The GOP's terrifying Trump plan: Why the party's establishment thinks it can control the Donald—and why it's wrong

Party elders have decided to back Trump over Ted Cruz, according to reports. If true, that is mind-boggling

By Heather Digby Parton


Published January 21, 2016 7:46PM (EST)


It's been obvious for some time that the Republican establishment was likely going to have to make a choice between the lesser of two evils. The GOP "establishment lane" has had a pile up right at the start and nobody can get through it. So the "outsider lane" is the only one available. They are coming very close to having to decide which horse to jump on and by the looks of it, they've decided that if they have to make this unpalatable choice in order to have a chance to win the election, they will choose ... Donald Trump.

Yesterday Salon's Elias Isquith wrote about this, and cited a Washington Post story that had the Republican fatcat donors all starting to sniff around Trump looking for ways to curry favor now that their favorites like Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush seem to have cratered. We all know Trump cannot be bought. He says so every day. Greed is simply not part of his personal character. Even more importantly, Trump has no ego so it's very unlikely he will be influenced by flattery and sweet talk from his wealthy peers. Nonetheless they seem to think it will be worth their while to get access to him.  Go figure.

Meanwhile, The New York Times reported that retired Senator Bob Dole, always one to spill the beans even before he became an elder statesman and decided he really didn't give a damn about propriety anymore, says Trump is the establishment's man. And he didn't mince words about reason: they just cannot stand Ted Cruz.

I question his allegiance to the party,” Mr. Dole said of Mr. Cruz. “I don’t know how often you’ve heard him say the word ‘Republican’ — not very often.” Instead, Mr. Cruz uses the word “conservative,” Mr. Dole said, before offering up a different word for Mr. Cruz: “extremist.”

“I don’t know how he’s going to deal with Congress,” he said. “Nobody likes him.”

But Mr. Dole said he thought Mr. Trump could “probably work with Congress, because he’s, you know, he’s got the right personality and he’s kind of a deal-maker.”

The remarks by Mr. Dole reflect wider unease with Mr. Cruz among members of the Republican establishment, but few leading members of the party have been as candid and cutting.

“If he’s the nominee, we’re going to have wholesale losses in Congress and state offices and governors and legislatures,” said Mr. Dole, who served in the House and Senate for 35 years and won the Iowa caucuses twice. He described Mr. Cruz as having falsely “convinced the Iowa voters that he’s kind of a mainstream conservative.”

The only person who could stop Mr. Cruz from capturing the nomination? “I think it’s Trump,” Mr. Dole said, adding that Mr. Trump was “gaining a little.”

It's hard to wrap your mind around a party that thinks Donald Trump -- King of the Birthers, the man who promises to deport 12 million Latinos, bring back torture and summary execution and bar all Muslims from entering the U.S. -- is less of an extremist than Ted Cruz. Apparently all that's fine as long as you don't say mean things about elected officials. (And have they never heard a Donald Trump speech?)

Not to say that that Ted Cruz isn't an extremist. Of course he is. He's a bona fide, far-right conservative movement zealot. And sure, the party establishment has been at war with the Tea Party/Freedom Caucus types for a while now. But they haven't come right out and openly dissed them. Suddenly, they are feeling free to do that. And that's because they have another far right zealot to present to the rubes, one who they believe is more malleable and would by necessity be forced to turn to them for expert guidance if he were to win the nomination.

According to the National Review's report from the GOP's retreat last week, these people feel downright confident that Trump is such an empty suit they'll be able to dominate him with little problem. Cruz, not so much:

The developing feeling among House Republicans? Donald Trump is preferable to Ted Cruz. “If you look at Trump’s actual policies, they’re pretty thin. There’s not a lot of meat there,” says one Republican member in Ryan’s inner circle, who requested anonymity to speak frankly about the two front-runners as leadership has carefully avoided doing all week.

If Trump were to get the nomination, he would “be looking to answer the question: ‘Where’s the beef?’ And we will have that for him,” says the member.

The member says he believes that, when it comes down to it, “almost all of the candidates would subscribe to” the conservative agenda he and the rest of leadership are hoping to advance.

Except, that is, for Cruz. “Look at the Senate. He hasn’t been a team player. He’s always been his own person with his own aspirations and his own vision, only concerned with where he wants to go. And, you know, for us, we want to work closely with the president. And with Cruz, there’s a question of whether that could happen.”

Cruz was certainly looking out for himself. But there are millions of Tea Partiers who think he was doing exactly what they sent him to Washington to do and looking out for them. Essentially, these establishment types are repudiating the conservative movement in favor of someone they clearly (and surely erroneously) see as a sort of simple clown they'll be able to dominate once he's in office and is dependent upon their superior knowledge and experience.

What planet are they on? Do they really look at Trump and see someone who plays well with others? Someone who isn't a stone cold narcissist and megalomaniac who is clueless about everything important to the job he is seeking? Do they think this is all an act?

If all this is true and the establishment is truly reconciling itself to Donald Trump then Republicans have managed to be even more nihilistic and irresponsible than I ever could have believed possible. They hate Ted Cruz for being rude and self-serving more than they are concerned that Trump is promising to turn this country into an authoritarian police state.

Of course, Cruz would not be a good president. He would be a nightmare too. But I would have thought the Republicans had enough respect for themselves, their party and the movement they created to acknowledge that Ted Cruz is at least qualified to be president and be willing to lose with him rather than risk the world falling into the hands of an unhinged, messianic billionaire Bond villain. (Indeed, one would think they'd see the silver lining in losing with Cruz since the Tea Partiers would never be able to say that he lost because he wasn't conservative enough.)

If the GOP accepts Donald Trump's openly xenophobic, white supremacist, nationalist agenda as the Republican platform, whatever was left of sanity in the GOP is gone. They are setting their party on fire and risking immolating the whole country in the process.

Even worse, they don't seem to care that the election of this man as president of the United States would turn the entire world order upside down overnight because everyone on the planet would assume that the world's only superpower gone mad. And they would be right.

It's important to note that that Trump has expressed admiration for only two leaders during this campaign: Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-Un. It's highly unlikely if Trump becomes the most powerful man in the world he'll be humbly asking the House GOP Weenie Caucus to hold his hand and tell him what to do.

And yes, in case you're wondering, he could actually win:

Sarah Palin Endorses Donald Trump

By Heather Digby Parton

Heather Digby Parton, also known as "Digby," is a contributing writer to Salon. She was the winner of the 2014 Hillman Prize for Opinion and Analysis Journalism.

MORE FROM Heather Digby Parton

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Aol_on Donald Trump Elections 2016 Gop Primary Ted Cruz