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Outsiders vs. Insiders: Republicans shouldn’t allow elites to lead them to whitewash in 2018

Let’s not get carried away here.

To say last week and (more broadly) even the last month was good for President Donald Trump (and to some extent, the entirety of the Republican congressional majority) does not require a great leap of logic. Together GOP elected leaders passed a major tax overhaul, put the American people’s future earnings back in their own pockets, pushed through a budget extension with a bit of Democrat cooperation, threatened to pull the monetary rug out from under the UN and various other actions that made conservatives smile.

Mitch McConnellBut we still must remember the new year arrives in a few days and with it Congress will return to the capital facing a whole new set of political barriers and an election in eleven months that promises to be challenging to keep a hold on GOP majorities while battling an enraged liberal half of the public that craves blood and won’t settle for much less.

And we haven’t even mentioned the big leftist donors who will be unleashing their fortunes to search every nook and cranny for votes (legal and illegal) to purchase for use against Trump. Democrats will pull out all the stops to shore up current polls showing them in a favorable position to retake the House.

The establishment has been bruised of late and the swamp is drying out to some extent but let’s not forget who’s still in charge of Congress on the Republican side. In the senate Mitch McConnell remains anchored in the big boy Majority Leader’s chair and he’s more determined than ever to stay there -- even if he has to stick it to conservatives in upcoming primaries.

David M. Drucker wrote in the Washington Examiner last week, “The Kentucky Republican in a late Thursday interview basked in the glow of the historic tax overhaul that cleared Congress this week. But McConnell was candid about challenges Republicans face next year, both in selling tax reform to skeptical voters and weathering a brewing political storm generated by Trump’s polarizing leadership...

“Being trapped by flawed candidates is McConnell’s biggest concern. Lousy nominees cost the GOP winnable races in 2010 and 2012, not to mention a special election this month in Alabama that saw retired Judge Roy Moore become the first Republican to lose a Senate race in that ruby-red state in 25 years.

“McConnell made clear that he and his super PAC, Senate Leadership Fund, would intervene in 2018 to protect incumbents and pick sides in open primaries to quash nationalist firebrand Steve Bannon’s promised insurrection against so-called establishment candidates, and box out candidates like Moore.”

If Bannon is indeed a “firebrand” that must mean McConnell realizes his rear end is on the hot seat. This can only be a good thing in the abstract; although McConnell may be working overtime to beat conservatives with various state Republican parties there’s little doubt many conservative organizations will be just as ready to fight back against him.

It’s no secret McConnell did everything he could to ensure Roy Moore wouldn’t be working alongside him questioning his every leadership move in the Senate while the Kentucky senator continued his quest to clog the opened drains in the DC swamp. McConnell’s won a token of goodwill with conservatives after the party’s tax triumph but he’ll begin feeling pressure again the next time he wimps out on pushing a sizable piece of the Trump agenda (immigration and the border wall?). The question now becomes when will the capitulation take place and what will it be?

Drucker further reported McConnell astonishingly claims he isn’t going to be an issue in a single primary race next year. Granted everyone’s a little giddy right now after Christmas and anticipating a new year full of possibilities, but how can McConnell be so delusional about his own reputation?

While it’s likely true Bannon sustained a significant political influence hit in Alabama a few weeks ago that’s not to say the same “ditch Mitch” feeling won’t surface again in several months in places like Arizona, Tennessee, Indiana, Wisconsin and Ohio, where solid principled conservative candidates are on the GOP ballot just itching to come to Washington to help Trump and step over (or on) McConnell if that’s what it takes to Make America Great Again.

The current good feelings between party members is tangible but probably only temporary; heck even oft-wayward wishy-washy Senator Bob Corker said he now has empathy for President Trump where the media is concerned since the retiring Tennessee senator was a victim of a vicious “fake news” attack before the tax reform vote last week. Now if only Senator Jeff Flake would come to his senses and keep his mouth shut it would be just like one big GOP love-in heading into 2018.

That’s not likely to happen, though. Flake is too bitter and “out there” to suddenly become reasonable. But even Flake voted “aye” on the tax bill. Things are happy in Republican-land, at least for the moment.

As Drucker suggested in his article, this appears about to change in the coming months, at least where McConnell’s concerned.

The small but loud contingent of #NeverTrumpers is still whining and complaining as well as the liberals in Congress. Perhaps it’s time for them to give in, show contrition and join the winning side.

