March 10, 2016

After Tea Party rift, GOP Establishment coming back together against Trump (too little too late)

With Cruz receiving so much undeserved status as an "outsider" and "anti-Establishment" candidate, it's useful to zoom out and see how his campaign and his followers fit into the whole realignment of the Republican Party.

As of the 1980s, the Republican Party consisted of two partners in an unlikely coalition -- Wall Street (corporate globalism), and the Cultural Right (itself coming in religious and secular forms).

What held them together was an anti-government and anti-society worldview, Wall Street wanting to evade any regulations that would curb their astronomic wealth-accumulation, and the Cultural Right seeing modern big government as an existential threat to traditional values, both secular and religious.

They also shared an antipathy toward stewardship, rooted in a dismissal of the relevance of the future -- Wall Street needed a rationale for rapidly dismantling the painstakingly built American economy and selling it off for scrap to the highest bidder, while the Cultural Right were possessed by a sense of apocalyptic doom, hence no point in tending what we've got into the future, since we need to prep immediately for the end of the world as we know it.

The Cultural Right was always the junior partner in this coalition, having no real wealth or power in the larger society, and both partners knew that. At first, the Cultural Right simply thought that the senior partner would be generous and help them meet their needs, as long as the junior partner showed up to vote for the candidate that was of, by, and for the Wall Street side.

Over time, they saw few to none of their culture war goals being met, despite continuing to show up to the voting booth and pulling the lever for the Republicans. Abortion was still legal, symbols of Christianity were being driven out of the public sphere, and the size and scope of government continued to expand.

Ultimately this led to the Ron Paul phenomenon of 2008, where both the secular and religious wings of the Cultural Right decided that they'd had enough, and were going to revolt against, and perhaps even split off from, the Wall Street camp. This sentiment fueled the growth of the Tea Party in the 2010s, and in 2012 led the Wall Street camp to alter the rules for the GOP nomination so that insurgent candidates like Paul could not make it, and the corporate globalist candidate (like Romney) would sail through.

That attempt to stifle the Tea Party movement provoked a further backlash, with not one but three seemingly insurgent candidates running in the 2016 primary -- Cruz, Walker, and Rand Paul. Foreseeing this rise of the Tea Party, the Wall Street camp rigged the primary process to get the Wall Street candidate, Jeb Bush, safely to the nomination with no more than 20-25% of the vote, through splitting up all of the non-Jeb vote by fielding a ton of candidates, no one of whom would get more than 15-20%.

Throughout this fracturing of the GOP, the Cultural Right has thought of the Wall Street side as the Establishment -- understandably, since they are. But presenting themselves as anti-Establishment is disingenuous, since they have been supporting the Wall Street side for decades, and to the extent that they're no longer marching to the orders of Wall Street, it's not because they're against its corporate globalist agenda, but rather because they want their cultural agenda to take its place after all these decades of sitting on the back burner.

Enter the Trump movement. Its populist and nationalist platform cuts directly against the elitist and globalist platform of the Wall Street side. It wants to "Make America Great Again," meaning it's geared toward sustaining things into the future, and even then it's only America's future that matters. To do that, government intervention will be necessary (tariffs, re-negotiating trade treaties, etc.). There go the two main planks of the old Reagan platform.

It may sympathize with some of the values advocated by the Cultural Right, though not with others, and in any case its main message on the matter is that culture can wait -- first we have to clean up the rotten economy and purify the corruption in the government. And to the extent that it shares the values of the Cultural Right, it does not do so with an apocalyptic fervor -- abortions as a Holocaust that may wipe us out, vs. abortions as a sign of degradation that needs to be healed.

The apocalyptic side does not like to hear yet another front-runner telling them that culture must be put on the back-burner for awhile, while we focus on economics, let alone the suggestion that their attitude toward cultural matters should be more sober and less hysterical. That's why Cruz is cleaning up with the Cultural Right (reminder: this does not include most evangelicals back East of the Mississippi River, where devout Christians -- and folks in general -- tend to be cheerful and stable, rather than paranoid and depressive).

Facing the Trump movement, which does not speak one way or another to the Cultural Right and which speaks directly against Wall Street, the two fractured partners of the old Reagan coalition are coming back together to try to overwhelm Trump at the voting booth. This comes after months of engaging in a tug-of-war amongst themselves, while Trump kept amassing more and more delegates.

But by now, they seem to be coalescing more behind Cruz. The Cultural Right was already with him; the interesting change is the Wall Street side moving over to him. "We'd taken the fundies for granted -- we really do need their numbers at the ballot box, since support for Wall Street per se is so tiny."

Thankfully, this re-merger of the old coalition is coming too little too late, with Trump looking almost certain to get over half of the delegates, however long it may take. Thus, the Trump movement has not only slain the Wall Street wing (symbolized by the abject failure of the Jeb and Rubio campaigns), as well as relegated the culture war to the side, it has also blocked the attempted re-formation of the Reagan-era coalition. The Republican realignment of 2016 is more or less fait accompli.

In an interesting twist, it looks less and less like Cruz was the Cultural Right figure who would finally make the Wall Street wing into the junior partner, and more and more like he was part of the Wall Street side all along, meant to spellbind the apocalyptic cult followers into thinking they were going to be in charge for a change, when in fact Wall Street would continue to play the role of senior partner.

Here is a recent profile of Cruz's deep roots in the Bush political camp, back to the early Dubya days, as well as his being owned by Goldman Sachs, for whom his wife also worked. And here is a post detailing the importance of Fiorina's recent endorsement of Cruz. It is not simply the Wall Street wing grudgingly accepting a junior partner role, and accepting the Cultural Right as the senior partner for now. It turns out that Cruz's Super PAC gave $500,000 to kick off Fiorina's campaign way, way back in June of last year -- Fiorina's endorsement of Cruz is hardly a sudden change of heart, in the face of the unforeseen Trump juggernaut. Their connection goes back at least to the start of the primary season.

With the Wall Street tentacles stretching so far over the political landscape, by now co-opting most of the Tea Party insurgency, the Trump movement could not have come at a more crucial time. You no longer have to be a member of the Cultural Right to start believing in divine intervention.


  1. That all makes sense to me. Good summary.

  2. theo the kraut3/10/16, 6:12 PM

    OT, a little:

    any thoughts on this?

    Poll: Trump Favorability Lowest Among All Candidates

  3. This is very good, but I would disagree about the partnership. It was supposed to be an equal partnership.
    They had the money, socons had the numbers (and powered the GOTV but that's beside the point).

    What happened, and this grew louder and louder with the passing years, the socially liberal donor class as well as the fringier Libertarians, began to convince themselves it was the social conservatives who were costing Republican elections.

    To say they were utterly divorced from reality would be an understatement.

    Yes, if they could just drop the social conservatives (both wings), and go even further laissez-faire economically, then they'd really clean up the elections.


    They were ramming all their stuff through, but when they got control of congress in '14, they couldn't even curb abortion to five months because a group of Republicans said it was divisive. Keep in mind the US is, I think, the second most extreme nation in the world with China as first.

    Of course, there's immigration and the list of backstabbing and betrayals is endless. The one above marked my realization that the self-delusion had become truly manifest.

    The beauty of Donald Trump is that he is proving that the Libertarian/Wall Street wing had it backwards: they were the drag.


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