‘PANIC” MAY BE too strong a word to describe what many establishment Republicans are feeling about the insurgency that has taken over Congress and the presidential campaign. Then again, maybe not. “We have to end this. We look absolutely crazy,” said New York Congressman Peter King after a bloc of 40 Congressional ultras tipped over the neatly-set table of succession in the US House this month. David Frum, a former speechwriter for George W. Bush, called the GOP’s turmoil “more than a little frightening.” On the campaign trail, party regulars are alarmed that half the nation’s likely Republican voters — or at least, the half who talk to pollsters — prefer a president without a lick of government experience. “The usual ways voters judge a candidate — experience, governing achievements, mastery of issues — have been devalued,” lamented Peter Wehner, who served in three Republican administrations. “Reason has given way to demagogy.”
None of these worrywarts would ever be mistaken for liberal. But they are pragmatists: They want to win. And after weeks of being gobsmacked by the rise of Donald Trump, Ben Carson, and the fractious Freedom Caucus, the establishment has begun to rally, prodding an uneasy consensus around Paul Ryan for house speaker and trying to slow Trump’s march as the party’s standard-bearer. “It is very important for Republicans to demonstrate to the country that they can trust us with the government,” said Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.