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 TrumpWHCA calls on Trump to denounce video depicting him shooting media outlets Video of fake Trump shooting members of media shown at his Miami resort: report Trump hits Fox News's Chris Wallace over Ukraine coverage 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 RubioFurious Republicans prepare to rebuke Trump on Syria Five ways Trump's Syria decision spells trouble Rubio criticizes Warren response on same-sex marriage opposition as condescending MORE, Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamFurious Republicans prepare to rebuke Trump on Syria Democrats to offer resolution demanding Trump reverse Syria decision Army officer calls Syria pullback 'a stain on the American conscience' MORE, Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulRand Paul calls for probe of Democrats over Ukraine letter Sunday Show Preview: Trump's allies and administration defend decision on Syria Ana Navarro clashes with Rand Paul in fiery exchange: 'Don't mansplain!' MORE and Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzCruz: 'Of course' it's not appropriate to ask China to investigate Bidens Sunday Show Preview: Trump's allies and administration defend decision on Syria O'Rourke raises .5 million in third quarter 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.