What’s the Matter With Republicans?

How the party of Trump became a liberal caricature.

Comments: 186

  1. What’s wrong with the Republican Party is that it rose to power buoyed by its own hot air. All the empty rhetoric, the false promises, the disdain for the poor, the fear of brown people, the disgust for gays, the confusion over women’s plumbing and the denial of scientific reality have created a ship of state that is thrashing around in a confused muddle with a certified moron at the tiller. For eight years the only goal of the Republican Party was to destroy Barack Obama. I’ll wager that they’d take him back in a second if they could. Their own members are aware that they’re now a joke, with no credibility on the world stage and serving only as a bottomless source of ridicule for late-night TV comics. The most pointed jibes and damning criticism are not coming from Democrats, but from spears thrown by Republicans. The top White House officials—at least the ones who haven’t yet been fired, disgraced or indicted—are the ones delivering the sharpest blows. Tillerson, Corker and McCain have let loose a few doozies. And if those are the public statements, imagine what they’re saying in private. Nobody cares about child tax credits and other biblical attempts at promoting fecundity or embracing first-century ignorance in place of rational governance. This has nothing to do with populism. It’s the explosion of the pinched, resentful worldview of low-information voters who thought they were getting Shinola.

  2. The GOP has no moral vision; they have greed -- for personal power, personal enrichment and staying in office while legislating for their donors. The latest bill? To stop enforcement of handicap rules. And, don't forget the chemical, oil and coal companies now have their proxies in agencies destroying the very air we breathe and the water we drink. The GOP is doing this by subverting our democracy, not allowing our elected representatives -- unless GOP -- even participate in legislation: in direct defiance of the Constitution. But, never mind, it may all be a moot point as our unfit and corrupt President is doing his best to start a war.....

  3. Were you ever a columnist in real life? If you weren't, you should have been. I can almost always count on your well-reasoned and well-written posts for further illumination, clarification and often, a smile. Especially your last line in today's post. Thank you, sir!

  4. Gemli - As usual, brilliant – and entertaining – commentary. Shinola indeed! For the benefit of some younger readers, you might have to explain the Shinola reference. Shinola has risen from the dead and rebranded itself into a cool modern brand that may cause the old Shinola comparison to have been forgotten.

  5. As long as the New Deal settlement was extremely popular, opposition to it had to be covert; overt opposition was very unpopular. The main strategies to undo the New Deal were to denigrate government and particularly the Federal government, and to run up the deficit so that the huge national debt could be used to justify chopping away at the New Deal. Both these covert strategies were instituted by Reagan and have been successful. White "values voters" had long been dupes in the South when the values were related to race and racial stereotypes of black refusal to take personal responsibility for things, and whites in other parts of the country proved susceptible to the same appeals, especially when they were expressed through dog whistles rather then openly in the Southern manner. The moral vision Republicans need would have to include giving up covert appeals to racists. It would have to reject the idea that the vote should be limited to the people who pay for government (an ancient conservative idea that limited the franchise to property owners), which Republicans have succeeded in implementing through policies of voter suppression. It would have to reject voodoo economics and the idea that economic growth will solve our growing income inequality when the benefits of economic growth have accrued to the affluent and superrich, so that growth has increased inequality. The path out of caricature, the path to the common good, starts with changing parties. Period.

  6. Brilliant response. Mr. Douthat has forgotten Reagan's denigration of government and the implicit racism, long-held, in GOP politics.

  7. Extremely well put, especially in its minimal cant.

  8. Driving through PA, from State College in the middle of the state, to Chambersburg down closer to the Maryland border, my mother and sister passed through the heart of Trump Country. They passed homes flying Confederate flags, lawns dotted with signs claiming they were proud to be Deplorables. Trump support is proud resistance. To everything. Resistance to bothering to listen to the rest of the sentence in which Deplorable was uttered. Resistance to the idea that education and Liberal don't go together; resistance to social change; resistance to the move from rural life to urban service jobs, that happened not as a result of Liberalism, but as a result of business consolidation and aggregation of industrial farming; that occurred as a result of corporate consolidation and global job relocation back in the 1980s. Resistance to the idea that government can fix anything while simultaneously demanding the government Make America Great Again. Resistance to actually listening to the answers to the question "what about us?" even if either party ever managed to come with one. I feel for the plight of the rural communities that have been abandoned. But I also feel frustration for their acceptance that Trump can fix it, let alone will fix it; or that the GOP fights for them. They are likely right the Democrats ignore them, tucked away in safe GOP districts. But Trump and the GOP ignore them too, tossing in a few pandering soundbites and actions to make them feel better.

  9. Your trip sounds depressing, as you drove near the Gettysburg battlefield. The thought of Confederate battle flags in front of homes near the site where so many men died in defense of the Union and the concept of equality for all is quite tragic.

  10. This is why some wags refer to Pennsylvania as Pittsburgh and Philadelphia with Alabama in between.

  11. @Cathy Hopewell Junction NY This area is somewhat notorious for being home to a lot of KKK supporters. It's the only place where I've ever actually encountered the KKK a couple of times about 25 years ago. Handing out leaflets, carrying flags, etc. Never actually saw them in the South despite having lived and visited there many times going back decades.

  12. What rubbish. Frank was spot-on, and no amount of rationalization will change the facts regarding voodoo economics and income inequality last scene when New York City was rife with speakeasies. Ross conveniently leaves out the racial component in all of this as well. What's the matter with Republicans? The same thing that has been wrong with them since Goldwater.

  13. Racism is missing from this discussion--and so is the constant lying. Douthat argues that Republicans should "learn important lessons" from the Bush years like "don't try to build democracies in the Middle East." He leaves out the fact that Bush ran against nation building. It was a major theme in his campaign, to heap contempt on any naive Democrat who would want to build democracy abroad. And he turned out to be a liar, using his power in office to start a war justified in part by the very idea he'd ridiculed all through his campaign: building democracies.

  14. Thank you, Kevin. This is spot on, and the only one that is so far.

  15. Sexism too.

  16. Ross, with all due respect, there is a serious problem with the so-called Republican values voter, inasmuch as that voter has an agenda of imposing their reactionary religious values on me and everyone else. With all due respect, the concepts of God, transcendence, and spirituality are far too large to be contained within the cramped intellectual pup tent that most religious conservatives hold their hothouse revivals within, be they of the Catholic, Protestant, or Muslim (and let's not leave Islam out of this) variety, especially when it comes to the role of women in society. As to the ongoing devolution of the GOP since Reagan, I argue that the process is easily understood. As do virtually all faith-based individuals and institutions, the Republican Party chose to double down on ideology every time that ideology failed to deliver on its promise. The fault in their minds lied not with the ideology itself, but was instead due to the technical implementation of the ideology - the tax cuts were not large enough, regulations impeded their effectiveness, etc. And make no mistake, Ross: believing in supply-side economics is a purely faith-based form of activism. However, there was time when not all Republicans were required to believe in voodoo; but today, the idea of returning high net worth marginal tax rates to something closer to the levels of the Nixon and Eisenhower era is tantamount to heresy. Today, to be a Republican is to put voodoo over both God and Union.

  17. Wonderfully stated. It appears GOP "never Trumpers" have substituted one set of fantasies (which you elaborate on above) for another: that Trumpism is a freak accident-for which they have no culpability- rather than the end stage of the republicanism they have been the authors of for 40 years.

  18. Exactly!!

  19. Wow! Things have gotten so bad that Douthat has written a revisionist history that glorifies the Bush years. Conditions have deteriorated so far that Bush II is the benchmark for Republicans to strive for. We will just overlook the the deregulatory environment that caused the collapse of the economy, the ginned up Iraq war that we are still fighting, and the explosion of the national debt caused by irresponsible tax cuts. Douthat could not have written a greater condemnation for Trump and the GOP.

  20. His revisionism is revealing; it reveals he is still in denial. About America rejecting, for now, the kind of ineffectual gamesmanship Washington is currently displaying over HC; devising schemes to salvage a plan that was never read. Its solution: print. For it is these schemers, along with such revisionists, that want Trump to fail -- at any cost. And what a greater blow, than to sustain Obama Care. Even the establishment Republicans want to hurt him, that bad. Because his politicking hurts their egos. Consequently, he is bad bad bad for America.

