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.

Comments

I suspect that the mainstream media has a lot more to do with the creation of Newt Gingrich as viable candidate / monster than does the GOP. The right-wing media certainly helps - Palin stopped being a threat pretty much the moment they shifted their cameras shifted away from her, and Donald Trump's brief surge ended the moment the media shifted its attention elsewhere.

By perpetuating the legend of Newt for the past fifteen years, by having him on countless shows, treating him like an elders statesman, flattering him with praise of his intellect and ideas, the mainstream media perhaps has created a different sort of monster - one that has enough clout to keep some cameras directed at him even if people like Murdoch and Ailes would prefer to shut him out. One who is more difficult to attack, because the first question likely to emerge from a sudden condemnation is, "Wasn't this the guy you said, only last year, was the only guy in the Republican Party with good ideas, the guy the party should follow? (And here's the clip.)"

Republican leaders share responsibility because of their complicity in the reinvention of Newt, and it as more beneficial to have an ostensibly brilliant pit bull publicly chew the leg of the Democratic Party than to remind the public of Gingrich's faults and weaknesses. But even so, but for the media's effective choice to do the same thing, I think Gingrich would by now have been long forgotten.

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