After the horrors of World War I, the French built the Maginot line. The line, a long string of fortifications, was designed to keep the Germans out if they ever wanted to attack again. Unfortunately, the French were fighting the last war, while the Germans were fighting the next one.
When the Germans did invade, they just went around the Maginot line and won.
The Maginot line may be the best metaphor for the current state of the Republican Party. They are fighting the last war: The Tea Party war.
In 2009, when the Tea Party exploded onto the scene, the Republicans did not know what to do with them. Fortunately for the GOP, the founders of the Tea Party movement reached an informal consensus that they did not want the Tea Party to be a new political party. Instead, the Tea Party would work with the GOP for conservative values.
The Tea Party helped sweep the Republicans into control of the House of Representatives in 2010 and to control of the Senate in 2014. The Republican establishment worked on co-opting the Tea Party. That was not hard, nor was it necessarily bad. The two needed each other. But beginning in 2014 and now in 2016, the Republican Establishment has said it no longer needs the Tea Party and has made war on certain Tea Party candidates, like Kansas Congressman Tim Huelskamp.
While the GOP is busy fighting the last war, a new war is upon them and the Republican establishment is ill prepared to deal with it. The new war is the Trump war.
When the establishment fought the Tea Party for control of the Republican Party, it was a very limited war. Most of those who were involved in founding the Tea Party had historical affinities to the Republican Party. They simply wanted to reform the party and bring it back to conservatism. There was an angry element to the Tea Party but that anger was tempered by principled, conservative leaders.
The Trump war is far different.
Donald Trump and the people who are leading his movement, have no affinity for the Republican Party. No one in the leadership is trying to temper the raw anger with thoughtful consideration or even sanity.
The Republican Party is seeing a hostile takeover by the Trump movement. The mantra of this movement is, “burn it down.” There is no consideration to the consequences of burning the Republican Party down. Many argue that the rise of Mr. Trump is a direct result of Establishment perfidy.
As Mr. Trump’s campaign continues, it takes on more and more the image of a “Trumpwreck.” Larry Saboto of the University of Virginia, famous for his “Crystal Ball” political predictions, now has Hillary Clinton about the needed 270 electoral votes in states that are either likely or safe Democrat votes. A number of Republicans are now openly calling for Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus to abandon Mr. Trump and try to save the Republican majorities in the Senate and the House.
Mr. Priebus refuses.
Unfortunately for the Republican Party, many in the Washington establishment view the Trump movement as just another iteration of the Tea Party.
The Republican playbook is to tolerate the Trump movement until he loses, then to expect him to fade away just as Mitt Romney did in 2012. That isn’t going to happen. This is nothing less than a hostile takeover of the GOP by the Trump political organization. If Mr. Trump loses, which seems like an almost certainty at this point, his organization is not going to simply sing “Kumbaya” with the Republican establishment. They are going to blame the GOP for his defeat and there will be retribution.
What the Republican establishment does not realize is that without principled leadership, there will be no uniting the party after a defeat. There will be a purge at the GOP of the establishment leaders or the GOP will be burned to the ground.
Some conservative critics claim that Mr. Trump never wanted to secure the nomination. He just wanted to set the stage for Trump TV in 2017. And he needed a movement to launch Trump TV.
Whether that is true or not, only time will tell. But for better or worse Mr. Trump has created movement that is going to last past 2016.
And the Republican establishment needs to understand something. This is a movement that is not going to work with them and is not going to tolerate them. This is a movement that will destroy them.
The Republican establishment’s plan to co-opt the Trump movement is their political version of the Maginot line. And everyone knows how that story ended.