In his New York Times column Friday, Paul Krugman outlined how a decades old echo chamber allowed for the rise of Donald Trump while leaving the Republican establishment impotent to fight back.
Following Thursday night's ugly slugfest of a debate in Texas, Krugman writes of his amusement at watching the Republican establishment scrambling to secure a sufficiently conservative (and electable) "anti-Trump" after spending years harnessing the hate that drives Trump's candidacy for their own political gain.
"Republican political strategy has been exploiting racial antagonism, getting working-class whites to despise government because it dares to help Those People, for almost half a century," Krugman notes. "So it’s amazing to see the party’s elite utterly astonished by the success of a candidate who is just saying outright what they have consistently tried to convey with dog whistles."
But Trump's rise reveals that the Republican establishment is delusional about what its own voters are for, Krugman contends. "The Republican establishment still seems unable to understand that hardly any of its own voters, let alone the voters it would need to win in the general election, are committed to free-market, small-government ideology."
Trump trumps conservative orthodoxy on the Iraq war, health care coverage, social security and a whole host of other supposedly standard conservative principles, yet still beats even the most well trained conservative cookie-cutter, Ted Cruz. Still, Republicans appear mystified by his popularity in their own party.
Over "the past couple of decades — becoming a conservative activist has actually been a low-risk, comfortable career choice. Most Republican officeholders hold safe seats, which they can count on keeping if they are sufficiently orthodox. Moreover, if they should stumble, they can fall back on “wingnut welfare,” the array of positions at right-wing media organizations, think tanks and so on that are always there for loyal spear carriers."
It is this "wingnut welfare," the Krungman blames for placing the Republican establishment in a hermetically sealed universe free from real scrutiny and the voice of their own voters.
"The result is an establishment comprising apparatchiks, men (mainly) who have spent their entire professional lives in an environment where repeating approved orthodoxy guarantees an easy life, while any deviation from that orthodoxy means excommunication. They know that people outside their party disagree, but that doesn’t matter much for their careers."
"Even now, when it’s almost too late to stop the Trump Express, they still imagine that 'But he’s not a true conservative!' is an effective attack."