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Outsiders vs. Insiders: Will mad voters carry a grudge against the GOP in this year’s elections?

Question: What’s lighter than air yet extremely difficult to carry as more time passes?

Answer: A grudge.

Paul Ryan to retireThe dictionary defines a grudge as, “a persistent feeling of ill will or resentment resulting from a past insult or injury.” In other words, kind of like with a frown you have to make an effort to generate one and the longer you haul a grudge around the more onerous it becomes.

Unless you’re the Washington DC political establishment, of course. Swamp creatures are extremely proficient at holding and maintaining grudges, especially where conservatives are concerned. Political elites figure they already know everything about everything so if someone like President Donald Trump comes to town and tries to change things up he’s instantly suspected of incompetence and malicious intent.

Swamp things like their bog marshy, dark and gooey. The more scum that develops on the surface of a pond the harder it is to see what’s below. The establishment’s grudges can hide in the ooze for decades. But sometimes they emerge, refreshed and vicious as they were on their creation day.

In the case of the Republican establishment, the grudges are persistent and un-curable, especially where incumbents were defeated in party primaries. In fact, some elites are still blaming conservatives in certain states for the senate’s current inability to get things done.

Jay Cost wrote at National Review, “Some conservatives are wont to blame Mitch McConnell and the party establishment for failing to deliver on promises that they made during their campaigns for office. But that anger is displaced. A narrow majority can be worth a lot in the House of Representatives, but much less in the upper chamber.

“The Senate, it must be remembered, is a keenly idiosyncratic institution — highly dependent on the personalities within it. It is not for nothing that former majority leader Trent Lott titled his autobiography ‘Herding Cats.’ The ability of the leadership to enforce discipline is strictly curtailed, so even under the lenient vote threshold of budget reconciliation, it is hard to deliver victories.

“Instead, the cause for the legislative stall is to be found in the various maladies and mistakes of state Republican parties all across the country. To put it bluntly: Republicans have run too many lousy candidates for the United States Senate, and they are now paying the price: gridlock. Time and again over the past decade, the GOP has lost eminently winnable races, allowing Senate Democrats to pad their caucus. This has, in turn, stymied the Republican legislative agenda.”

That’s a pretty simple view of things, isn’t it? It’s the same old argument/explanation the establishment’s advanced for years, which basically can be summarized as thus: local tea parties and other liberty-minded grassroots groups make grave errors whenever they enthusiastically back conservative candidates who theoretically may have difficulty winning statewide general elections because they’re – get this – too principled.

The elites argue the nebulous mushy middle that controls every election – even in redder than red states – won’t go for people like Judge Roy Moore in Alabama or Todd Akin in Missouri or Richard Mourdock in Indiana because gee, they said quirky things and some voter subgroup – single women or suburban pointy headed, college educated men with pens in their shirt pockets might not tolerate their stances on conservative social issues.

Never mind the fact McConnell and establishment honchos like Karl Rove do everything they can to starve certain local candidates of needed resources to prevail in these very winnable races. Moore, for example, had been Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court; Akin was a congressman from a conservative district and Mourdock was the Indiana state treasurer prior to running for senate. It’s not as though these gentlemen came in from the farm field one day and decided to head to the swamp.

No, these good conservative candidates ended up losers on the ash heap of history because one, yes, they did say (or do) some stupid things (that easily could have been overcome with support from the right sources, including elected members of their own party) and two, the poohbahs in Washington decided to pull the rug out from under them before they even reached the capital because it was known well in advance that they would make war on the status quo.

Mourdock and Moore in particular were seen as the most dangerous of enemies because they knocked off incumbent Republican senators in primaries. In Mourdock’s case he defeated longtime wishy-washy “moderate” Indiana senator Dick Lugar, one of Senator John McCain’s buddies in the always collegial ruling class senate. That’s a big no-no in McConnell-land.

Further, establishment Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski staged a crooked write-in campaign to retain her seat after she was ousted by conservatives in her state’s 2010 Republican primary. Voting irregularities abounded in the hard-to-reach areas of Alaska’s wilderness in the November election – but who can challenge the machine? Once upon a time Sarah Palin tried, seemed to have succeeded and then resigned from office when an establishment witch hunt took off after her and her family.

There are lots of reasons why the GOP lost the senate seats Cost referenced in his piece; certainly conservatives deserve part of the blame by choosing candidates (such as Roy Moore over Freedom Caucus member Rep. Mo Brooks in the Alabama primary), but by and large the establishment gets whatever it wants regardless of the “smart” politics in every situation. It’s been proven on more than one occasion that Washington GOP leaders would rather stomach a Democrat winning than take a chance on a disruptor in Congress.

