In search of the ‘Republican establishment’

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has accused “the establishment” of rallying behind his chief rival for the Republican nomination, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

“Governor Romney has the money, he has the establishment, he has the internal structure,” Gingrich recently told Fox News. “He’s clearly way ahead of us in all the things that an establishment brings you.”

Rush Limbaugh and other conservative commentators echoed the charge, suggesting that the “establishment” is working against Gingrich and the other GOP presidential contenders in support of Romney.

But what, exactly, is this “establishment” they speak of?

“Well, you’ll also hear talk about the Loch Ness Monster, but I don’t believe in it and I don’t believe in a Republican establishment, which once was real, exists in any meaningful sense as a coherent and effective political force,” conservative commentator George Will told The Daily Caller, dismissing the entire notion that there even is an establishment.

American Enterprise Institute resident fellow Michael Barone concurred with Will’s assessment.

“My understanding is that ‘the Republican establishment’ was a term coined to refer to the mostly New York, WASPy types — lawyers, journalists — who swung the Republican presidential nominations to Wendell Willkie in 1940, Thomas Dewey in 1944 and 1948 and Dwight Eisenhower in 1952,” he explained to TheDC.

“They were fiercely internationalist on foreign policy and willing to accommodate the New Dealers and unions, somewhat, on domestic policy.”

But, Barone added, “It’s been a long time since people like this made decisions for the Republican Party. I think it’s hugely anachronistic to refer to ‘the Republican establishment’ any more.”

Many conservative commentators and political observers, however, staunchly disagree.

“Some people claim the Republican Establishment does not exist,” Washington Times columnist Milton Wolf told TheDC. “We have a name for those people: Establishment Republicans.”

“The Establishment is a real thing with amorphous and mutable borders,” political strategist Mary Matalin said. “Ostensibly, it is the members of formal structures (party leaders, Congressional leadership, funders, top line strategists, ideological big thinkers and opiners, etc.).”

Conservative talk radio host Mark Levin scoffs at the notion that there is no such thing as the Republican establishment.

“It is interesting that no one wants to be characterized as part of the establishment, even when they run the instrumentalities of the GOP and have never endorsed a single tea party candidate out of the gate,” he said.

“Besides, if there was not an establishment, there would be no need for the tea party.”

In TheDC’s search for “the establishment,” one name kept popping up from those who ardently believe the so-called GOP establishment is alive and well: Angelo Codevilla.

A Boston University professor emeritus in international relations, Codevilla is the author of “The Ruling Class.” In a 2010 interview with TheDC about the book, Codevilla explained that America is split not between Democrats and Republicans, but between what he terms the “Ruling Class” and the “Country Class.”

“People define themselves as ‘the ruling class’ by tying their livelihoods and hopes to government, and above all by a certain attitude toward the rest of the country,” he said.

“Neither money nor even professional position defines a person as part of the ruling class or not. Rather, membership is all about drawing one’s livelihood from one’s connection with government power, from believing that this is proper, and above all from sensing that sharing a certain set of attitudes and tastes makes one superior to ordinary Americans.”