A Strategy for Anti-Establishment Conservatives

I believe that Jeb Bush’s campaign is dead in the water. His polling trajectory does not bode well for him. He is perceived as a moderate in general and is wrong on some issues in particular that are important to the GOP base, such as immigration and Common Core, but his bigger problem is that he simply doesn’t inspire enthusiasm in anyone. People who support someone other than Bush generally don’t hate Bush, they just don’t want him to be the nominee. And therein lies the rub. People don’t hate Bush, but they don’t love him either.

Donald Trump made what I believe to be an astute observation about Jeb Bush. He called him “low energy.” I make assessments of people for a living, and I have thought the same thing about Bush, especially since the first debate. He doesn’t appear to have the “fire in his belly,” and hence Republican voters don’t get fired up over the possibility of having him as their nominee. This is not a criticism. I’m sure Bush would make a fine neighbor. It’s an observation. Not everyone is wired to run for and be President.

Since the Establishment went all in for Bush early on, to the tune of 100+ million, this leaves them with a bit of a problem, and it gives anti-Establishment forces a rare opportunity. With Trump dominating the polls at this point, the Establishment is desperate for an appealing alternative to Trump who is acceptable to them. The problem for the Establishment is that some of the candidates who are currently closest to Trump in the polls, such as Ben Carson and Ted Cruz, are also not acceptable to the Powers That Be and would be considered a direct repudiation of them.

I’m personally supporting Trump, not because he is perfect on the issues, although he is the best of the bunch on immigration and trade deals, but because I see him as the candidate with the most potential to actually significantly wound the Ruling Regime. Here is where I suggest that supporters of other anti-Establishment candidates think strategically and take a long view.

As these things usually go, the primary season normally comes down to an Establishment candidate and the last standing alternative to the Establishment candidate. In 1996 it was Bob Dole and Pat Buchanan. In 2000 it was George Bush and John McCain. In 2008 it was John McCain and Mitt Romney. In 2012 it was Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. (Note that in 2000, since Bush was broadly acceptable to the Establishment and the base, the last standing alternative that year was not perceived as being to the Establishment candidate’s right.)

Trump’s surprising success potentially changes this typical dynamic. As things stand now, Trump looks to be one of the last standing candidates. With the implosion of Bush, what the Establishment is desperately seeking is an anybody-but-Trump candidate who is acceptable to them. Of the plausible candidates these would be, in my estimation, Marco Rubio, John Kasich, and Scott Walker. I suspect Rick Perry and Chris Christie will be out soon.

So what the anti-Establishment coalition should focus on is making sure the last standing anybody-but-Trump candidate is also someone who serves as a repudiation of the current regime. This would be, in my estimation, Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson and Mike Huckabee. Santorum seems to be lagging in the polls, and I’m not sure where to put Carly Fiorina in this dichotomy. I have a hard time putting someone with her record of outsourcing jobs at Hewlett-Packard in the anti-Establishment category, although it would be a slap in the face to the political crowd for an ex-CEO and once failed Senate candidate (in an irredeemably Blue state) to beat out a bunch of Senators and Governors.

With this dynamic in mind, when I’m battling it out on social media and in the conservative webosphere, I am inclined to hold my fire against Carson, Paul, Cruz and Huck even though I have significant disagreements with all of them. Heck, I have significant disagreements with Trump who I’m supporting. May I humbly suggest that supporters of these four other candidates do the same? Instead of ideologically nit-picking these other anti-Establishment candidates, why not focus your efforts on knocking out Jeb and the other acceptable to the Establishment anybody-but-Trump candidates so that the contest comes down to Trump and another anti-Establishment alternative?

Imaging the schadenfreude we will all feel when the elite class has to swallow hard and throw its support behind the brain surgeon who has never been elected to anything in order to block Trump. Or the former preacher who went to a Podunk Baptist college and flirts with populist economics. Or the son of a “kook” who doesn’t support the security/surveillance state. Or the Senator who despite graduating from Harvard Law School has an evangelical preacher for a father, doesn’t observe the normal ruling class rules of decorum and pitches himself to the Tea Party rabble.

When you’re supporting your candidate keep this end game in mind. The thing that will send the loudest message to the ruling class that us yahoos ain’t gonna take it anymore is a contest that comes down to Trump and an anybody-but-Trump candidate who is also a slap in the face of the elite. Train your fire accordingly. Trump is not the enemy. The ruling class is.

Also published at EconomicPopulist.org.

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