- - Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The latest polls showing Donald Trump with his biggest lead yet — 38 percent in the new Washington Post-ABC poll — have Republican leaders fussing about what the party will do if “The Donald” becomes their nominee. Two of the next most popular candidates, Ted Cruz at 15 percent and Ben Carson at 12 percent, don’t give them much comfort, either.

Instead of worrying about what they’re going to do about Mr. Trump, or about what they consider an only slightly less nightmarish scenario, Mr. Cruz or Mr. Carson, the Republican establishment needs to start worrying what they’re going to do about themselves.

Sixty-five percent of Republican voters — their voters — are trying to tell them they’re no good.

Sixty-five percent of their voters say they support somebody — anybody — else. Whether that is Donald Trump, Ted Cruz or Ben Carson, the one thing Republican voters seem sure about this year is that they don’t want anyone who their party’s leadership could find acceptable.

It says as much about the leadership as it does about the candidates.

The more these figures beat up the Republican establishment and ignore the news media’s outrage, the more popular they become. The issues and the candidates themselves seem practically to be secondary concerns.

It’s not hard to figure out why. People are frustrated that the worse things in Washington get, the less things change.

This is a government so intent on maintaining its myths no matter how glaring the realities that it can’t even bring itself to speak honestly about an ideology that wants desperately to end our civilization through violence.

It is a government so incompetent and openly corrupt that it can spend $43 million on an Afghan gas station that should have cost $500,000 — and no one can tell us where the money went.

And it is a government so arrogant that it endeavors to re-engineer the entire U.S. health care system, promising lower costs, better health, and more choice, and it ends up producing the opposite in spectacular fashion.

Far too many members of the Republican establishment want to tell us — to tell themselves — not to worry, that things will be fine, for us … and for them. They want to believe that Mr. Trump and the other outsiders are an aberration, an unpredictable and temporary phenomenon that will flame out before the party returns to its boring, predictable norm.

Believing this requires an almost clinical degree of self-delusion. What is happening in the presidential race this year is part of a steadily increasing and not-at-all-random wave of anger at a government that doesn’t work and a party that isn’t fixing it. You would think the fact that former Majority Leader Eric Cantor and former House Speaker John Boehner are no longer in Congress, and the circumstances of their departures, would have served as a clue.

Republican leaders need to listen to the people they’re supposed to be leading — or they won’t be the leaders for long.

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