  21. You missed what Mr Douthat was saying: the deregulation allowed millions to own their first houses (very briefly) with predatory loans. This was a big innovation. Before (read John Perkins, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man), predatory loans were for Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Then new policies allowed lenders to offer predatory loans in southern Europe and the US (but not Canada nor northern Europe). The loans were unforgivable, and all the money the borrower could not possibly repay is taxable income. And, of course, the US bailed out all the predatory lenders (except for Lehman Brothers, who hadn't paid their baksheesh), so it turned out to be very ,very profitable for the predatory lenders. What more could anyone want? Wasn't it great that so many who couldn't afford a home got a mortgage on one for a year or so? Mr Douthat thinks so, and thinks Trump should bring back those halcyon days.

  22. Trump also seems to think that Bush's response to Katrina should be the model for Puerto Rico.

  23. I really don't understand why folks don't see what Democrats do for them - environmental laws, health care, worker protections, public schools, civil rights... They're not perfect, but come on! I've been saying for years now the Dems have a huge branding problem. I think we're hearing the beginnings of rural and red state Democrats who are starting to step up - I wish the party leadership would wake up and start pouring money into the good things the Democrats do. I think it's pretty obvious and hardly seems like a hard sell - it just has to be consistent and forceful.

  24. The DNC leadership is so afraid of losing control to the progressives that they would rather lose elections that change. See the opinion piece today written by Douglas Schoen, a Third Way Democrat extolling the virtue of taking money from Wall Street. The leadership also stopped the internal voting for a candidate in another race (sorry, I forget where) when the Progressive pick got most of the votes. The leadership is terrified - as well they should be after years of losing nearly a thousand seats across the country. No, we will not go back.

  25. The beauty of having evangelical Christians as your rock-solid base is that they aren’t troubled by facts. They operate on gut emotion and entrenched belief. Facts are things that non-believing, gay-loving, unpatriotic elites spout. And bone spurs - even if you can’t remember which foot - do too qualify for keeping you out of the military so that you can have your own personal Vietnam avoiding STDs. Long wave the flag. In 1962, my Southern grandfather told me that Republicans were the party of the rich and didn’t care about the little guy. Nothing has changed except that now so-called Christians and uneducated white men are carrying the GOP’s water for them. The only thing wrong with “What’s Wrong with Kansas” is that it should have been titled “What’s Disgustingly Rotten in Kansas”. Either answer: the Republican Party.

  26. The Republican meme since Nixon has been, "They're (Dems, "Liberals", etc.,) are going to take your tax dollars and give them to the You-Know-Who, and we all know who THEY are. Sometimes it.s been dog whistles, and code words, sometimes more blatant, but the drum beat has never ceased. When you get hatred, fear, and resentment sufficiently wound up, it's easy to forget who's policies have actually benefited you in the real world.

  27. President Trump won the Republican nomination from the established Republican lineup because the people were tired of all talk and no action. Mr. Trump has created jobs and the stock market is soaring. He has started to make America great again which was his promise to the American people. They approve so far of the results and want more to be accomplished. As I recall, Bush was extremely unpopular when he left office and one of the reasons we got Obama. The war he created was extremely unpopular and one of the reasons for the Republican defeat. It is not just middle and working class people who approve of Mr. Trump. There are many wealthy Americans who are happy with his successes. We are glad someone finally listened to us and took action. We are glad he is in office and want him to continue his successful agenda.

  28. Unfortunately, with Trump what you get is all action and no thought. And we all know - or at least most of us do - where a culture of thoughtlessness ultimately leads.

  29. Actually he is not creating jobs. Job growth under Trump had been largely unchanged from growth during Obama's administration. The stock market is soaring but corporate earnings do not support the stock prices so we have a bubble. Trump's agenda is sort of vaporous. Bush was unpopular when he left office because of the 2008 financial crash. So what other delusions are you holding?

  30. The gains in the stock market and jobs are a continuation of the trend started under President Obama. You will see a drastic difference once the economic policies of Trump are powering these trends. Like so many others, you got conned and refuse to believe it. "It's easier to fool someone than to convince them they've been fooled."

  31. All I could think of in reading this depressing column was how Ross Douthat ignores the obvious: to advance economic well being, Trump supporters would be far better off voting Democratic. Heresy, I know, for Republicans, but this defense of conservatism--from the milk-toast approach of George Bush who spouted platitudes while shattering American tradition with a preemptive war in Iraq to the horror show under way in Washington today--somehow rings false. The bottom line is, I find it incredibly sad that no matter who presides over the Republican party, they can manage to keep a base happy with culture and religious wars alone. After all the most salient feature of the Trump regime is its focus on extreme wealth at the expense of the lower and middle classes. Nothing this president proposes on the economic front promises to help them, and will likely hurt them: a continuance of the great transfer of wealth from the middle class upward to families like the Trumps, a tired vapid prediction of economic growth from corporate tax cuts, and "tax reform" that will actually see many in the middle pay more through the loss of deductions. And yet: they claim patriotism as their own, try to spiritualize secular laws, and demonize immigrants. Maybe Trump can supporters can live well on spite, resentment, and the veneer of religion ("Merry Christmas!), but I can't. It won't pay the bills, make life fairer, or make me proud of America in retrenchment.

  32. I am guessing that conservatives are looking for their reward in their afterlife as they experience worsening economic circumstances in this one.

  33. As Obama impolitically but accurately put it when running in 2008 regarding small town voters in Pennsylvania: "They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations." He got promptly pilloried for the comment by both the Repubs and the Clinton campaign used to win Pennsylvania by 55 to 45%. Trump exploited these very sentiments to eke out his electoral college "WIN" by 78,000 votes in 3 states, 44,000 of which came from, you guessed it, small town voters in Pennsylvania.

  34. And that's the crux of the problem, isn't it? Democrats think that they can run the country better, but in fact they always end up hurting the working class. At least the GOP pays them lip service instead of lecturing about how their white privilege has somehow led them to be underemployed and poorer than their parents.

  35. Oh boy Douhat is in full Stalinist history re-write mode today. There was nothing inaccurate about the picture Frank painted 13 years ago. Today's Republican party is very much the one created over the last 35 years. Frank minimized nothing. Religious bigotry and racism disguised as values is not different today than it was then. And the notion that Bush administration made a serious effort to assist the middle class is risible. The Bush tax cuts were just as weighted in favor of the wealthy as Trump's. Dick Cheney said so. Then Douhat shade the Bush administration into the Reagan administration. The home ownership push along with Bush's de-regulatory push created the worst economic crash since the thirties. Now Trump and the Republicans want to do a tax cutting and de-regulatory encore. agenda of the Republican party in the Bush era was exactly

  36. And notice how Douthat makes a brush-pass at Bush's strongest attack on the middle class--his call for the privatization of Social Security--and then ignores it and the profound consequences it would have had for the middle class and poor if it had been enacted. The abolition of Social Security as we know it would have far, far outweighed the tax cut sops Bush gave the average American.

  37. Rewrite indeed. It was Reagan's run for his second term, and the changes in tone and tenor during that run, that drove me from the Republican party. I dropped my party affiliation in 1985 to become Independent.

  38. A small example of Bush's "help" for the middle class which was told that the average tax rebate from the federal surplus would be $1,000 (like the same $1,000 being bandied about today concerning the tax cuts that will ostensibly buy a new car?). People started to think of the bills they could pay or the long overdue replacement of some necessary item they needed. They got $300. How did that happen? Bush lied with statistics. Sure the "average" possibly was $1000, but the median wasn't. Trouble is, too few of them understand it.

  39. The essential reality is that a large proportion of all of us is given to our prejudices, which make us unable to see further than them. These are more or less held in check until we find an excuse to let them out in full view, be it a "cause" or a leader who eggs us on. This is what has happened with Trump and will persist until there is a clear indication that we are not willing to continue along this path. 2018 is the occasion to provide a check, if not a stop, to the downward spiral of incompetence and political chaos that this man has brought about.

