In the recent government shutdown fight I found myself in polite (on my part at least!) disagreement with the elements of the right inclined to denounce the “Republican establishment.” No need to rehash all that again. But, I will say that in the wake of the Cuccinelli defeat, I think the critics of the establishment have the better side of the argument.
If the folks running the party want the tea partiers to support their preferred candidates — when they’re the nominee, at least — it should work the other way around as well. It now appears that Cuccinelli, a flawed candidate running against an even more flawed human being, could have pulled this thing out if he’d had more help at the end. In fairness, the Republican Governor’s Association did help Cuccinelli, but it came too early. The RNC treated him like a write-off. I can understand that temptation when Cuccinelli looked like a sure loser. But I don’t understand why, when ObamaCare became a big issue, the RNC couldn’t have done more. I’m sure it’s hard to ramp up at the last second. But so what? Things are going to be hard in lots of ways for as far as the eye can see. Hard can’t be an excuse anymore. As for the more moderate Republican donors who stayed away from Cuccinelli, I certainly don’t think they’re obliged to give money to anyone or anything they disagree with. So maybe they’re pro-choice. Maybe they call themselves “socially liberal but fiscally conservative” (don’t get me started). Fine. But on the issues that make them Republican, McAuliffe will still be far more of a disaster than Cuccinelli ever would have been. McAuliffe says his first priority for the legislative session is accepting the expanded Medicare option under ObamaCare. That’s bad enough, but does anyone doubt that another, equally important, priority of his will be to prepare the ground for a Clinton candidacy should she run? Even if she doesn’t, McAuliffe in the statehouse is terrible news for every kind of Republican. McAuliffe is not a policy person. He’s not a “statesman.” He’s a purely political hack moneyman. And he’s going to use his skills as best he can to put Virginia in the Democrats’ column in 2016.
For all the talk about how the base needs to cooperate with the establishment more, it’s worth remembering that the base almost always does its part on Election Day. Its the establishment that is less reliable in returning the favor.