Establishment candidates get a raw deal in GOP primary

The word "establishment" has gotten a raw deal in today's political environment. Some consider "outsiders" to be purer and better leaders, untainted by national debt, not responsible for past governmental problems, offering different approaches to national and international policy issues, unsullied by history. With national polls reflecting preference for outsider Republican candidates, the danger exists that Republicans will choose an outsider nominee and ensure that their opponent becomes president, destroying their romantic notions that the federal government will shrink, America will be stronger internationally and also less intrusive at home. Candidates naive about public policy soon lose public support. The recent attacks in Paris shows us why the right kind of establishment candidate is America’s best choice next year.


"Establishment" means the existing power structure of an organization, and includes supporters of traditional management practices, knowledge of how such management systems work and the means to support them. When terrorists attacked Paris, the establishment government there leapt into action, marshaling resources, convening strategy meetings and imposing policies intended to control the mayhem affecting Parisians. Worldwide, citizens looked to establishment leaders in an acute time of crisis. Other establishment governments offered assistance. But that's what effective establishment leaders do: work for the common good — possessed of the knowledge of resources at hand — to protect the public. Threatened and frightened citizens turn for relief to experienced and proven ability that is trustworthy.

Polls consistently show that, of Republican primary voters, outsider candidates Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpPompeo changes staff for Russia meeting after concerns raised about top negotiator's ties: report House unravels with rise of 'Les Enfants Terrible' Ben Carson: Trump is not a racist and his comments were not racist MORE and Ben Carson each receive 20 to 30 percent. Both men have records of private accomplishment, but lack what many of their supporters revile: government service. They've faced crises in their own lives, but not public crises. Establishment Republican candidates Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Chris Christie and, to a lesser extent, Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioTrump administration denies temporary immigrant status to Venezuelans in US Colombian official urges more help for Venezuelan migrants Lawmakers introduce bill to block U.S. companies from doing business with Huawei MORE, Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump digs in ahead of House vote to condemn tweet Why Trump's bigoted tropes won't work in 2020 The Memo: Toxic 2020 is unavoidable conclusion from Trump tweets MORE, Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulSenate ratifies long-stalled tax treaty On The Money: Senators unload on Facebook cryptocurrency | Tech giants on defensive at antitrust hearing | Democrats ask Labor Department to investigate Amazon warehouses The buck stops here: How to restore accountability to the federal regulatory system MORE and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzGoogle official denies allegations of ties to China The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by JUUL Labs - House to vote to condemn Trump tweet Cruz in 2016 said 'something fundamentally wrong' with Christians who back Trump: book MORE, have experience dealing with public problems. Citizens of their respective states have rightly called on these establishment types for help. They're a valuable resource to seek in a crisis.

America will face numerous national and international challenges in coming years, requiring the best values and experience at our nation's disposal. If a minority of Republicans nominate an outsider because we're unhappy with the past eight years or disgusted with America's diminished standing in the world, that's akin to conditions that exist in the House of Representatives today — less than 50 conservative representatives identified with the Freedom Caucus seek to impose their will on the majority of establishment members, oftentimes thwarting the majority viewpoint. Insistence on ultraconservative policies has resulted in greater political polarization, underscoring the continually low public approval ratings for Congress, and falsely defining Republicans.

Naysaying about anything conventional has become a badge of honor for some. Cruz proudly runs for president as a disrupting, negative force, attractive to his supporters, but dangerous for the orderly operation of efficient governance. He's a reliable, self-promoting critic of all things conventional, railing against tradition, compassion and order. As president, he'd shake up — and break — America.

Trump is used to buying whatever he wants. Presidents can't do so — they must work within the constraints of the Constitution. Carson is a nice and accomplished man without a clue as to how government works, especially foreign affairs. He'd have to spend two years learning about government complexities and how to manage thousands of employees.

Voters should listen carefully to what establishment candidates say — and analyze what they've done. Just because a candidate has prior government service doesn't mean that candidate isn't conservative or doesn't identify with governmental or policy changes sought by conservatives. Conservatism without experience equals experimentation.

Most conservatives — Tea Partyers and Freedom Caucus members alike — cite President Reagan as a revered leader. Many quote him today and extol his virtues. Yet Reagan was establishment through and through: a former governor and private-sector icon who knew enough about government to try to fix it by carefully crafting conservative ideas and leadership qualities. Reagan without government and leadership experience would likely have floundered as president, unaware of how the American system works.

Too many Republican presidential candidates today think complaining about government equals having a plan to fix it, to make it work better. Those who have labored as conservatives in government are best equipped to offer policies that will help overcome America's deficiencies and move America forward. They shouldn't be rejected out-of-hand because they have government experience.

If America suffers Paris-style terrorism in the days ahead, reliable, conservative, experienced leadership will be required that can marshal governmental resources and make Americans proud — again.

Nethercutt is a former U.S. representative from Washington state, serving from 1995 to 2005.