By Charlie Cook – National Journal
An anger persists: Party rebel Pat Buchanan upset a sitting president in the 1992 New Hampshire GOP primary.
PHOTO: February 1992: Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan holds up a newspaper with the headline, ‘Read Our Lips’ at press conference following the New Hampshire Primary. (Photo by Ron Sachs/Consolidated News Pictures/Getty Images)
Almost half of the GOP’s voters are saying: Let’s start from scratch.
Is the Republican Party going rogue? It’s hard to look at the opinion polling in the GOP presidential nomination contest and conclude anything else. As unexpected as many of the developments on the Democratic side have been, it doesn’t hold a candle to what is unfolding among the Republicans.
Clearly, something profound is happening in the usually staid and orderly party. Donald Trump is in first place not only in Iowa and New Hampshire, but in national polling as well, averaging more than a quarter of the vote. Ben Carson, the retired neurologist, is now in second place in Iowa and nationwide, and in a statistical tie in New Hampshire with Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a more traditional candidate. That Jeb Bush is averaging single-digit performances in both crucial states and nationally is just as perplexing.
Should we see this as a rebellion against career politicians and the GOP establishment? Or, is roughly 40 percent of the GOP electorate throwing a temper tantrum? The answer is: both.
Not quite half of the Republican Party is made up of social, cultural, and evangelical conservatives, tea-party adherents, and populists. None of them ever cared much for the party establishment in the first place. This 40-something percent of the GOP isn’t only more visible and vocal than the slight majority of conventional Republicans, they are also likelier to vote in caucuses and primaries. That magnifies their importance.
But more than that is going on in the Grand Old Party. This is my theory: During the past 35 years, since Ronald Reagan entered the White House, Republican voters have watched in quiet dismay as the federal debt and the size of government kept growing, not only under Democratic presidents but also under Republicans—Reagan and both Bushes. Much of that happened while Republicans held majorities in one or both houses of Congress.
The career politicians who constitute the party’s establishment have disappointed many Republicans. Conservatives (and numerous nonconservatives) hated the Troubled Asset Relief Program, which President George W. Bush pushed through in response to the 2008 financial crisis. The so-called bailout of banks stoked their populist ire; few of them seemed to appreciate that the emergency action might well have prevented the U.S. and world economies from sliding into a second Great Depression. Most conservatives and Republicans despised the Affordable Care Act and, unaware of the inner workings of Congress, couldn’t understand why Republican majorities haven’t rolled it back.
Increasingly, they’ve seen their own leaders as inextricably bound up with everything they hate about Washington. Thus, the tea party was born. As a consequence, something else died—the deference traditionally afforded to the party’s establishment, in nominating as its standard-bearer whoever was next in line.
This isn’t the first time the antiestablishment pieces of the party have shown a willingness to look outside the box. Recall 1992, when conservative commentator Pat Buchanan upset President George H.W. Bush in the New Hampshire primary. Read more at the National Journal…