Salon: GOP Elites Helpless in Face of Trump Onslaught

AP Photo/Brynn Anderson

From Elias Isquith writing at

After a week’s worth of soundbites from presidential candidates about “anchor babies” and repealing birthright citizenship, it is now clear, if it wasn’t already, that Donald Trump has the steering wheel of the Republican Party firmly in his grasp.

So despite the Republican National Committee’s infamous “autopsy” of the 2012 election — which found that the party could not compete unless it fixed its increasingly toxic image among the Latino electorate — the GOP’s presidential primary has devolved into a contest to see who can demonize and dehumanize immigrants the most. If a sensible, pragmatic Republican Party “establishment” actually existed, now is right about when it would step in. But it doesn’t, of course; so it won’t.

Which is not to say that what passes for the GOP establishment nowadays has gone silent. As recent pieces from elite conservative pundits in Slate and Politico Magazineshow, something approximating an establishment is still in the mix. The problem, though, is that this establishment is completely incapable of controlling Trump, much less the party’s overall message. And whether they opt for conflict or cooptation, their attempts to manipulate Trump will inevitably fail.

Because the establishment, unlike Trump, cannot bring itself to see the Republican Party — and the conservative movement, in general — for the clumsy vehicle of politicized resentment and white identity politics that it really is.

True, conservative elites have been playing some version of this game for a while now; using extreme reactionaries to win elections but pretending the GOP is run by urbane, center-right moderates. But those forces used to be disorganized enough that long-shot protest candidacies (like the Pat Buchanan’s in the 1990s) were the best they could do. And that made maintaining the lie — that the conservative movement’s inmates did not run the asylum — a whole lot easier. At this point, however, that’s no longer the case.

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