  40. Frank's book examined the question, why do so many working class Republicans vote against their *economic* interests? He didn't ignore so-called "values." He identified values-voting as part of the problem. Douthat's analysis of the effect of the Bush tax cuts is equally flawed. By any measure, the cuts benefited the wealthy far more than the middle class, and widened income inequality. In this piece, Douthat ignores the obvious: Thomas Frank was right when he wrote the book in 2003, and his argument holds true today.

  41. But Frank was proven right a few years later when Sam Brownback became governor and proceeded to enact an agenda that decimated the state's finances with tax cuts and eventually split the state GOP. Only this June were the Brownback tax cuts rescinded. Notably, Brownback had substantial financial assistance in his campaigns from the Kansas-based Koch brothers. Brownback's other agenda was an aggressive social conservatism that included restrictions on abortion. An April poll had Brownback's disapproval rating at 66%. Brownback is on his way out of Topeka and off to DC as Trump's nominee as Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom. The Brownback formula seems to be much the same one Trump is chasing: tax cuts for the wealthy, some red meat social issues stuff and nothing of substance for the middle class plus the infliction of real harm on health care. It will end the same way, too. The difference is that Trump is already, after 9 months, not that far from matching Brownback's unpopularity.

  42. Reagan was a congenial con, Bush the elder a country club conservative, W a clueless cataclysm and Trump the consequent crater of a tried and true strategy by the elite to profit through division. Clinton and Obama dug us out of each Republican mess only to have the succeeding Republicans take credit and then proceed to redistribute the gains to the top. Trump represents the blind fury of a population that's been hoodwinked since the closing of the first steel mill, coal mine, auto plant, textile mill, etc. who were told these companies had to offshore because it was way too expensive in the US to do business because of welfare state burdens. Trump is their table flipper, their destroyer. The Trump flag in my neighborhood (still prominently displayed) features blasting tanks and artillery. For his supporters, those weapons aren't only pointed at a foreign enemy.

  43. I'll remind you Thomas: yes...steel plants were shuttered--as were coal mines, auto plants and textile mills. You can also throw in there, ship builders, airlines and various manufacturing operations. But please be honest about why our companies couldn't compete. It was a combination of rapacious unions, high corporate taxes, strangulating regulations, poorly crafted trade deals and stultifying environmental laws. ALL of those negative forces can be traced back to the Democrats--or more specifically, Liberalism. And the blue collar folks who voted for Trump, are finally coming to realize the truth about what happened to their communities.

  44. Another in a series of columns with insights on conservatives from Ross that my fellow liberals will refuse to acknowledge because we don't agree with conservatives. That's called missing the point. The basic point here is that Trump differs from Bush because he has no redeeming qualities whatever. He's a mindless animal performing in the arena for people who like to see blood drawn. Ross points rightly to those so-called conservatives "who plainly prefer his brutish braggart’s style to the sort of public decency that Bush or, in a different way, Mitt Romney offered — and who … laud him as a Conan-esque warlord they think will drive their enemies before them. … Far better to have a president who really sticks it to those overpaid babies in the N.F.L. and makes the liberals howl with outrage." C'mon, people: if you had a choice between W and Trump for president and that was literally your only choice, wouldn't you go with Bush? Especially late-term Bush? I'd go with Nixon over Trump. Every single other Repub president I've hated has at least a handful of personal characteristics to recommend him (like, a basic understanding of what the job is and how government works). Although there were moments in the primary that caused me to think I glimpsed what people saw in Trump, none of those panned out. He has been an unmitigated disaster. Liberals have to acknowledge that, say, Nixon went to China and W wouldn't have punched down on Twitter. Let's have some intellectual honesty.

  45. Very well said! Trump taps into voters' sense of rage or frustration or disenfranchisement. Logic, dignity, ideals, economic fairness, not so much.

  46. "The path out" for the Republican parties starts with repudiation at the ballot box on November 7th and again in November of 2018. This is the only reality that will change their path.

  47. Mr Douthat gives far too much credit to the Reagan and Bush administrations for modifying their Randian philosophy. Atth time thre was still a viable Democratic Party that forced the aforementioned to leaven their most right wing impulses, I'll give Bush NCLB but the Republican Party never supported it, and the Red States stood in line to bring suit to stop it. Medicaid Part D was the biggest give-a-way to big pharma one can imagine. Reagan opened the door for Trump. Today's Republican Party is the logical outgrowth of Reaganism.

  48. Don't forget that Frank's most recent book is Listen, Liberal: Or, What Ever Happened to the Party of the People? About how the Democratic Party has changed to support elitism in the form of a professional class instead of the working class. It's not only Republicans who have become caricatures of themselves. And so here we are.

  49. I hope that soon you will write a column on what is the matter with Democrats. They offer only tentative proposals as to how dreamers might be saved or how Obamacare might be fixed. Where is the leadership and the courage? Is Congress going to continue to resist rousing itself and let Donald bluster his way into a nuclear war? To resist increasing aid to Puerto Rico because there are no electoral votes there?

  50. "Grievance-mongers" very accurately sums up the attitude of today's right wing. For Rush Limbaugh, Fox news, Ann Coulter and pretty much every other "conservative" bloviator, ginning up grievance is a full time occupation. "Some one else is getting something they don't deserve" has become a rallying cry. Why? Divide and conquer is one of the oldest strategies in war. We will never "Make America great again" with this method. Until Politicians are able to see beyond the next election, until voters realize they are being manipulated for pure political gain, until true Christians recognize the glaring hypocrisy within their ranks we will be doomed to wallow in mutual hate. I don't think Trump has the gravitas to become a true Authoritarian, but I fear that the groundwork he and the right wing have laid could lead to someone who does.

  51. Yes, yes, yes! 2 years in and I still believe (at some level) Trump must have been a plant by the Democrats to prove every previously incorrect caricature they held of Republicans. That Trump went on to, you know, win was a small price to pay for that kind of pure and total moral vindication. "Plant" theory aside, Democrats contributed to this in two major ways. First, of course, they were unrelenting and entirely disproportionate in their criticisms of Bush, Romney, and other smart and decent Republicans who came before Trump. This makes their current apoplexy over Trump too disingenuous. More interestingly, Trump's entire set of tactics is based on those Democrats honed over the years, only to find themselves powerless when used against them. Identity politics? Grievance-centered agenda? Violations of social norms to make a point? Zero-sum economic thinking? Check, check....

  52. I'll agree with you that Trump is different from Bush, but he didn't become the leader of the Republican Party by accident. The seeds of his rise were sown a long time ago and have been tended faithfully by both the official GOP and the parallel shadow party of arch-conservative funders, think tanks, and propagandists. For literally decades they have pushed a philosophy where the unfettered power of an individual to amass as much wealth and power as possible (at the expense of everyone else) is not just tolerated but celebrated as the proper aim of life. Where our government, composed of, by, and for the people is to be shrunk down and killed off, while corporations are not just people, my friends, but our most valued "citizens." In order to get their "values voters" to swallow this con, they put on a master class in stoking various racial, sexual, and class resentments, while out-and-out lying about the effects of actual GOP policies. Your party is owned hook, line, and sinker by the Olins, Scaifes, Kochs, Mercers, etc. - and has been for decades now. Why are you suddenly surprised that their selfish, greedy, amoral vision is now being realized? They've put on a clinic, Ross, and we are all suffering for it. The cure? Vote for Democrats, as much as that might pain you. They may not be perfect, but they are our only hope.

  53. Sorry, but Bush duped his base as all Republicans have done for decades. Throw them the red meat of social issues while playing reverse Robin Hood. What, exactly, do Republicans want other than tax cuts for the wealthy?

  54. The simple problem is that the Dems haven't watched the backs of the 99%ers for decades. They've lost their party's true purpose. Until they make college available for the masses, which they once were, encourage the trades and just start to do their jobs for their constituents and not for the big money that has corrupted them then nothing will change.

  55. Douthat is one of many conservative commentators who have been beating the drum for "values" voters for years. He needs to explain what "values" he thinks he and they are advocating. If Trump is the embodiment of those "values," then the GOP and conservative Christians have all lost their minds.

  56. The simple answer to what is wrong with the Republican party is that they have pushed them selves so far to the right, that they are absolutely incapable of governing. Governance has always involved reaching out to the other side and negotiating with them until a solution can be found. The modern Republican party is utterly incapable of doing this, therefore, even though they are in power, nothing gets done.

