Charen: The Republican Party’s self-sabotage

The latest CBS poll suggests that the Donald Trump juggernaut continues to roll, with 35 percent of Republicans supporting him. Ted Cruz, his nearest rival, garners 18 percent. Jeb Bush, the candidate who should have been the obvious choice if conventional wisdom about money and politics was even remotely true, is dead last with 4 percent. In vain does Ted Cruz protest that Donald Trump is not a conservative. Among those who describe themselves as “very conservative,” 35 percent favor Trump, versus 30 percent for Cruz and 12 percent for Rubio.

In South Carolina, Trump is ahead among the evangelical voters Ted Cruz targeted as his savior army that would rise up to carry a true conservative to victory. According to a Fox News poll from Feb. 18, Trump leads Cruz 31 percent to 23 percent among evangelical Christians. And while Cruz leads among those who identify as “very conservative,” it’s a razor-thin edge (well within the margin of error).

As in New Hampshire, Trump leads nationally among a broad swath of voters: not only those with just a high school diploma (47 percent) but also those with some college (33 percent) and college graduates (25 percent). He is the preference of men and women, and among all income groups, including those earning more than $100,000.

Any number of theories have been advanced about the Trump voters — that they represent the downscale whites who have been abandoned by the Republican Party, or that they are enraged by Republican failure to secure the border.

But as noted, Trump does well among upscale voters, too.

No, there’s a better theory for why 35 percent of Republican primary voters are ready to hand the nomination to a bullying, loutish con man who accuses George W. Bush of war crimes while promising to commit some of his own — like killing the wives and children of suspected terrorists and stealing the oil of Middle Eastern nations.

For the past several years, leading voices of what Matt Lewis has called “con$ervative” media, along with groups such as Heritage Action and politicians such as Sen. Ted Cruz, have ceaselessly promoted the false narrative that the Republican “grass roots” have been betrayed by the Republican leadership in Washington.

Rather than aim their anger at President Obama and the Democrats, right-wing websites, commentators such as Ann Coulter and Mark Levin and many others have instead repeated the libel that “Republicans gave Obama everything he wanted.” There has been a flavor of “stabbed in the back” to these accusations. If not for the treachery of the Republican Party, they claim, a party too timorous or too corrupt to stand up to Obama, we could have defunded Obamacare, balanced the budget, halted the Iran deal, you name it.

So congratulations to those conservatives who’ve been preaching about the “betrayal” of the base by the establishment. You’ve won. You’ve convinced 70 percent of the Republican primary electorate — per the CBS poll — that the most-important quality in a candidate is that he will “shake up the political system.”

With all its faults, the Republican Party is the only vehicle for conservative ideas in this country. Conservatives themselves — or at least those who styled themselves conservatives — may have sabotaged it, handing the reins not to a moderate, nor even to a liberal Republican, but to a lifelong Democrat.