The labels of “establishment” and “outsider” are rapidly becoming meaningless and conservative voters in Republican primaries would be better off ignoring them altogether and focusing on what really matters — Voting record, qualifications, position statements and personal character.
We hear every year about who is an “outsider” or “anti-establishment” but those labels have become completely meaningless in a year where Donald Trump has been the front-runner since last summer. Trump had dumped over $580,000.00 into the campaigns of Democratic politicians and Democratic party organizations. Someone who has donated that much money to politicians and political parties cannot be described as an “outsider” or “anti-establishment” with any credibility.
It is always helpful to define our terms. So what exactly does “establishment” mean, anyway? Does it mean the party leadership in the House and senate? Does it mean the Republican National Committee? Does it mean Wall Street interest groups, including the big banks? Does it mean influential lobbying groups like the National Right to Life Committee, the National Rifle Association or the Heritage Foundation?
Is being “establishment” necessarily a bad thing? If the Republican leadership in the House and Senate had stood up to President Obama the way the party base wanted, would the “establishment? not be seen as those people as a good thing? The “establishment” was pretty aggressive in opposing President Clinton in 1995 and 1996, leading to some significant conservative legislation and, eventually, a balanced budget.
I think my favorite term that Republican candidates use to describe themselves is “outsider.” They are basically saying “Vote for me, because I am an outsider. Then if I am elected, I can be an insider!” Because once you are in the House or Senate, you are by definition an insider.
One candidate for Congress in Indiana’s Ninth District gave a really good answer when questioned about donations by mainstream or moderate groups. The candidate would accept money from anyone, because there is a primary election to win. But the question to where a candidate’s loyalties lie is not in donations taken, but in a voting record.
We need to stop being so hung up on whether someone is an “outsider” or part of the dreaded “establishment.” Instead, we need to look at the candidate’ voting record, what other campaigns that candidate has supported or donated to, and the candidate’s public statements on issues, tactics and public policy. Once we cut through the noise and look at what really matters, we will be much more informed voters.