  57. Medicare Part D was not funded. No Child Left Behind was grossly intrusive, the federalizing of education. The big home ownership push contributed mightily to the financial panic of 2008 and the Great Recession. The Bush tax cuts caused the deficit to explode and ended what had been a realistic prospect of paying off the federal debt. None of these things were good for middle and working class folks, be they Democrat or Republican. "Big government Republicanism" was worse than the Democratic kind, because there was no one to place any checks on the overambitious programs and wild overspending, something Republicans had done in earlier times. Add to this the sanctimoniousness and race baiting of the GOP, and you have a country that in 2009 was much, much worse off than it had been 8 years earlier. Now we are basically repeating the experience of the Bush years. The Republicans are literally ruining the country, and yet they keep getting elected.

  58. Our national zeitgeist at the moment is cultural anxiety, rage and resentment. I think it is a fever that has to break. An excellent way to do that is to take the House and who knows, the Senate in 2018. We must reassert decency, integrity and respect for all of us and for our country.

  59. Agree. But that would require fair, secure and uniform elections and a voting system that does not exist in America today. “Every independently audited voting computer has been shown to contain numerous, basic, easy-to-exploit vulnerabilities. A fresh report from the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology puts it succinctly. “Voter machines, technically, are so riddled with vulnerabilities that even an upstart script kiddie could wreak havoc.” --InfoWorld "The Insecurity Of America's Old And Underfunded Voting Systems” http://www.npr.org/programs/fresh-air/2017/07/20/538312289/fresh-air-for... "Can U.S. Elections Really Be Stolen? Yes." https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=NxXKr2hKCz0 Did Computer-Aided Fraud Play A Role In Georgia's Special Election Upset?" https://www.mintpressnews.com/laughing-their-ossoff-did-computer-aided-f...

  60. I would love to know what Ross thinks "Conservatism" means today. Neither of the two Bush actions he approves of, Medicare Part D, and tax cut induced soaring deficits sound like what I thought Conservatives approved of. So what are the Conservative principles that would help the middle class?

  61. Generally agree with the analysis; however, I disagree that the "values" voter is rationally trading economic disadvantage for value advancement. The dupe thingy is that they are being told, and believe, they are not trading at all, but rather are getting both. And, for some, dog whistling that they are getting the economic benefits off the backs of non-whites and immigrants. So, a double win in their eyes.

  62. First, Bush did not offer an "immigration amnesty," as Reagan did. He offered a very long and arduous road to citizenship for those willing to trust the federal government long enough not to revoke its promises. This is essentially what has been offered (and possibly snatched away by a mercurial government) to the Dreamers. Second, the immigration reform Bush proposed was the kind, decent, right thing to do for those families who have been here five, or ten, or fifteen years, chasing the American Dream the entire time with their hard work. On Fox, immigration reform is a dastardly plot aimed at the (white) middle class. This isn't true, but Mr. Douthat apparently has incorporated it into his worldview.

  63. A reasonably good essay! I would add that Mr. Trump lacks even the surface coherence of Richard Nixon. But in a reality show world if Trump plays to his audience of disgruntled people who perceive themselves to be on the way down -- with a 37% share! And supported by a donor class on its way up, with impotent opponents and Mike Pence as an alternative, he has a long-term contract. Got to hand it to Mr. Trump, perhaps he is a genius. The philosophy of "Conservatism," like "Liberalism," seems to be a cultish mindset: one against the other, all of which makes for good TV.

  64. Ross is correct about much including his criticism of Frank's book. But what he fails to mention is that race resentment isn't just of the Old Dixie kind. Industrial state blue collar whites benefitted enormously from the New Deal and especially its post-war successors, and thus were reliable supporters of liberal policies and the Democratic Party. They bolted the Democrats in the 1970's over Affirmative Action. So far, that seems to be an original sin for which there is no easy redemption. It is also a model for all the other white resentments - the jobs lost to neo-liberal trade policies and to automation, and the withering away of much of rural America even as the highly skilled/highly educated coastal elites prosper. The narrative is one of Democratic betrayal, arrogance, and indifference. How are Democrats supposed to win back voters who hold such views, especially when there's more than a kernel of truth to them? For much of America, Trump is the guy on the barstool next to them egging them on as they curse their no good cheatin' ex-wives.

  65. An astute essay, but one that appears to excuse those evangelical voters who "reluctantly" chose Trump over Clinton in a "transactional spirit" because of the abortion issue. Reluctantly or not, this segment of the electorate decided to tolerate Trump's vicious attacks on ethnic and religious minorities, his blatant misogyny, his indifference to the truth, his encouragement of violence against opponents, and his pathetically obvious contempt for religion. They also endorsed his attacks on Planned Parenthood, despite the fact that the organization spends most of its resources on pregnancy prevention, prenatal care and cancer screening, not on abortion. Willing to compromise every value important to Christians except opposition to abortion, these men and women nevertheless insisted on describing themselves as "values voters," and Douthat does not challenge that label. Their laser focus on the welfare of the unborn child, while perfectly justifiable in itself, led them to ignore the needs of the mother, of women in general, and of the most vulnerable religious and ethnic groups in our society. Through their hostility to Planned Parenthood, moreover, they ensured there would be more, not fewer, abortions. Democratic politics always requires a willingness to compromise, but this abandonment of principle involved a devil's bargain, for which the entire country has already paid a high price. And abortions will continue, legally or not.

  66. To say that a vital lesson Trump has taught us is to appreciate the statesman George W Bush was is similar to saying that driving 80 in a school zone is reasonable when compared to driving through a crowded school crossing. One is significantly worse than the other, but they have plenty in common and none of good.

  67. Bush's accomplishments? Medicare Part D is a giveaway to the drug companies that will eventually have to be fixed. No Child Left Behind was a purposeful burden on the most challenged school districts meant to hasten the failure of our public school systems. His homeownership push lead to the housing bubble and the credit default swap mortgage debacle. Our tax rates were lowered at the same time we began an off-budget war, leading to much larger bills to pay later. Quite a list of accomplishments, Ross.

  68. The main thing the republican party has not done, and this began with Reagan, was to think of a world guided by moral values, and economic interests that included all people, all citizens, all races as equals. Here in "liberal-land" there is a continuing and patient persistence in examining and reexamining the society we live together in as Americans in an effort to atone for the national sin of institutionalized inequality. Women were not equal (and their fight is really on right now, gay people, black people, spanish people, Jews, Native Americans, Catholics, etc. all have experienced the US as a society that has been OK with demeaning them because of their bodies and or their beliefs. WWJD? He'd throw the US into the sea for it's hatreds. But we liberals and our PC appreciation of others understand that we must work to change so this history won't repeat itself. The GOP wants to exclude those who disagree with them, and has found common-cause with those who exclude: racists, bigots, nationalists, fanatical religionists. Yes, Mr. Douthat, a new vision, but to look back to the Reagan years is to restart the engine of exclusion that got us here (welfare mothers anyone?). Our nation is enthrall to mediocre mass entertainment and our intellectuals watch the same shows on netflix. Want a new idea? A new direction? good luck GOP. It would be better to let the party die and start something new that has a moral underpinning.

  69. Trump isn’t forgetting Bush and Reagan he’s promoting an agenda that could have been drawn up by Putin. Divide Americans, gut the State department, support autocrats in Europe and tear apart the EU. Putin would love to see us distrust our own press, and distrust own own election system. Trumps doing a bang up job there. Trump has no sense of patriotism , American values, or any sense of what’s right or wrong for America. And so the result is chaos. Exactly what Putin wants.

  70. I appreciate your perspective Ross, and I would add the disturbing fact that 90%+ of these Trump supporters get their information from Fox News, which I believe - more than anything else - has created an environment where a person of zero moral foundation like Donald Trump could win a presidential election in the United States. The conservative media, and Fox News in particular, serves only to divide Americans by giving outlet to the untruths cynically promulgated by Republicans. It's not "news" as we used to define it, but propaganda and bias masquerading as news. We're the only country on the planet that has a large segment of its society believing that guns make people safer, climate change is a hoax, and tax cuts for the rich stimulate growth in the economy. As a political moderate I take comfort when I read the NY Times because I respect its dedication to journalism, but I despair when I realize that most conservatives don't get their information from the traditional news media dedicated to the same standards of journalism, but rather get it served up by Fox News, satisfying the Republican base's need to be angry about the "coastal elites" but not serving any common good whatsoever, including their own core needs.

