Two weeks ago there was a spectacle in Washington, D.C.
Senator Mike Lee decided he wanted into Senate leadership. Members of the present leadership are term limited under Republican rules and Lee has been one of the most thoughtful and innovative new conservative voices in Washington.
But instead of welcoming new ideas and a fresh face, Senator Mitch McConnell rallied his loyalists, announced that the term limits rule did not apply in the particular case, and shut Lee out. Republicans in the Beltway applauded McConnell.
In the House, conservatives forced out John Boehner, replaced him with Paul Ryan, but otherwise the status quo remains. Republicans continue to give lip service to new ideas, but the revolving door between K Street and Republican leadership offices remain.
Large donors and major corporate interests have access. No one else does. The GOP remains too timid to fight Barack Obama. They remain too fearful of being disliked.
Consequently, they are disliked. The only thing more consistent in the Republican Presidential primaries and caucuses this year than Donald Trump winning is the Republican voter expressing contempt for the GOP in exit polling data. It happened again yesterday.
Republican voters are seething at Washington and, in particular, at the Republican leadership in Washington. Rather than acknowledge there are problems and seek to change, most of the Republicans in Washington think they can outlast the voter anger.
This is part of why Republicans in Washington prefer Donald Trump to Ted Cruz. Even last night on television Karl Rove continued to tout Trump as a more viable challenger to Hillary Clinton than Ted Cruz. Republican strategists in Washington echo this despite all the evidence to the contrary. But they say this because they know Cruz, as the nominee, would be able to insist on fundamental changes to the party. Trump can be ignored and coopted. Trump is, after all, already hiring Republican lobbyists.
Donald Trump will not beat Hillary Clinton. But in his defeat, the very same Republican leadership now being rejected by the Republican voter will remain in power. Not only will they remain in power, they’ll take an “I told you so” position and claim the American people rejected ideas the GOP is not even considering. The same consultant class the Republican base hates will remain in place. The same leadership will remain in place. They will cling to power, shunning new ideas, and moving out to K Street.
On the outside, many Republican voters will turn back to the same voices that sold them on Trump. They’ll lash out at Hillary Clinton and the Republican leaders, but they will affect no change. They’ll just keep the anger going as best they can with no real reform and no new ideas.
Republican voters hate the GOP leadership in Washington and the hate is deserved and earned. This current rebellion though, led in large part by people who are otherwise uninvested in the long term process, will not fix the GOP. It will make it worse and make all the worst leaders more comfortable in their positions.
Nothing will actually change and the horde of Trump voters will fade away. Washington Republicans know it and are counting on it.