“Establishment: A group in a society exercising power and influence over matters of policy, opinion, or taste, and seen as resisting change.” —Oxford Dictionary
Early on in his presidential bid, Donald Trump began touting his anti-establishment credentials. When it worked, he ran with it. It was a posture that proved pure gold in the Republican primaries, and was even, in one sense, true. After all, he’d never been part of the political establishment nor held public office, nor had any of his family members or wives.
His actual relationship to the establishment is, however, complex in an opportunistic way. He’s regularly tweeted his disdain for it. (“I wish good luck to all of the Republican candidates that traveled to California to beg for money etc. from the Koch Brothers. Puppets?”) And yet, he clearly considered himself part of it and has, at times, yearned for it. As he said early on in his run for the presidency, “I want the establishment—look, I was part of the establishment. Let me explain. I was the establishment two months ago. I was like the fair-haired boy. I was a giver, a big giver. Once I decided to run, all of a sudden I’m sort of semi-anti-establishment.”
An outsider looking to shake up the government status quo? An insider looking to leverage that establishment for his own benefit? What was he? He may not himself have known.
He once rejected the idea of taking establishment (or Super PAC) money, only—more recently—to seek it; he rebuffed certain prominent establishment players, only to hire others to help him (and fire yet more of them). He’s railed against the establishment, then tried to rally it to his side (even as he denounced it yet again). Now, with the general election only four months away, it turns out that he’s going to need that establishment if he is to have a hope in hell of raising the money and organizing the troops effectively enough to be elected. There, however, is the rub: Power brokers don’t suffer the slings and arrows of “outsider” scorn lightly.
As a result, if he now needs the establishment more than he’d publicly admit, it may not matter. He may find himself ostracized by the very party he’s set to represent.
Once upon a time not so long ago, making America great again involved a bankroll untainted by the Republican political establishment and its billionaire backers. There would, The Donald swore, be no favors to repay after he was elected, no one to tell him what to do or how to do it just because they had chipped in a few million bucks. But for a man who prides himself on executing only “the best” of deals (trust him) this election has become too expensive to leave to self-reliance.