And now that the rumors circling around Speaker Paul Ryan “retiring” have been confirmed, the establishment is moving to ensure any possible replacement would enjoy their stamp of approval. Rachel Bade and John Bresnahan of Politico reported earlier this week (before Ryan made it official on Wednesday), “Two top members of Paul Ryan’s leadership team, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Majority Whip Steve Scalise, have begun angling for his job in the event the speaker calls it quits after the election.

“They’re closely monitoring the moves of the other and quietly courting Republicans who could help either of them clinch the top post, according to 20 GOP lawmakers and aides interviewed for this report.

“Neither is actively rounding up votes at this point, and both downplayed the possibility of a looming clash. Scalise said in an interview that he would not challenge McCarthy for speaker — ‘I’m not running against Kevin for anything,’ he told POLITICO — while McCarthy said he’s focused solely on keeping the House in November and pursuing President Donald Trump’s agenda.”

Blah, blah, blah…nobody’s running for anything, right? There are few things in life more hilarious than listening to politicians pontificate about what they’re not doing. It’s not like all the whispered conversations they’re having behind closed doors are being broadcast to the public.

The truth is both McCarthy and Scalise appear guilty of posturing for a Speaker position that’s just now become available. Regardless of whether Ryan decided to stay or go it wouldn’t make a difference either way concerning Trump’s agenda, because if anything, Ryan was just an establishment tool who always did the bidding of the elite class regardless.

According to the Politico writers McCarthy has done quite a bit of snuggling up to conservatives in the Freedom Caucus of late knowing he’d need their votes to be elected Speaker after Ryan bailed. Meanwhile Scalise, buoyed by his magnificent tale of personal survival after last June’s baseball diamond shooting, is doing some elbow-rubbing of his own.

Scalise is viewed by most as the better suited to make change in the House and return to the bottom-up type of leadership conservatives have demanded for over a decade. As the recent budget fiasco amply revealed, having bills thrown together in secret in the Speaker’s office (written by lobbyists and establishment swamp dwellers) is a recipe for spending disaster. If there’s anything the next Republican Speaker can do it’s restore some semblance of order to the legislative process.

Such an improvement still wouldn’t break the logjam in the upper chamber but if the House leads by example maybe there’ll be enough public pressure on the senate to change its ways as well. Americans will definitely take notice this November that relatively little was accomplished this year despite the GOP’s complete control of the elected branches.

Some “experts” are even predicting the odd mix of political conditions spells doom for one party. Josh Kraushaar of National Journal wrote, “It’s a catch-22. Critique the president and the base won’t show up. Embrace him closely and swing voters will defect. Partisanship has become so all-consuming that it won’t be long before Republicans cast ballots entirely out of tribal loyalty, without any fidelity towards specific policies.

“Indeed, it now feels like ancient history when Republicans believed they could make the midterm elections about tax cuts and the growing economy. Trump isn’t cooperating with that strategy, instead engaging in trade wars and picking polarizing cultural fights that do little to boost his party’s bottom line. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, dismayed by the gloomy trends, all but conceded a Democratic wave and the likelihood of the House flipping in a home-state interview this week.

“There’s little Republicans can do to turn things around at this point. They’re marching to the beat of Trump’s drum and heading closer to the political cliff.”

Kraushaar’s is a common belief among establishment media observers this year (and sorry to say, the National Journal reporter fits that description). Polls show at least 80% of Republicans support Trump, so GOP primary candidates appear to be falling over themselves to greater identify with the president’s policy agenda ahead of their opponents.

That’s where Kraushaar misses the point – Trump’s policies are what’s making him popular with Republican voters. While it’s true Trump’s trade views and across-the-board get-tough on immigration may not command majority support in some all-inclusive polls (meaning both Democrats and Republicans), most conservatives are willing to give Trump the benefit of the doubt for trying to do something about these issues that have been neglected for decades.

It doesn’t mean every Republican is now a converted trade protectionist or hardliner chomping at the bit to deport every single illegal alien – but they’re at least open to sit back and see how Trump’s methods pan out.

Plus, at least where it comes to trade – who really bases their vote entirely on tariff rates? Does the average person even comprehend what a tariff is and how it shows up in everyday life?

No; but people do recognize China has been cheating the trade issue for a long time. Everyone realizes a huge percentage of consumer goods are made in the Far East but will anyone actually notice a few cents’ difference in the prices due to a tariff increase?

Trump isn’t perfect but conservatives and Republicans understand his perspective – new policies and personnel equate to draining the swamp.

Few would carry a grudge against someone who’s taking a position against the status quo and offers good arguments to back it up. The DC political establishment abhors anything that might upset their power structure – and conservatives have a good chance to do just that in 2018.

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