On the surface of things, there doesn’t seem to be an obvious connection between the upheaval going on at Fox News and the Heritage Foundation. But perhaps it’s worth looking a little deeper to see if it portends anything more significant.
Both Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly faced the problem of a growing number of women going public with their claims of sexual harassment at Fox News. The fall-out resulted in the removal of co-president Bill Shine for his inability to quell the tumult.
Rumors are swirling over what led to the firing of Jim DeMint as president of the Heritage Foundation. Rosie Gran and McKay Coppins suggest that on one level, it was a typical D.C. power play orchestrated by Mike Needham, the CEO of Heritage Action for America, the organization’s political arm. But they also hint at a deeper problem.
But nowadays, it’s difficult for a conflict like this on the right to unfold outside the context of ideological friction over Donald Trump and his nationalist agenda. Several people familiar with Needham’s jockeying said he has successfully exploited the growing philosophical tensions on the American right—and, specifically, on the board of Heritage—to get his way.
What ties these two developments together is that unity is always an easier task for those in opposition. We’re watching that play out with Republicans in Congress right now. GOP leaders were able to hold their caucus together to obstruct anything Obama and the Democrats tried to do. Once they took over the majority in both houses of Congress, the divisions began to surface.
At it’s root, this is what happens whenever insurgents get elected and, by definition, become the establishment. I watched the same thing happen with online communities on the left a few years ago. A tremendous amount of unity was developed in opposition to George W. Bush. As soon as Barack Obama was elected, that unity disappeared and ugly divisions came to the surface.
Going back to the 2004 election, Gov. Howard Dean credits his defeat in the Iowa primary to the fact that he was unable to pivot from insurgent to establishment. Insurgents have the luxury of being able to rail against the system. Getting elected means having to actually accomplish something positive from within the system, which makes them the establishment target for the insurgents.
That is what is beginning to happen on the right. A great example is what Martin wrote about yesterday in response to the question raised by Rush Limbaugh: “Why do we vote Republican?” The radio shock-jock has made his fortune as an insurgent. He’s now trying to play a very savvy game of casting the President of the United States as the insurgent against the establishment forces in the Republican Party. That will probably be good for Rush’s ratings. But it also sets Trump up to fail, for the very reasons Martin pointed out.
Trump is failing because of math.
For Trump to succeed at all (and I think the boat left port already), he would need to govern as neither a Republican nor a Democrat, and certainly not as a factional movement conservative Republican…
And Rush can’t tell his audience that because the conclusion would be that the way for Trump to be more successful is to stop trying to lead a Movement Conservative revolution and begin cutting deals with the people Rush and his listeners hate with a seething passion.
In other words, for Trump to succeed, he’d have to stop playing the role of the insurgent and start acting like a member of the establishment. At that point, Rush would be forced to either become the insurgent against Trump or abandon his entire schtick.
The truth is that the Republicans have a much bigger problem with this right now because, during the Obama years, they empowered the insurgent extremists in order to justify their obstruction. The establishment individuals and institutions, as represented by the NeverTrumpers, were drowned out a long time ago. That is now coming back to haunt them with the divisions we’re seeing in Congress, as well as the upheaval that is beginning to surface within right wing institutions.