Opinion

Establishment Support For Rubio Will Only Make Trump More Certain To Be The Nominee

REUTERS/Las Vegas Sun/Steve Marcus

John M. Ellis Chairman, California Association of Scholars

After Trump’s three primary wins out of four, Republican leaders are panicked. What can they do to prevent a probably unelectable nominee? Well, the one obvious thing they could do is to stop doing whatever they did to create the Trump electoral phenomenon. But instead of learning from its past mistakes the GOP establishment continually repeats them and so keeps feeding the Trump bandwagon day by day. They now believe that Marco Rubio could save them, but, alas, their support for Rubio will only increase support for Trump because it continues the pattern of behavior that got them into this mess in the first place. With enemies like these, Trump doesn’t need friends.

The main issue powering Trump’s run is amnesty for illegal immigrants. Again and again the GOP base has told its leaders to stop their push for amnesty. Ordinary people understand only too well that if you reward bad behavior, you’ll only get more of it (that’s parenting 101), and particularly if you reward scofflaws you’ll get more of them. And they resent that while they have to respect the law, GOP elites think illegals don’t have to. They also know that through taxes they pay into a common fund for the benefit of their fellow citizens, and that nobody has the right to draw on that fund but those who created it. These common sense ideas come easily to ordinary people, and by treating them and those ideas with contempt for so long the elites have aroused contempt for themselves.

The process began with McCain-Kennedy, a 2006 bill that would have given citizenship to illegals. It was near passage when a firestorm erupted: switchboards in Washington melted down with angry phone calls. Party leaders were stunned — they evidently knew very little about what their members thought.

Two years later John McCain, now running for president, understood that his 2006 bill was an obstacle to getting the Republican nomination, and so promised to build a wall. Marco Rubio had a pro-illegal immigrant record in the Florida house, and he too saw that he had no chance of winning a seat in the U.S. Senate unless he disowned his record and promised never to support amnesty. Both broke those promises. Soon enough (2013) McCain and Rubio joined the gang-of-eight, writing an amnesty bill more extreme than the one that had caused voter outrage in 2006. It had every feature that so offended the common sense of Republican voters: instant legalization before border security, access by illegals to welfare and Obamacare, IRS payments to low earners, unlimited chain migration, citizenship. The deception of voters continued: Rubio undertook a PR campaign to convince key Republicans that the bill took care of all their fears (border security before legalization, no access to welfare or IRS payments, etc.) He was lying about every point. When people began to read the bill and see what it really said, Rubio first said they were lying, but eventually was reduced to feigning surprise about what was in the bill he had written. Yet again, only voter outrage forced the bill to be pulled.

The following year (2014) voters registered their displeasure with a real thunderbolt: Eric Cantor, the sitting leader of the House Republicans, was challenged in a primary election. A primary challenge to a sitting leader is normally an exercise in futility, but Cantor lost. Exit polls showed that the key factor was voter anger over relentless attempts to ram amnesty down their throats. The party shrugged and gave Cantor’s job to the next in line in the leadership team: again, nothing was learned, and nothing changed.

By the time 2016 electioneering began in late 2015, the GOP membership was clearly very angry with the party establishment’s persistent refusal to take no for an answer, and so voters delivered their next and even bigger thunderbolt. Pollsters began to discover that support for Donald Trump dwarfed that of his opponents, and that his extreme opposition to illegal immigration and amnesty was the main reason. Yet again, the establishment was stunned: support for Trump was a vehement rejection of them and their ways.

Surely, one might think, the party establishment would now realize that its amnesty obsession had torn the party apart and must be abandoned. No, they didn’t. What they did next reminds us of the definition of insanity: they kept doing the same disastrous things and expecting a different result. While panicking about Trump’s rise, they did everything they possibly could have done to make sure that it gathered even more steam.

First, they went all in to make the amnesty extremist Jeb Bush the Republican nominee for President. What better way to promote Trump? Donors poured hundreds of millions into Bush’s candidacy, and the Wall Street Journal editorial pages promoted him relentlessly. Many right-leaning commentators thought that so much money and establishment support made Bush all but inevitable. But still, yet one more time, the message from Republican voters was: no way. Another rebuke from the party rank and file, the umpteenth, but the establishment still wasn’t listening: it transferred its allegiance to Marco Rubio, co-author of the gang-of 8 bill, its most dishonest propagandist, and still pro-amnesty, though trying hard not to admit it. The Republican establishment is now busily promoting Rubio, but manage not to give any exposure to Phyllis Schafly’s devastating expose of his duplicitous propagandizing for the 2013 bill.

The most interesting case for Trump is made by Ann Coulter. Coulter makes no attempt to defend against the many trenchant criticisms that her conservative colleagues make. For her, one issue is so all-important that it sweeps others aside. Citizenship for 11 million illegals plus the chain migration that the gang’s bill allowed (though Rubio said it wouldn’t) would quickly create as many as 30 million new Democratic voters who would tilt the U.S. electorate disastrously. Trump, she says, would stop that. Compared to this, nothing else matters, and the GOP has shown itself to be incorrigible in this respect. Two problems she does not face are: is Trump electable if nominated? And is Trump reliable? I have doubts about both, but there is no doubt that Coulter puts her finger on the sentiment that powers Trump.

When the party establishment makes Rubio its golden boy, it heavily underlines Coulter’s point: the GOP is indeed incorrigible on amnesty. What it cannot grasp, though this ought to be obvious to everyone, is that its backing of Rubio hardens support for Trump.

In point of fact, it’s probably not too late to stop Trump. All that party leaders have to do is to say: we promise to give up our drive for amnesty, we promise to listen more carefully to our voters on that subject in future, and we now look more kindly on the anti-amnesty Ted Cruz. A simple and easy step, but one too hard for the party establishment, which seems incapable of understanding what it has done.

Establishment support for Rubio creates more votes for Trump, but Cruz could take them away from him because Cruz and Trump voters have one important thing in common: opposition to elite obsession with amnesty. Trump knows that, which is why he attacks Cruz so viciously. So let’s not make any mistake about this: party establishment support for Rubio will make it, not Rush Limbaugh or Mark Levin, guilty of making Trump the GOP nominee. Trump’s strength lies in his apparent radical opposition to politicians who try to ram amnesty down an unwilling public’s throat by lies and deception. Rubio is a prime example of that kind of politician.