  71. Doubthat's words here serve merely to exorcise his having been duped by a movement--actually a reactionary backlash by self-victimized lemmings--that has for a generation done its best to transfer America's communal wealth into as few pockets as possible. He strives not only to rewrite history, but also to rewrite Tom Frank's book that so accurately described it. And Frank has written others that were equally precise: "The Wrecking Crew," and "Pity the Poor Billionaire" to name just two. But "The Wrecking Crew" is, by far, the most "prescient" of the Thomas Frank canon. In it, Frank clearly delineates the long-standing, and cynical, Republican practice--among many--of amping up federal budget deficits when their man is in the White House, only to scream bloody murder about them when Democrats have taken the reins. What's wrong with Trump's GOP is identical to what was wrong with them when Reagan ruled the roost: they represent the one-percent and the one-percent only. That they're now reaping their comeuppance is made tragic only by their bringing the rest of us down with them.

  72. This is another good example of the many opinion pieces by conservative authors who strongly condemn the moral depravity and political destructiveness of the Trump administration. I will pass on the question of why so many "normal" citizens continue to enthusiastically support Trump. The fact that almost every Republican legislator continues to vote for the seriously flawed legislation or personnel (judges, cabinet secretaries, top-level administrators) favored by Trump gives me more reason to worry about the whole Republican party.

  73. Mr. Douthat's description of the current state of the Republican party is spot on. After every election cycle I saw the Republicans get darker and darker, embracing policies that should have resulted in less and less support of the people the party has always relied upon. Losing credibility all along the way. But we need a viable Republican party or course. The suggestion to go back to Reagan an Bush Sr. doesn't make sense though. That is when the slide started! They meant well but you know things just are not working out now. On top of all that, those politics purged the party of any type leadership. I've always envision a transformation of a major political party was to happen in my lifetime. It won't happen without any leadership. But I certainly didn't think the country would be brought down with it.

  74. In looking backward, are you suggesting something like truth and reconciliation? Truth is a loaded word these days, but it is still a necessary first step. I think any recent history of the Republican party has to zero in on Newt Gingrich as a serious MVP candidate. It was Gingrich who dispensed with civil norms and protocols, rationalized a win at all costs campaign ethic, and justified the demonization of political opponents. Gingrich found a successful formula of harnessing outrage and directing the kind of rhetoric at domestic opponents that had once been reserved for foreign enemies. His success was measured at the time because the media environment was had not yet adapted to his methods. When Fox News was founded in 1996, Roger Ailes used outrage to build an empire. Today, outrage is the engine of the news cycle and completely integrated with the new media economy. Trump resembles an outrage machine more than anything else, an algorithm tuned to the ethos of the age.

  75. Mr. Douthat writes: "Far too many Trump supporters, far too many conservatives, have seen the then-inaccurate caricature that Frank painted 13 years ago brought to blaring, Technicolor life by Trump — and they’ve decided to become part of the caricature themselves..." No, Mr. Douthat, Frank got it exactly right. That "Far too many Trump supporters, far too many conservatives...became exactly what their enemies and critics said they were" almost as soon as Trump became president is strong evidence in support of Frank's thesis. People do not just change overnight. "Far too many Trump supporters, far too many conservatives" slipped effortlessly and seamlessly into Frank's characterization of who they were because that characterization was accurate and not an "inaccurate caricature" as you claim.

  76. "Note that I don't mean the religious conservatives who supported Trump reluctantly and in a transactional spirit, who welcome his conservative judicial nominees." Therein lies the slippery slope down which Republicans have fallen, Mr. Douthat. Those nominees need only one characteristic: anti-choice. Pass that test and all other sins are forgiven.

  77. "an Ayn Randian vision in which heroic entrepreneurs were the only economic actor worth defending." That line got my hopes up that Douthat would actually provide some illuminating analysis and what is pushing the Trump agenda- and that would be the Ayn Randian billionaire donor base of the Republican party. Of course it isn't the "heroic" entrepreneurs that these donors are made of, the ones who've actually revolutionized the world with their ideas and built something with creative imagination- like the titans of the computer revolution, such as Bill Gates. These billionaires are mostly the Machiavellian monsters of the energy industry. and have poisoned our air, water and politics for their money and power. Now they want to keep it- all of it. Those positive aspects of the Reagan and Bush administrations pushed up the national debt to provide those huge tax cuts because cutting popular government programs would have destroyed the Republicans politically, now they will use those deficits as an excuse to cut those programs in the name of the good of our grandchildren. But it is the continued economic dominance the great, great grandchildren of these donors that this is about.

  78. Yes I guess Bush did deliver for the (upper) middle class too although he pounded the poor by sending their children to be killed in a frivolous war. The big issue now as it has been for a long time now is that the rich no longer need tax breaks to energize the economy but that workers need a raise which, given the failure of the free market, needs to provided by our government passing a higher minimum wage law. The Republicans fail to realize that the economy's problem is not excessive supply but insufficient demand. Give workers a helping hand or move over and let the Democrats do what needs to be done.

  79. While I find myself in agreement with the bulk of this analysis, there is this matter of "an ever-weakening understanding of the common good." It's time to accept that common good is not a without dispute as to it's definition or even it's desirability. As long as Republican voters are viewed as people who don't understand, as opposed to people with a different preference, Democrats will continue to earn their elitist label.

  80. As long as Republican voters continue to refuse to acknowledge facts and truth, they will continue to falsely believe the ridiculously named alternative facts. Among those lies is that Democrats are "elitist".

  81. @Kevin Geraghty: Yes, how "elitist" of us Democrats to want respect for Constitutional rights and human rights, elections protected from hostile foreign interference, jobs and infrastructure programs, funding for science and education, a decent health care system, a sensible energy policy, a working system of checks and balances, and a president who respects the truth and the American people. Nothing but "elite" priorities here.

  82. Could we have an example of an undesirable good?

  83. This essay is curious, pin part for an attempt at an overarching explanation/synthesis of modern political behavior. I see the same sort of approach, with a different focus, coming from someone like David Brooks. I wonder how many members of Trump's Tribe have read Frank's work? Or used it in any conscious way to justify their current behaviors? Perhaps these Douthat and Brooks believe in the Enlightenment notion of "consilience": http://www.wtf.tw/ref/wilson.pdf ("Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge). This gives credence to reductionist ideas of that "unity of knowledge," sort of an evangelical notion that we can understand all these behaviors under some sort of cohesive umbrella of reason. Many people have pushed similar ideas, and I have no particular way to prove them wrong. But I have a suspicion that a desire to wrap all these behaviors into a singular, overarching thesis is doomed to fail. There can be a number of factors involved, including our tendencies to want to be a part of a tribe.

  84. Agreed. Too many independent variables.

  85. Mr. Douthat overestimates the potential for good in Trump's base, a mistake Mr. Trump has never made.

  86. So you speak the truth about Trump and his supporters. Reagan and Bush, not so much. We have been at war for 16 years in the Mid-East thanks to Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and others. They lied to the American public, just as Trump is doing. Reagan did the same. So the conclusion I might come to is that the GOP have spent most of their time in office conjuring up lies to keep all of us either in line or guessing what is coming next. I do know from experience that both Bush and Reagan killed a lot of jobs for average Americans while they were in office. Courting of donors were their priority, as is true of everyone who serves today. Until money is taken out of elections, Ala Citizens United, not much is going to change

  87. What's the matter with Republicans is that they only want POWER but have no idea nor interest in governing. It's easy for them to scream and yell at the Democrats as an opposition but they found out that it's really hard to really balance interests of all segments of the society. So they cling on to their God and tax cut, the only two things the Republicans believe in.

  88. What's the Matter With Republicans? Their problem is the way GOP rank and file perceive the world. They seem much more susceptible to slogans that elicit feelings that Americans at large. Simple phrases like "death tax", "make America great again" and yes "right to life" completely sell them on simplistic decisions about complex issues.

