The Establishment Strikes Back

Michael Geiger

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One of the main appeals to Donald Trump’s presidential run was his supposed status as an anti-establishment figure. And whether you buy into that narrative or not in 2016, Trump’s relationship with the GOP establishment has undeniably had its peaks and valleys these past few years.  

In May of 2016, Lindsey Graham tweeted, “I also cannot in good conscience support Donald Trump because I do not believe he is a reliable Republican conservative nor has he displayed the judgment and temperament to serve as Commander in Chief.”

While Mitch McConnell eventually ended up supporting Trump’s nomination, he stated at one point in the campaign that if the former real estate mogul was nominated the party would “drop him like a hot rock.”

After all the past hostility showed by Graham and McConnell towards Donald Trump, who would have guessed that those men would play two of the biggest roles in backing the president’s most controversial move?

During the final Brett Kavanaugh hearing, Graham flipped the momentum of the entire confirmation process with a 4.5-minute speech/rant/soliloquy that electrified the proceedings. The South Carolina Senator attacked the Democrats sitting on the Judiciary Committee as a group, but Graham aimed his harshest words in Senator Dianne Feinstein’s direction. 

“If you wanted an FBI investigation, you could have come to us. What you want to do is destroy this guy’s life, hold this seat open, and hope you win in 2020… Boy, you all want power. God, I hope you never get it. I hope the American people can see through this sham. That you knew about it and you held it. You had no intention of protecting Dr. Ford; none.”

Just after Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations against Kavanaugh were made public, a New York Times report stated that President Trump met with Mitch McConnell to gauge how determined the Senate Majority Leader was to confirm the judge. According to that same report, McConnell told Trump that when it comes to Kavanaugh, “I’m stronger than mule piss.”

Only moments after Kavanaugh was officially sworn in, McConnell took center stage on the Senate floor and wasted no time advancing several more of Trump’s judicial nominees. For those not yet aware, Cocaine Mitch plays for keeps.

Even though Republicans have taken their lumps politically in recent months, the coalition that was forged through the fire of the Kavanaugh confirmation is an encouraging sign for the future.

Donald Trump rose above the crowded 2016 presidential field due in large part to his “outsider” perspective. However, in order to get reelected, he’ll need to adopt a different strategy.

In 2020, the Democratic Party will throw the kitchen sink at Donald Trump. If they run Biden, as I suspect they will, Trump can’t afford to face any notable #resistance from his own party.

Despite the amount of buzz surrounding a potential Ben Sasse primary bid, I doubt that the Nebraska Senator will end up challenging Trump in 2020. Sasse has the potential to be a formidable candidate in 2024 and alienating the MAGA crowd would crush his chances post-Trump. 

John Kasich, on the other hand, has a big enough ego that the blowback from a primary challenge will only bolster his deluded sense of self-worth. Expect America’s least-favorite Son of a Mailman™ to run in 2020.

Obviously, Trump will win the GOP’s nomination comfortably, but it is imperative that he doesn’t allow himself to get wounded by any “friendly fire” in the process. Biden will be a stout opponent, and the president can’t afford any unforced errors. 

This illustrates why Trump’s tentative alliance with the establishment is so crucial; politics is a team sport, and maintaining Graham and McConnell’s support will pay big dividends down the road.