The anti-establishment candidate of the 2016 Republican race gave $100,000 to Hillary Clinton, $50,000 to Rahm Emanuel and $8,900 to Chuck Schumer.
And the candidate the establishment is coalescing around once called Republican leadership “liars,” won his senate seat as a Tea Party outsider, and is generally distrusted by members of both parties.
I’m talking of course about Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, with the latter somehow becoming the establishment preference in a bizarre election where nothing makes sense. In the past few weeks, Cruz has won the support of Mitt Romney in Utah, the endorsement of Jeb! Bush, and even reluctant support from John McCain and Lindsey Graham, though McCain once called Cruz a “wacko-bird.” I’m never been quite sure what a wacko-bird is, but I know it isn’t good.
If you could travel back in time just a few years and tell everyone that establishment candidate Cruz, with the support of Jeb!, Mittens and McCain, would be challenging front-runner Trump with the prospect of a brokered convention, not a single person would believe you.
And considering that, the words establishment and anti-establishment have pretty much lost their meaning.
Labeling someone as establishment or anti-establishment has been the lazy way of identifying someone’s stances on the size of government, opposed to doing actual research on their policy positions. Being establishment or not is all about perception, and is the easy way to define someone as a friend of Washington D.C.
Trump is considered anti-establishment because the party doesn’t want him to be the nominee. But in reality, he’s the ultimate friend of Washington D.C. His self-righteous style of statism and history of buying and selling politicians makes him more of an insider than anyone.
What’s dangerous in just labeling someone anti-establishment regardless of what they believe in is its appealing to the equally lazy voters who just want someone “anti-establishment” for the sake of ruffling feathers. They start to make certain preconceived notions about a candidate based on the label, and believe them because the establishment anger reinforces it.
Ron Paul is the polar opposite of Donald Trump, but there is some overlap in support with those who just want the person who goes against the grain the most. The same goes for Paul supporters and Bernie Sanders, the latter of whom is now thought of as a revolutionary, peaceful prophet because of his rage against multiple “establishments.” But in reality he’s just a roll call vote for the military industrial complex and hardly the strongest progressive on immigration.
Just because the establishment of a party hates one candidate, it doesn’t mean all candidates the establishment hates are inherently good.
I enjoy the theory that the Republican establishment meets in Bohemian Grove once a year in robes and plots how to win the next election for the Council on Foreign Relations and Trilateral Commission as much as the next guy, but the GOP establishment more than likely is just a bunch of insiders trying to advance the party’s special interests. They are probably not as interested in conservative intellectualism as they are satisfying donors, but they also aren’t entirely pure evil.
The Republican establishment might hate Trump, but they hate him because he is an idiot and would lose them an election. Not because he’s an outsider who would clean up Washington and break the mold.
What’s incredibly ironic about this whole scenario is that Cruz tried hard to build himself in an anti-establishment image. His Green-Eggs-and-Ham fake filibuster and calling Mitch McConnell a liar was nothing more than solidifying his brand as the perfect cookie-cutter conservative candidate for outsiders to adore. Cruz must have loved the quick labeling of being “anti-establishment” because it’s advanced his overtly calculated political career, even as he’s flip-flopped on key positions.
But now the tables have completely turned, and the knee-jerk, quick labels of “establishment” and “anti-establishment” find Cruz on the other side of the fence. Again, it has nothing to do with policy or records. If it did, Tea Party conservatives wouldn’t be supporting a man who has donated to several Democratic presidential candidates and supports single-payer healthcare.
But they are, because nothing makes sense.
This election will be remembered for a lot of things – most of them bad and stupid – but maybe it’s good that it looks likely to kill the “establishment” labels. They’ve not only lost meaning, but have confused the electorate and have given us terrible results.
Though, I’m sure the anti-establishment, Republican front-runner who has donated more than $300,000 to Democrats would disagree.