What’s Wrong with the Establishment?
Since the beginning of ‘2016’ presidential speculation began, news headlines like “Rise of the anti-establishment presidential candidates,” “Is the Republican Establishment Losing Control of the Party?” and “Don’t Count Out the Anti-Establishment Republicans” have peppered newspapers across the country. Data seems to support these articles as Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina currently lead the GOP presidential field in the majority of national polls. After countless discussions with other Republicans, I cannot understand why this is the case.
When then-Senator Barack Obama was elected to office, one Republican criticism that was both valid and important to address was that Obama was too inexperienced to lead in a presidential capacity. And yet, while Obama had three years of congressional background under his belt, not to mention a number of years in the Illinois State Senate, the three leading GOP presidential candidates have a combined 0 years of political experience between them.
News outlets and pollsters have cited a growing anti-establishment theme as the primary cause for the ascendancy of Trump, Carson, and Fiorina. This anti-establishmentism is frequently described as a reaction to GOP politicians’ inability to push major conservative reforms through a Republican congressional majority in both houses. Others say they simply want to elect a candidate who will ‘wreak havoc’ in Washington D.C. I would like to address both of these points.
First, Republican voters should be frustrated with Congress’s inability to pass conservative reforms. But Republican voters’ expectations have also been unrealistic. The two most frequently mentioned ‘reforms’ Republican voters were expecting their GOP Congress to implement were the repeal of Obamacare and the limiting of abortion.
Let’s start with Obamacare. What some Republican voters do not realize is that the GOP Senate does not have enough of a majority to repeal Obamacare entirely. Most measures to attack the healthcare law would require 60 votes, which would in turn require Democratic senators to cooperate. This is highly unlikely even though this group of liberal senators in particular is constantly whining about partisanship in the Senate. What is frustrating, however, is that the Republican Party and its congressional representatives have not yet created a comprehensive, clear, well-publicized plan to replace Obamacare. Whether it’s a return to the status quo before Obamacare or a new plan altogether, Republicans need to have something to replace it with, which they do not have yet.
The question as to why they have not crafted an Obamacare replacement is unclear and should anger voters, but voters must understand it would take a large staff working full-time on nothing but healthcare to do so. As the last few weeks show with the Pope’s visit, President Xi Jinping’s visit, the Planned Parenthood fiasco, and a possible government shutdown over budgetary concerns, our representatives have innumerable short-term commitments and emergencies that demand their attention. Repealing Obamacare will be a long-term project with small victories along the way, but in the meantime, representatives have several other things to address.
In a similar fashion, more should have been done by now to address abortions in the United States. Perhaps defunding Planned Parenthood will be a first step, though it seems unlikely at this point, but it is fair to be upset that the GOP Congress has not done anything yet. What would be incorrect, however, would be to expect a slim majority in Congress to achieve this completely on its own.
On the want of the GOP electorate for a candidate who will ‘wreak havoc’ and throw things off in Washington D.C., I am confused. A president’s job is not to destabilize the workings of Washington D.C. and the Hill, as we’ve seen in the past 8 years. In fact, it might be the exact opposite: to facilitate cooperation between the executive branch and its agencies with the legislative or judicial branches. We are not electing a revolutionary to the White House, so why some Republican voters swear by some candidates for their ability to shake things up is not convincing to me.
Despite all this, three ‘anti-establishment’ candidates currently lead the GOP field. What they lack in political experience, they make up for with controversial, possible unfeasible policy statements. 2016 should not be the year of the anti-establishment, and political experience should be encouraged among candidates. Conservative candidates with previous elected political positions have valuable experience that makes them good candidates for the presidency. They know how the government works, they know how Congress works, and they know how government agencies interact.
I do not mind if Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina contribute to the presidential debate and shaping the topics discussed by candidates, but GOP voters will be making a mistake in considering them their primary candidates for the presidency.
Cole Horton (SFS ’18), is a member of the Georgetown University College Republicans.