The Republican Party is now in a last-ditch effort to save itself – and the only answer is presidential victory, according to Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. Speaking with the Washington Examiner, Priebus explained, “We’re seeing more and more that if you don’t hold the White House, it’s very difficult to govern in this country – especially in Washington D.C. However, I think that we may have become, unfortunately, a midterm party that doesn’t lose and presidential party that’s had a really hard time winning.”
Priebus concluded: “I do think we’re cooked as a party for quite a while as a party if we don’t win in 2016.” In the past, Priebus has stated that Republicans will have to be “about perfect” in order to win the presidency, before averring that the GOP must do more minority outreach.
Practically speaking, this means that Republican leadership will, as always, value supposed electability over conservative principle. And the Republican establishment’s definition of electability revolves around softness with regard to illegal immigration. In June 2014, Priebus specifically said that comprehensive immigration reform would be a useful tool in electoral outreach:
I think that if you look at– you google Ted Cruz, you google Rand Paul and immigration, you– what you’ll find is that even Rand Paul and Ted Cruz have been out there publicly calling for serious immigration reform….if you don’t have Republicans and Hispanic and African-American, and Asian communities talking about the Republican Party or nominee, et cetera, for four years, not just four months, you’re not going to improve in national elections.
Republicans then proceeded to win historic victories in the 2014 election on the basis of promising to stop President Obama’s executive amnesty. But that hasn’t stopped the drumbeat for immigration reform, or a candidate who embraces it.
Just take a look at the transformation of 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Romney, who in the haze of retrospect has become a sort of Republican establishment mirage of the ideal candidate, shifted from 2012 to present dramatically on immigration reform. In 2012, he called for self-deportation, suggesting that “people decide they can do better by going home because they can’t find work here because they don’t have legal documentation to allow them to work here.”
Yesterday, however, Romney came out and blasted Republican frontrunner Donald Trump for his comments on Hispanics, stating, “I think Donald Trump has said a number of things which are hurtful, and he has said they were childish in some respects, and I think will be potentially problematic either in a primary or in a general election if he were to become the nominee.” He added that Trump’s comments tainted the Republican Party “to a degree.”
Specifically asked about other candidates, Romney said that either Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) or former governor Jeb Bush (R-FL) would rectify the breach with Hispanics.
With Bush fading, Rubio seems to the establishment’s trendy “electable” pick in 2016. Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson’s embrace of Rubio came as no surprise to those who know Rubio’s pro-Israel record – but then again, Rubio’s pro-Israel record is no better than Ted Cruz’s or Mike Huckabee’s or a slew of other Republican candidates. It is worth noting that Adelson is also a major proponent of immigration reform. In 2014, Adelson wrote a piece for Politico in which he stated:
As a Republican, it’s my view that efforts to complete immigration reform should be led by our party…. Frankly, the Democrats don’t have a monopoly on having hearts. While I do not practice or promote illegal behavior, the reality is that 11 million illegal immigrants are currently in this country.
Adelson added that illegal immigrants should be given work permits, driver’s licenses, bank accounts, free education, and yes, a “long-term path to citizenship.” He wrote, “For us to do anything less would be a repudiation of the very foundation that has made America the world’s greatest melting pot.”
Adelson is hardly the only major Republican establishment donor uniting behind Rubio. In April, behind closed doors, Rubio reportedly wooed major establishment fundraisers by touting immigration reform. Auto tycoon Norman Braman put $10 million into Rubio, specifically citing his support for immigration reform. Investor George Seay said the same thing while getting behind Rubio. Fast food CEO Andy Puzder even said that Rubio had assured him that his public stance on immigration was largely intended for public consumption.
Trump’s rise, based in part on his enthusiasm for border enforcement, has thrown a serious scare into the Republican establishment – he not only threatens their stranglehold on power within the party, they believe that he threatens the possibility of Republican victory in 2016. And, as Priebus says, they fear that three straight defeats, and six popular vote defeats in seven presidential elections, could finish the party.
So prepare for a wave of propaganda regarding Rubio’s electability as compared with that of other Republican candidates – even though Ben Carson (+11%), Donald Trump (+5%), Carly Fiorina (+3%), and Jeb Bush (+4%) all run ahead of Hillary at this point. One of the great lies of presidential politics is that anyone will be able to correctly predict elections a year out – as professor of psychology Daniel Kahneman has pointed out, making short-term predictions remains possible for pundits, but medium-term predictions are rarely correct. Nonetheless, voters will be urged to grab their crystal balls and attempt to forecast whom will be most likely to capture hearts and minds over a year from now. They will be told to ignore their gut reactions to rougher-hewn candidates in favor of the slippery smoothness of Rubio or Bush.
Ironically, however, the Republican establishment’s fervent belief in its own ability to predict the future – a future they believe will only remain secure if they remain in charge of the Republican Party – dooms the Party to failure so long as they continue to promote electability over principle. If you promise to represent conservatism as a party, that’s an easy deliverable. If you promise to deliver victory, and throw out conservatism in order to pursue that victory, you’re setting yourself up for a permanent loss.
Ben Shapiro is Senior Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News, Editor-in-Chief of DailyWire.com, and The New York Times bestselling author, most recently, of the book, The People vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against The Obama Administration (Threshold Editions, June 10, 2014). Follow Ben Shapiro on Twitter @benshapiro.