The Republican Party is made up of social conservatives, economic conservatives, libertarians, single-issue conservatives, such as pro-lifers, 2nd Amendment voters, defense/national security and small business voters... Needless to say the Party has a diverse group of supporters.
In my 20 years in the conservative movement I have heard literally hundreds of people describe themselves politically. I knew a woman who was liberal on most every issue but voted Republican because she was pro-life. I knew a guy who was socially very liberal, but voted Republican because he felt he was taxed too much. I knew a veteran who voted Republican primarily based on foreign policy and national security; he didn’t seem to care about what he called "domestic issues".
In all these years no one ever described themselves to me as an “Establishment Republican.” Why? because there is no such thing. The term is every bit as fake as as the holiday Festivus, or certain body parts of a Hollywood starlet. The term was created a few years ago and is pushed by the conservative talk show industry. Why did they create it, I am not sure, perhaps after blindly backing George W. Bush for nearly 8 years conservative talk radio needed to find a scapegoat. Also in the quest for ratings in a competitive market place perhaps they may feel the need to re enforce their conservative credentials by doing battle with the nefarious "establishment Republicans". In effect Hannity, Levin, Limbaugh and others have created an enemy and are promising to do battle and defeat them. Perhaps it is good for ratings, however, it is bad for the conservative movement.
But for the sake of argument lets look at some possible definitions of an Establishment Republican:
An establishment Republican is someone who no matter what votes for the Republican candidate. Well, that would certainly include almost all conservative talk show hosts. During the 2012 primaries talk show hosts on the right may have been more critical of Romney, but didn’t endorse any of his rivals. Once Romney secured the nomination Limbaugh and the gang rallied to support him. My guess is they all ended up voting for Romney so that can’t work for a definition.
And during the 2008 Presidential primary battle Sean Hannity said he would vote for whomever won the GOP nomination. John McCain, the candidate Hannity ultimately voted for, was without a doubt the most liberal Presidential candidate ever nominated by the Republican Party.
Sometimes conservative talk show hosts make the cardinal mistake of trying to define “Establishment Republicans”. When pressed by a caller, oops the call screener failed to do his job, Rush Limbaugh described an “Establishment Republican’, as someone who was economically conservative, but moderate on social issues. Well that description could define an economic conservative or a social moderate. Both groups have long been part of the Republican coalition. In the past we have not tried to create animosity between these groups of people.
Another possible definition of an Establishment Republican is someone who works inside the beltway for a Republican member of Congress, or a Republican pressure group. But this doesn’t hold up. I know several inside the beltway Republicans and Hill staffers and they are all over the map politically. In talking to them I find it just as hard to pin them down politically as any Republican outside the beltway.
If by “establishment Republicans” Hannity and the gang mean liberal or moderate Republicans, then why make up a new name for them? Why not just claim moderate Republicans are destroying the party. Instead they came up with a new more nefarious sounding name, “establishment Republicans”. Although whatever you call them why attack a large part of a coalition built by Ronald Reagan? We need all the votes we can get.
One reason Democrats are doing so well is that they hold their coalition together. From the lesbian rights activist to the union worker, they work in unison. They may not agree on much, if anything, but at the polls they stick together, sadly our side finds ways to blame each other. We even make up people to blame.