Roger L. Simon wrote in PJ Media last week, “[I]t it is time for the remaining NeverTrumpers to apologize for a reason far more important than self-castigation or merely to make things ‘right.’  Donald Trump -- whose initial victory was a shock, even, ironically, to those of us who predicted it -- has compounded that shock by being astoundingly successful in his first year, especially at the conclusion. (He's a quick study, evidently.) More conservative goals have been achieved or put in motion in eleven months than in any time in recent, or even distant, memory. It's an astonishing reversal for our country accompanied by the beginnings of an economic boom.

“But that same success is causing, it's becoming increasingly clear, an equally determined, even virulent, reaction from the left. At first they too thought Trump was an ineffectual blowhard who would shoot himself in the foot, ultimately redounding to their advantage. Now that they have found that not to be the case, they are in a state of panic, fearing a defeat for their ideals that would set them back years, even decades. They cannot let this stand and are marshaling all their forces from the media to Hollywood to the academy, not to mention at least some of the investigative units of the FBI.”

As a result, Simon says it’s time for the disgruntled Republican holdouts who so steadfastly opposed Trump during the campaign and in many instances this year to swallow their pride and come back to the GOP camp ready to pick up a shovel and lend a hand. Democrats and their media allies aren’t going to accept defeat for long and will be spinning every little bit of negative news into the next supposed political disaster for Trump, trying to gain support for impeachment.

If the president sends out a “Happy New Year” wish there are those in the media who will claim there’s something subliminally evil and sinister about it.

The #NeverTrump contingent felt reenergized earlier this month when Roy Moore narrowly went down to defeat but the tax bill -- supported by all but twelve blue state Republicans in the House – changed the party dynamic in a way that’s hard to deny. Even Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski and Maine’s Susan Collins voted to reform the tax code, not to mention leading #NeverTrumper Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse.

There just isn’t anyone left to rally behind if you’re a Republican opposed to Trump. Who’s going to be the leader of the “conservative” opposition…Evan McMullin? Jeb Bush?

As Simon pointed out in his article, some #NeverTrumpers are starting to see the light – at least a little. Jonah Goldberg argued at National Review, “The Resisters want everyone to share their reflexive opposition to everything he does. In other words, the important criterion is enthusiasm not reasoning. Charlie’s [Cooke] position, like that of many of my colleagues at NR, as well as that of Ben Shapiro, Erick Erickson, John Podhoretz, Steve Hayes, and many others, is to resist reflexive, unthinking, passion in favor of facts and skepticism.

“It’s fine to disagree with this position from the pro- or anti-Trump camps. What is unfair is to claim that if you don’t fall in line with one team or another it must be because of corrupt motives, cowardice, or some other mental defect. Indeed, one could argue that it is much more difficult, costly, and risky to not get swept up in either movement.”

I would argue supporting Donald Trump has never been a “movement,” at least for most of us. Many who are pleased with Trump now were his most sincere critics during the primaries, such as those of us who backed Ted Cruz and spent almost a year working every angle imaginable to help the outsider Texas senator beat the eventual winner.

Our concerns with Trump back then were real; happily nearly all of them have been dispelled thanks in large part to people like Mike Pence who seemingly have a major influence on the president. Trump’s political instincts have been spot-on in most ways; if you don’t believe it, just measure the degree of rage coming from the left. If Trump had won the election and governed as a liberal do you think they’d despise him so wholeheartedly today?

There are additional signs #NeverTrumpers are beginning to reduce their fierce opposition to the president. As Goldberg touched on in his piece, Erick Erickson decided to give up half his income and his contract as a Fox News contributor because he couldn’t consistently criticize (or support) Trump. Goldberg made it sound like the decision was Fox’s to terminate Erickson but the long-time commentator indicated it was a mutual decision between him and the network.

Whatever the state of the #NeverTrump movement, Republicans still have a lot of work to do to shore up their political standing. The Editors of the Washington Examiner wrote, “If Republicans aren’t doing something dastardly, why are they rushing these votes? There is, of course, a partial answer in the fact that it was necessary to get legislative points on the board by the end of the year, but their desperation to do this created by their failure to legislate transparently throughout the bulk of the year that they devoted to trying and failing to repeal Obamacare…

“[A] a new year is coming. Congress should use this as a new beginning and get its life in order.

“Republican leaders haven’t figured out how to run Congress in this post-earmark post-McCain-Feingold, post-Citizens United world. Next year, if they don’t get it together, they won’t have to worry about running Congress, for they will lose their majorities.”

Republicans should rightfully be buoyed by their successes in the past month. Heading into 2018, however, there remain tremendous challenges to unite conservatives, choose good candidates for the midterm elections and put more “legislative points on the board.” Can they hold it together?

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