Jeb Bush now portrays his struggling campaign for the Republican nomination as a vehicle for defending conservatism. “I do think it's important that the conservative party nominate a conservative, and someone that understands the role of America in the world,” he said. “What I want to do is make sure that the conservative cause is advanced. Not just in talk shows and think-tanks and wherever conservatism is talked about in all sorts of different ways, but in governing.”
He took aim at one of his rivals in particular: “The pursuit of that, of protecting the conservative cause, it's being hijacked by Donald Trump, who's not a conservative.”
The same day, talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, who has spent years insisting that Republicans can only win with conservative candidates, said this to his many listeners:
The Republican Party doesn't like the Republican base. They don't like conservatism. But there's something else that we've learned… if you look at the coalition Trump has put together, it is everything that the Republican Party claims they want, and they don't want it with Trump in charge of it. They don't want it with Trump being the guy that attracts it. So it's more than just anti-conservatism and anti-base. It's also anti-Trump.
Now, why would they not like Trump?
Well, on the surface it's that, believe me, folks, when we're talking the establishment, they don't like Trump not because he’s not conservative. That doesn't matter. The fact that he's not conservative in their minds actually would be a plus. Now, they can concoct all the reasons they want for it, but what is apparently obvious to me now is that in addition to opposing conservatism or the Republican base, there's also this cliquish, elitist club characteristic here that, if you're not in it -- and the only way you can get in it is to be accepted, to be invited. You can't succeed your way into it. This is important to understand.
You cannot be an overwhelming success in whatever you do and have that be the reason you get into the establishment elite political club. You have to be a certain type. You have to come from a certain place. You have to be invited. Trump does not qualify on a whole lot of grounds, in a lot of ways. So even though Trump has the largest bloc of voters made up of exactly the kind of outreach the Republican claims it needs to win, they're rejecting it and don't want it. Now, they're characteristic of business involved here, the donor class and their demands. There's psychology involved in all this, too. But when you boil it down, it is that the Republican Party. Yeah, they want to win, but only one way. They are content to lose if winning means conservatives dominate the party.
Fifteen years ago, the Republican Party, the conservative movement, the Bush political dynasty, and Rush Limbaugh all united behind the candidacy of George W. Bush.