In a new story at NBC News, Steve Kornacki says there is a new GOP uprising underway leading into the 2018 election. It is a replay or the next stage of similar eruptions in 2010 and 2012 and to a lesser extent in 2014. We know the pattern: establishment Republicans get picked off by increasingly radical or simply crazy ‘grassroots’ conservatives. Many end up losing races to Democrats which a more conventional Republican could have won. But some or most get through.
That pattern allowed Democrats to hold on to the Senate through the first six years of President Obama’s presidency. And it was the GOP’s relative success at preventing primary-driven self-immolations in 2014 and again in 2016 that finally allowed them to claim the majority and hold it. Everyone who has observed US national politics in the last decade knows this pattern.
As Kornacki explains, establishment Republicans have struggled over the Obama years both to tame Tea Partyism and remake the GOP in its image in order to create a party that can gain from rightist energy while not being torn apart by it. Now everything seems to be coming home to roost after the GOP took control of both houses of Congress and elected a President who embodies far-right tea party crazy and yet have proven unable to – at least in formal legislation – do anything with it. As Kornacki writes, “It could be a moment of reckoning for the leaders of Washington’s Republican establishment. For nearly a decade, they have strained to channel the base’s energy into a unifying platform. But it may be that all the base has ever really wanted was for them to be gone — all of them.”
This is all true. But there’s a deeper dynamic here that goes beyond ‘establishment’ and ‘tea party’. Indeed, when the President is Donald Trump and people elected in the Tea Party wave election of 2010 (and successive elections) dominate the congressional GOP, it is a bit hard to say what the GOP ‘establishment’ even is…