For years now, websites such as this one, RedState, and—before it capitulated this cycle like the Vichy French—Breitbart have consistently pushed for a more coherent ideological conservatism from the Republican Party. Conservative activists have remonstrated against the incestuous relationships between Capitol Hill Republicans and the K Street professional influence-peddlers, open-border devotees, Chamber of Commerce fiscal cronyists, and sundry cultural cronyists.
The Tea Party movement, which eventually bifurcated this cycle between its internally tense and, ultimately, irreconcilable constitutional (i.e., Cruz) and brute populist (i.e., Trump) wings, once stood uniformly athwart precisely these sort of inside-the-Beltway parlor tricks. The TARP bailout, the Federal Reserve’s serial in-kind handouts via endless “quantitative easing”—these are the things that once unified all of us on the insurgent Right. This is literally why the legendary Rick Santelli ranted on the floor of the Chicago Board of Trade, back in February 2009, and started the Tea Party movement in earnest.
The 2016 cycle’s bifurcation of the Tea Party has left us with clear lines in the sand. Trumpkin Twitter zombies and personality cultists yearn for a strongman whose disdain for Founding-era political theory and the rule of law summons a thoroughly unholy mixture of Woodrow Wilson-style Progressivism and European-style “nationalist Rightism”—or, what was known last century as fascism.
For conservative constitutionalists in the Cruz camp, many of whom (such as myself) have arrived at the #NeverTrump conclusion, existentially opposing such a cartoonish selling out of the Kirk-Buckley-Goldwater-Reagan conservative movement is instinctual and a no-brainer. Donald Trump is a lifelong liberal Democrat, Planned Parenthood apologist, de facto Code Pink-er, morally crass, grossly uninformed, and probably psychologically disordered megalomaniac who openly brags about buying off politicians. No way in hell will we be complicit in his thinly veiled attempt to destroy that which we have worked so diligently to build.
The problem is that, in the midst of this existential fight, the Republican Party’s spineless establishment has revealed itself to be exactly what we thought it was.
Last fall, when the presidential field was still large, I mused with friends about how, if Cruz won Iowa and Trump won New Hampshire, we might be on a collision course where establishmentarians would look at general election polling versus Hillary Clinton and determine that it was, literally, “Cruz or lose.” The idea was that the so-called Overton Window would make Cruz the only palatable option for Washington, D.C. And yet, all along, I knew that public choice theory remains powerful, and that the same D.C. elites whom conservatives have criticized for years simply could not be trusted to back a true-believing Leviathan-slashing conservative warrior over a demagogic faux-conservative charlatan.
Then yesterday came. John Boehner, who as Speaker railed just as much against conservative House insurgents as he did against Nancy Pelosi, called Ted Cruz “Lucifer in the flesh.” The ever-loquacious Peter King, who has never met a Big Government program he didn’t like, said that Cruz “gives Lucifer a bad name.” Reince Priebus has revealed himself to be a pure party shill with no core commitment to ideology. Boehner, by the way, also revealed himself to be a long-time golfing and texting “buddy” of Donald Trump—the very “outsider” whom the Twitter zombies and personality cultists so thoroughly idolize.
What a moment of clarity, as Sen. Mike Lee—the humble, dignified constitutionalist of staunch principle and utmost integrity—noted when he absolutely unloaded on Boehner on Mark Levin’s radio show yesterday. Sen. Lee is furious. I am furious. Conservatives should all be furious. There is a reason that the Cruz campaign, all cycle, has railed against the #WashingtonCartel. It is real, and it is awful.
Conservatives absolutely can still prevail this cycle. Indeed, if Trump is stopped short of 1,237 delegates, my best guess is that Cruz would win in Cleveland on the second or third ballot. But let us not forget, regarding the GOP establishment, that they are—as former Arizona Cardinals coach Dennis Green once memorably put it—who we thought they were.