  89. Those phrases mark the GOP as the party of fear.

  90. This sentence needs editing, doesn't it? Insert " different from" where the asterisk is, is the only way I can make sense of it. Then after Obama’s election the G.O.P. lurched away from the middle class in a stark way * under Reagan or Bush or the Newt Gingrich speakership, embracing theories about how the working class was actually undertaxed, rallying around tax plans that seemed to threaten middle-class tax increases and promoting an Ayn Randian vision in which heroic entrepreneurs were the only economic actor worth defending.

  91. So close, but then, not able to see it. The fact that "value votes" believed strongly in their values does not protect them from still being duped. The "duping" happened when the GOP used those strong beliefs to gather a coalition of votes whose interests they never planned to nor could satisfy but used the coalition to further goals not in the best interest of those value voters.

  92. A suitable and logical end to the Trump nightmare might be the formation of a third party, consisting of moderates from both sides of the aisle, that realize that compromise is not a dirty word and that civil discussion is not such a bad thing. If that happens, Trump can take credit for it...

  93. You're offering an awful lot of "spin" when you say the Reagan and Bush tax cuts and other policies offered something for "almost everyone." The generosity of these GOP leaders to the wealthy in their policies was FAR greater than it was to ordinary Americans. In general, it's worth pointing out that the so-called 1% has gained a greater and greater share of America's wealth (at the expense of the rest of us) since ca. 1980, and Reagan's and Bush's policies helped make this happen.

  94. Dream on, Ross. You keep trying to make this Republican Party something it isn't and maybe something it can't be. The GOP and the president are only focused on campaign contributions and getting re-elected. And in Trump's case, staying at the center of attention. They are too corrupt to care about good governance or helping anyone but themselves.

  95. The best thing that could happen to the conservatives will be Trump being kicked out of office in disgrace. The Republicans will suffer in a few elections, but a more honest version of conservatism might arise.

  96. During the administration of George II, I actually defended his use of the phrase "compassionate conservative." I knew lots of them here in south central Pennsylvania - generally opposed to big and expensive government, but generally in favor of civil rights, lifting up the oppressed and seeking equality of opportunity. Unfortunately, they are dying out in our GOP-dominated politics around here, and are being replaced by braggarts, bullies and beraters who scoff at the plight of the poor, the unemployed and those to whom discrimination is a daily occurrence. Cathy's comment at about 8:25 AM sums up life in a GOP-dominated area pretty well. And it is both depressing and aggravating. Mr. Douthat's note that too many blue-collar Republicans have voted against their interests for a parody of their stated values is profoundly disturbing, and blatantly obvious to all except themselves.

  97. I really need you to help me understand (I am not being facetious.) You say people are opposed to "big and expensive government." But, which parts? Are they against the military budget? Social Security? Medicare? Public education? There are lots of smaller ones that don't cost as much: FDA, NIH, FBI, CIA, customs, immigration, federal courts etc. etc. Are they against these as well? So, when they complain about "the government," what are they really talking about? Leaving aside the "values" component of their anger, what do they want the government NOT to do?

  98. Please keep in mind, I am simply reporting what they have told me over the years. If I have read them right, they would argue that many of the programs you listed, including the military (they would have bought into Eisenhower's military industrial complex rhetoric) are: - simply too large to be efficient or effective; - better run closer to the people who need the services; - have become so bloated with bureaucracy and possibly graft that they need to be revamped. On the other hand, many of the people I am talking about were not afraid to invest tax dollars into preventive programs, early childhood education and job training that, they believed, would actually save money (read - taxes) in the long run. These "compassionate conservatives" invested heavily in minority-run businesses and social non-profits in this community, and were unequivocal in their devotion to civil rights. And they were willing to reach across the aisle to find compromises that could move things forward. They were not the angry GOP of today, but epitomized George HW Bush's "kinder, gentler" America. Most of them are dead now - our longtime congressman, William Goodling, was one of them. He died last month. As I say, such people are hard to spot in today's GOP.

  99. If i were not an economic progressive who believes the "free" market dated and more government intervention will be necessary to counter job loss by robot, i would say Douthat has hit the nail on the head. From a "middle of the road" perspective his argument is cogent.

  100. Seriously? Medicare Part D (unfunded, and designed to be a poison pill for Medicare, rammed through by Bily Tauzin, who immediately became the chief lobbyist for PhRma? No Child Left Behind, which scrapped most of education in favor of relentless testing that has driven some of the best teachers out of education? A big home ownership push--attacked by the same Republican Party in the 2008 crash? Lower rates for "everyone"? And constant demands that we "can't afford" what every other developed economy regards as basic rights? Look at the incredible growth in the economic gap in the US during this period, and the recovery from the 2008 crash, virtually all of which went to the top 1%. Frank was absolutely correct.

  101. thank you for saying everything I wanted to say, except that Bush,Cheney,Rice,Powell et al. are all also complicit in using fear as a pretext for invading Iraq and Afghanistan. Profits were and are still being made from this war on terror. Many questions remain unanswered about what really happened on 9/11

  102. Yeah.... aren't you glad for the Republicans concerted efforts to legislate for America... great effort.... so glad we had out participation trophies in the way of healthcare and benefits to Congress.

  103. Mr. Douthat is becoming more an exact replica of King Canute every day. One has to admire his diligence in trying to role back the tide of Trumpism in the GOP and the right in general, but I'm afraid that there is no sign that his side of the political spectrum will embrace the sober recommendations that he and other conservative wise persons are putting forth. Where's the fun in that? More specifically, right-wing politicians need an excited mass of voters to win elections, and the Trump approach seems to be all that's available at this point to get that result.

  104. King Canute did not try to turn back the tide - a common misreading. He publicly ordered the tide to obey him to demonstrate to his subjects that he was NOT omnipotent, could not control nature and consequently couldn't achieve everything his subjects might wish.

  105. What's the matter with Republicans? Nothing different from What's the matter with Democrats? They have a president Trump who is an independent in most matters but at times a Republican when he should really be independent. Trump should not reform Taxes that will favor the millionaires and billionaires, that will be typical Republican. Tax cuts would be welcome if they are for the average working class Americans. If Tax cuts are across the board and include the Republican base of millionaires and billionaires then that will pile on the national debt. If indeed the national debt under Obama has doubled and piled on the debt when he took office more than the debt of all the previous presidents combined, a Republican approach of cutting Taxes for the top 10% who are currently thriving in a record high stock market positions will result in a catastrophic debt increase that cannot be diminished by spending cuts alone. What matters now is that the Republican tax cut proposal for the top 10% will not be allowed to matter.

  106. I think the conclusion should be that Frank was somewhat correct in 2003, and the last 15 years have proven him to be more correct as time has gone on. He was identifying a movement within the republican party that Kansas exemplified. It has now taken over the entire country, from NYC conservatives, to devout Catholics. Douthat can say that Frank was only talking about a minority of the GOP in 2003, and that is probably true, but, it was still a sizable chunk of them, and he correctly identified that they would take over the party. He was both correct, and prescient.

  107. Great observations, Michael. The failed Kansas tax-cutting experiment under Sam Brownback came years after the book was written, yet could have been predicted with a fair degree of certainty. The stack of red-voting states that stretches from North Dakota all the way to Texas, right through the heart of the country, shows that what Frank was talking about isn't (and never was) only about Kansas. "What's Wrong With Kansas?" was simply a terrific title that could have read Nebraska, South Dakota, or Oklahoma.

  108. The Republican mantra of tax cuts (for the middle class, etc.) is theft -- theft now as they defund programs like CHIP, women's health, food stamps, the ACA, Medicare/Medicaid and Social Security (soon on the chopping block), and theft of the future for our children -- adding to the national debt, rolling back environmental and regulatory protections, and government programs/oversight that protect health, general welfare and more. Where are the values that would uphold what's long been bedrock to America--concern for each other, a safety net that protects our most vulnerable, and a sense we're all in it together?

