Paul Krugman has a column in today's New York Times that looks at an issue I often address, perhaps because I am a former Republican who believes that the party did not have to turn into something insane and ugly. That transformation was made through the conscious efforts of the so-called party establishment and party leaders who put short term electoral wins ahead of decency and responsible leadership. Appeals to racism became more and more open and once the Christofascists were welcomed into the party, the base became overrun with those proudly out of touch with objective reality and consumed with judging others and seeking special rights for themselves. Now, as Krugman notes, the party establishment has lost control of the knuckle dragging elements they once welcomed into the party. Donald trump has now beat the GOP establishment at its own game and made it clear that in pursuing his personal aggrandizement, he is only too willing to use the well spring of hate and rage so long nurtured by the party establishment. Decency and responsibility have now been thrown to the wind. Here are column excerpts:
Establishment Republicans who are horrified by the rise of Donald Trump might want to take a minute to remember the glitch heard round the world — the talking point Marco Rubio couldn’t stop repeating in a crucial debate, exposing him to devastating ridicule and sending his campaign into a death spiral.
It went like this: “Let’s dispel with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing.” The clear, if ungrammatical, implication was that all the bad things Republicans claim have happened under President Obama — in particular, America’s allegedly reduced stature in the world — are the result of a deliberate effort to weaken the nation.
In other words, the establishment favorite for the G.O.P. nomination, the man Time magazine once put on its cover with the headline “The Republican Savior,” was deliberately channeling the paranoid style in American politics. He was suggesting, albeit coyly, that a sitting president is a traitor.
And now the establishment is shocked to see a candidate who basically plays the same game, but without the coyness, the overwhelming front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination. Why?
The truth is that the road to Trumpism began long ago, when movement conservatives — ideological warriors of the right — took over the G.O.P. And it really was a complete takeover. Nobody seeking a career within the party dares to question any aspect of the dominating ideology, for fear of facing not just primary challenges but excommunication.
You can see the continuing power of the orthodoxy in the way all of the surviving contenders for the Republican nomination, Mr. Trump included, have dutifully proposed huge tax cuts for the wealthy, even though a large majority of voters, including many Republicans, want to see taxes on the rich increased instead.
But how does a party in thrall to a basically unpopular ideology — or at any rate an ideology voters would dislike if they knew more about it — win elections? Obfuscation helps. But demagogy and appeals to tribalism help more. Racial dog whistles and suggestions that Democrats are un-American if not active traitors aren’t things that happen now and then, they’re an integral part of Republican political strategy. Establishment Republicans generally avoided saying in so many words that the president was a Kenyan Islamic atheist socialist friend of terrorists — although as the quote from Mr. Rubio shows, they came pretty close — but they tacitly encouraged those who did, and accepted their endorsements. And now they’re paying the price. For the underlying assumption behind the establishment strategy was that voters could be fooled again and again: persuaded to vote Republican out of rage against Those People, then ignored after the election while the party pursued its true, plutocrat-friendly priorities. Now comes Mr. Trump, turning the dog whistles into fully audible shouting, and telling the base that it can have the bait without the switch. And the establishment is being destroyed by the monster it created. Things are very different on the other side of the aisle. . . . . The Democratic Party is, as some political scientists put it, a “coalition of social groups,” ranging from Planned Parenthood to teachers’ unions, rather than an ideological monolith; there’s nothing comparable to the array of institutions that enforces purity on the other side.
But back to the Republicans: Let’s dispel with this fiction that the Trump phenomenon represents some kind of unpredictable intrusion into the normal course of Republican politics. On the contrary, the G.O.P. has spent decades encouraging and exploiting the very rage that is now carrying Mr. Trump to the nomination. That rage was bound to spin out of the establishment’s control sooner or later. Donald Trump is not an accident. His party had it coming.