the “traditional rules of politics don’t apply” is just technology catching up to politics. And Donald Trump is just a manifestation of that. The Trump phenomenon hits at the intersection of righteous citizen anger and (un)social media. His special genius is sitting atop Trump tower and understanding us common people sufficiently to get the “establishment” to finally admit that he has an actual shot at being president. The establishment’s admission, however, resembles a classic sign of a top in financial markets.
In fact, many traditional rules still do apply, specifically, over time good candidates rise and bad ones fall. Mr. Trump will likely, in his own words, choose not to be involved in anything where he is not #1. The estimable Dr. Carson will have some play, but not a lot of actual votes when people get serious. We continue to believe this is about Rubio and Cruz when enough votes are cast. And the claims and counter-claims of “establishment” and “RINO” will sweep across the land.
Intelligent conservative writers (e.g. Jonah Goldberg and many others) have tried the “what is a conservative” argument, to little avail. The battle cry of the day is: Establishment RINO! As radio programs struggle for listeners and web sites for clicks, many of them seem to think that this battle cry is the way to accomplish that. Both terms are simply in the eye of the beholder, they just attract the angry masses who can be easily persuaded that Establishment RINOs are the source of their problems.
We have previously proposed the most RINOest of strategies to run for president on the old-fashioned idea of good governance. This challenges the “new rules” of pandering to “angry masses” with easy soundbites. The Republican primary is now reverting to the mean (again, as in financial markets) and many of the old rules will again apply. The Republican candidate for president will define what it means to be a Republican in 2016. And the electorate will either vote for someone they like, or against someone they don’t like. The Clintons will define “like” in terms of identity group politics, and they are masters of creating “dislike” by demonizing opponents.
The Republican party has an opportunity to play a different game which, if successful, could create a generational shift toward conservative principles. The candidate could define “like” in terms of broad appeal, as opposed to interest group coalitions. And if the candidate is relatively impervious to demonization, that might be the largest factor in winning. It is no secret that we prefer Marco Rubio to do this. The best things that the Clintons and Bushes have come up with to attack Senator Rubio are: a.) senate voting record, b.) he is another “John Edwards” (ridiculously silly in terms of basic decency and morality), c.) the Romney campaign found issues when vetting (denied by Romney’s people), and d.) the old standby, let’s dig around and see if we can find an affair with another woman. It is well established that the Clintons fear Rubio the most, and they are verklempt over his increasing attractiveness.
By the way, if the epitome of establishment, the Clintons and Bushes, are desperate in their cheap shots at Rubio, doesn’t that make him anti-establishment? These are the weighty questions for the radioheads to consider. If Twitterland is any indication, it appears that 90% of the Establishment RINO conversation is really about immigration. The best thing that the party and conservative pundits can do in the meantime is get the immigration battle off the table. That is Mr. Trump’s largest draw, and he really fades fast without it.
If all unfolds as we have foreseen it, the party will have a chance to choose between two well-tested, sharp, intelligent people in Rubio and Cruz, and if all goes well, the choice will be made based on general election electability.