  109. The claim, "Republicans, in the Bush era and before, did make a concerted effort to deliver for the middle class" in the 3rd paragraph has only a sliver of truth in the sense that they both at least paid lip service to working class people. President Reagan helped corporations reduce the power of unions which hurt wages and promoted outsourcing, & both he and George W. Bush passed tax cuts which really helped no one but the wealthy. One can also point out their lax oversight of Wall Street and banks. Interviews and documents from multiple Republican sources detail a concerted strategy and effort to use social issues, culture war and other obfuscations to hoodwink voters in order to keep the GOP in power in spite of the clear bad economic record on both the state and federal level.

  110. There is the complication in defining a Republican in terms of wealth as there are those ordinary folks who vote Republican despite their own economic situation. Then again, ordinary folks who vote Democratic are considered to be takers by wealthy Republicans pure and simple. Having said that, we should know that the voters are a much more complicated group than that described above. If we had a more diverse political structure than our two party system similar to some European democracies we might be surprised to see how divided we really are in our interests. We really do have odd mixtures of folks under each big tent of the two parties here. Even the very wealthy do not fit well under one or the other big tent although it remains easy to see the difference between tents if one peeks under the flaps.

  111. Ross is right about one thing - being boring is a sure loser. Your hundreds of papers on your website? Your articles in Foreign Policy? Nope, that's not what the voters want to hear.

  112. The only problem with the Republican Party--is that there are not enough Conservatives elected--at least they don't enjoy a clear majority in the Senate, where all of their initiatives go to die. The biggest fear of Democrats, is that Conservative Republicans will gain the upper hand--and actually enact some of their ideas--lower taxes, less regulation, free market health care, school choice, tightened welfare guidelines, and control of our borders and enforcement of immigration laws. Democrats are scared to death that American will become accustomed to lower taxes, more disposable income, a smaller, less intrusive government, a vibrant economy, better schools, better health care, and the enforcement of the rule of law. Liberals know full well, that as soon as Americans return to their free-market, capitalist roots, Conservative messaging will be powerful and direct. Americans will have no problem understanding where their newly-found prosperity comes from. In essence, the full application of Conservative principles in this country, will demonstrate once and for all, that American citizens will prosper without the pacifier of big government in their daily lives. This is the reason Ronald Reagan won 49 states in his last term. Liberals, already marginalized, and confined to a handful of states, absolutely cannot let this happen again. If they do, they understand--they will be out of power for another 2 generations.

  113. The only problem with your analysis is that Conservative principals have never brought about the rosy picture of American life that you assert. It was Liberal principals that brought about the reforms that led to the middle class, dug America out of the Depression and won World War II.

  114. If your portrayal of the conservatives is accurate, then they are not really Americans at all. We are a country whose laws have been composed of ideals of diversity, freedom for all, free and good education for all, and the right to express whatever opinion you have. There will be no new-found prosperity under conservatism, only chaos, institutionalized hate, and devastating war. There is plenty of room for liberals to improve their governing, but what we are seeing now is the biggest disaster ever to occur in the government of our country. What will the conservatives do with all their prosperity when it is taken away from them after the rest of us have been plundered. Now that the Russians have gotten further into our government than ever before through the door Trump left open, perhaps you should study how much prosperity exists in Russia, except for a handful of oligarchs,

  115. Jesse, somehow you forget the old saying that you get what you pay for. Health care is not free for most, and lower wealth usually means less care or hoping for charity care. Better schools are not free either. And then there is the military you want to grow and a billions of dollars wall to keep out the immigrants that do so much of the work in this country. The problem with "conservatives" as I see it is that they don't think things through. We need to increase taxes just to pay for Trump's million dollar twice a week golf games. And, if all those public goods we now have become "for profit" only the wealthy will be able to afford good schools and medical treatment. I guess the poor can all join the underpaid military and become "cannon fodder" to protect the "haves." Not a country I want to live in, and, yes, I will emigrate to greener pastures as soon as possible.

  116. Bush and Reagan certainly had principles, where Trump has none. But let's not kid ourselves. They engaged in culture wars to drum up votes from poorer whites who were otherwise voting against their self interest. For example, when you say that Bush II engaged in "marriage promotion," Which you was somehow laudable, I suppose you are referring to the cynical push in the early '00s for state constitutional amendments banning gay marriage. That effort, like the trans bathroom bills, Trump's supposed ban on trans military troops, etc, was just as empty and political as those efforts today. Marriage bans motivated otherwise unmotivated voters to get to polls to cast ballots against gay people because they hate them. Indeed, there is no logical argument to support the position that banning gay marriage in any way encourages straight people to get married or that permitting gay people to be married reduces the value of marriage. The bans served no interest other than bigotry and partisan political gain.

  117. Both Bushes used the racial dog whistle techniques also. First the Willie Horton ad, then the false claim that John McCain had an illegitimate African American daughter (when he really had an adopted daughter from India)

  118. I would venture that the Democrat stand on gay marriage cost them lots of votes, either to Republicans or as no-shows. They would have done better with an end run on the issue. I have gay and lesbian acquaintances. I neither condemn their choices nor laud them. However, they do need legal protection on inheritance. If one partner becomes seriously ill or dies, what are the rights of the other partner? A solution is what I call a granny contract. If two grandmothers choose to live together, should we care if they do so as a convenience or as a romance? It ain't our business. But it does become "our business" when one of them becomes ill or dies. Who has care rights? Who has inheritance rights? Should the survivor sell the house to give deceased's family their inheritance? Wills and care directives may get around these issues, but these are generally automatic for traditional marriages. Do we need formal marriages to give these benefits to couples outside traditional marriages? I think a simple civil contract should provide a solution. As for those who rant and rave about same-sex couples, let's leave them to rant and rave and not bother the rest of us.

  119. By authority of the Commerce Clause, our founders made Big Business answerable to us and subject to our regulation through our elected representatives. Some folks today have forgotten this. For reasons that make no sense to me the proponents of unregulated free market capitalism think that our country would be better off if we leave Big Business alone, if we let it govern itself, no matter how it affects our lives. To me, these folks seem to value fate over cultural self-determinism, the interests of the few, over the interests of the many, affluence, over need. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/economic-democracy-mauri-baggiano

  120. "Social Security reform" was using the stock market to fund SS and that was right before the crash of 2008. Douthat will not be happy until Trump is replaced with Pence and the road to a theocracy is wide open.

  121. Mr. Douthat, Republicans are energized by the president’s self-inflicted controversies, outrageous statements, lack of political correctness, tough guy posturing, incendiary comments and threats directed at world leaders and regimes. This rogue businessman captured the imagination of GOP primary voters and defied rank and file GOP lawmakers to call him out for his divisive, intemperate, racist, misogynist and vulgar comments. His brash statements electrified a large segment of Midwest and suburban Americans who thought that this candidate was a breath of fresh air. He would not be constrained by political conventions, decorum or traditions. For this reason, he commands a loyalty of about 38% of Americans and a solid base of his own party which is why most Senate and House Republicans dare not oppose or offend him, lest their heresy come to the attention of Stephen Bannon who has promised an insurrection within the Republican party. There are many things wrong with the GOP, among them are legislative and executive dysfunction and spineless lawmakers who know of the evil of their president but dare not speak out against and pretend not to hear. Susan Collins and John McCain aside, the Republican party is not a party of profiles of courage. Republican presidents of the past, in spite of their faults, were respected (Eisenhower) and in some cases revered (Reagan). The same cannot be said for the current Oval Office occupant.

  122. Douthat comes to a dawning realization. What was it that opened his eyes? When he connected the words "Kansas" and "What's the matter," with the budget debacle perpetrated on the benighted citizens of that state by drone-like adherence to Republican dogma? There is a good reason that liberals are outraged: we, and Frank, still can't understand why conservatives refuse to see the long-playing, patently obvious, open fraud enshrined in Republican policies, even now - even now! - when Trump draws all the threads of conservative thought together and perfectly embodies the whole shameful deal.

  123. Mr. Douthat pretends that Reagan and G.W. Bush acted to help the middle class, citing things like Reagan's tax cuts and Bush's Medicare Part D and No Child programs. But he ignores that the vast majority of Reagan's tax cuts were for wealthy individuals - and that Bush also cut taxes massively on the ultra-rich before going on a debt-bender with the Iraq war. He ignores that Republicans throughout the period were talking about "starve the beast" policies designed to eliminate social safety net programs - all to help pay for yet more tax cuts for the rich. He ignores all of the dog-whistle commentary seeking to link welfare spending with inner city minorities, when in actual fact white Americans are the biggest recipient group of welfare. In short, he ignores the actual evidence put forth in Frank's excellent analytical book, in favor of a mythologized past where the Republicans were sticking up for the middle class and were only lately hijacked to turn all of their attention towards welfare for the wealthy. In short, Mr. Douthat has fallen into the same trap as the rest of the supporters of the Republican agenda have fallen into - believing their own propaganda.

