Has the GOP Establishment Doomed Itself?

Writing at The Daily Beast, John Avalon outlines the ten endorsements that might still matter in the Republican presidential contest. The list should be familiar to anyone who follows national politics; Avalon lists Sarah Palin, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Jim DeMint, and John McCain among the endorsements coveted by the GOP presidential hopefuls.

While I’m sure that some of these endorsements might provide a big boost in some states (a nod from Jim DeMint, for example, will help in South Carolina), we should be careful not to overstate the importance of these endorsements to winning the GOP nomination, especially in an age where Republican voters seem inattentive—at best—to the concerns of the party establishment. In the past, when party leaders had the undivided attention of Republican voters, it really meant something when a conservative star endorsed a presidential candidate—it gave needed credibility. But now, party leaders are competing with conservative media personalities for influence, and the latter wield an immense amount of power—that Newt Gingrich is the overwhelming choice of conservative Republicans has a lot to do with his ubiquitous presence on Fox News and talk radio.

Indeed, the rise of Gingrich—and the real chance that he might win the nomination—highlights a major dilemna for the Republican Party establishment. For two decades, the GOP has attacked expertise and authority, and offered an emotional, reactive approach to politics—“You should go with your gut, and anyone who says otherwise is an elitist.” If Gingrich wins the nomination, against the wishes of seemingly everyone within the GOP nomination, it might be a sign that this approach worked too well. Republican leaders created a monster, and they’ve lost the power to control it.