  124. Funny. To those of us on the left, Trump is just more of the same. A more extreme version to be sure, but just the same old GOP we’ve seen since Reagan.

  125. But notice, near the end of the piece, a reference to the common good, and hope, one person at a time, for progress.

  126. At this point, given our access now to metadata, we now know and understand the corrosive effects of the GOP policy of tax cuts to the wealthy: it undermines the structural stability of the middle class. And that stability is required for a stable, productive society. (If you have any doubt about this, as a case study look at Denmark, which highly taxes the wealthy. The middle class there is thriving, as is the society.) (Read Thomas Piketty's Capital if you need to come up to speed on this.) The GOP's policy of tax cuts to the wealthy is still their central aim. They don't care about the middle class, and their tinkering around the edges betrays their lack of real interest. And, by the way, since you brought it up, take a look at what happened in Kansas, ok?

  127. My memory is failing me. What was the term Hillary Clinton used to describe these "Far too many Trump supporters, far too many conservatives, [who] have seen the then-inaccurate caricature that Frank painted 13 years ago brought to blaring, Technicolor life by Trump -- and they've decided to become part of the caricature themselves, become exactly what their enemies and critics said they were, become a movement of plutorats and grievance-mongers with an ever weaker understanding of the common good[?]" Help me out here, Ross. You've defined it succinctly and accurately. Surely you can bring yourself to say it.

  128. I'm beginning to see why it is, that those in the ruling echelons of the Republican Party, and the Democratic Party, ride herd on the rights of whomever they wish, and it is simply this - For decades the electorate has evidenced such a universal apathy to whatever they do, good or bad, the ruling class has presumed that they should plough ahead and do whatever they can to garner the entire pie, and thereafter dole out crumbs, crumbs which the electorate in their despair come to regard as largesse. And so it has been through several administrations, no difference whether Republican or Democrat; in fact the nearly complete silence and inaction on the part of the Democratic Party, as Trump and his cabal escalate the drive to economic slavery for the masses, is bona fide evidence they side with them. We are a one party authoritarian nation, a nation ruled by the wealthy, for the sole benefit of the wealthy. As every one of the suffering disenfranchised knows, the oft touted incrementalism is the keystone successfully used, for decades, to disenfranchise and subjugate. Three years left in Trumps first term, and if he wins a second term, the land of liberty will be indistinguishable from any one of several authoritarian nations.

  129. This column is accurate, articulate and unnecessary. "His [Trump's] larger agenda is much less thought-through"... It has been obvious since he declared his candidacy that Trump's agenda is the greater glory of Trump, to be achieved through government by tantrum. A significant majority of the American people know this. The only thing conservative "thinkers" should be doing is trumpeting this to anybody who will listen and hoping that America's revulsion grows to the point where the people excise Trump from public life before he completely tears apart what it has taken us over 250 years to build. Dan Kravitz

  130. The values of the Value Voters that Mr Douthat is so sentimental about are not acceptable to the majority of American voters and are not even constitutional. The so-called value voters want to discriminate against LGBT, prevent women from getting needed health care and reproductive rights, do away with science and teach creationism in public schools just to mention a few of their odious beliefs that they'd like to force on the majority. These people lost all credibility of being good Christians when they embraced the thrice married grouper in chief.

  131. Thirteen years ago the median income was no different than today. Then we had a serious recession which has caused serious economic woe to many and the typical Republican response is "lower taxes", instead of stimulating new industries and expanding infrastructure. Lowering taxes means tax cuts for the wealthy, while the stimulus to the economy would be deficit spending on infrastructure. Trump blames NAFTA for loss of middle class jobs, but the real problem is that that we are now a "mature economy" that will not have high paying jobs in high margin industries like steel. No amount of tax cuts will change that. Our manufacturing will either get robots or manufacture in Mexico or China. Either way middle class will be left out. So the problem, the big problem is: what do we do with people in with less education? Tax breaks won't help. What is wrong with Republicans? They have sold their souls. Trump is not making us great again, he is destroying comity and civility which will be needed to solve problems, while he has not foresight. Both Democrats and Republicans likely are better informed than you and I, yet we let old fools like Trump and McConnell lead the discussion. Its time to throw those guys out and bring in some new blood and new ideas.

  132. The underlying problem with Trump and his ilk is the dominance of wishful thinking as over against unpleasant and unalterable reality. Much of the success of the United States economy in the twenty to twenty five years after the Second World War had to do with the unprecedented and sudden increase in population viewed not in absolute numbers but as a percentage increase over the aggregate size of the population in 1965-70 compared with 1945. Add to that the repressed demand for the comforts of middle class life during the Great Depression and the war years, it should be of no surprise looking back at the growth rate of the economy from 1945 to 1965-70. The truth of the matter is that the baby boomer generation is/was a unique phenomenon in U.S. history, and the circumstances that led to its creation are not repeatable. What failed to happen during the baby boom--and that failure bedevils us now--was to make rational plans for the aging of the baby boomer generation. Look at percentages, not absolute numbers, and think hard about what they tell. Nostalgia for the past may make for great literature, but it is a disaster for present-day politics.

  133. I would just like to point out to Mr Douthat that when you make huge tax cuts for the very rich and increase the taxes of the very poor either directly, or by removing tax credits such as the earned income credit, you have committed an immoral act. It is not possible to separate tax policy from morality. Democrats believe that the moral thing to do is to keep taxes on the rich high and provide relief for the poor, who are already facing many formidable barriers. And as things continue to get worse, many of us are becoming more and more socialistic and in our thinking, as a defense against the unbridled greed that has led to our country rapidly becoming an oligarchy. In fact, a deeper, truer morality would guide Republicans towards a tax policy designed to support low-income Americans getting an education, child care, family leave, etc etc, rather than worrying about who marries whom, how women and their partners manage family planning, or whatever else the "moral" guardians on the Right are in uproar about at the moment.

  134. I admire Mr Douthat's diligent imitation of Sisyphus, but no amount of casuistry can hade the fact that for today's far right "Republicans" there is no philosophical overlay to their positions besides demolition: destroying anything that smacks of progressivism. One can easily make the case that the thread of this position goes back to the days of the New Deal. Demolition is usually the least challenging part of a construction project: it's the rebuild that requires a vision, skill and thought, qualities sorely lacking on the far right. When the means (just poking the progressive side in the eye) become the ends and there is no vision behind them, what's left is a sad and abandoned landscape. To use a comparison that should please Mr. Douthat, I pray that our days of wandering like the prodigal son will be brief and that when we return to our senses, there will be a caring father to help us restore ourselves.

  135. Ross, you write: " you just have to believe that some moral questions are more important than where to set the top tax rate." But if you set the tax rate so that hard working poor and middle class people are disadvantaged and struggling more AND the top 1% get massive tax reductions, isn't that a moral issue? Politicians are morally bound to balance the gains and losses. Taxing the poor to give more to the rich is not moral. Kansas got what it voted for: a huge budget deficit, low growth, shortchanged education for its children, and more money for the wealthy. There was something the matter with Kansas. They were just a little slower than many of us to understand it.

  136. Trump and the Republicans have embraced racism with gusto. The plutocrats and big planters of the pre-Civil War era agreed that blacks and immigrants existed to be exploited as cheap labor and that the poor white farmers were a reliable electoral support for a policy that did not serve their interests. This alliance between big capital and racists continued after the Civil War and reemerged in the 1960s with the Goldwater Republicans. There is nothing new in what Trump and the Republicans are doing. It is deeply ingrained in American history. Liberal reformers in both parties have tried valiantly to overcome these destructive impulses, but, in the final analysis, hatred of the other remains a constant in American politics. If we look at old Europe, we see the same racism is resurgent there as well.

  137. If that book were updated, the problem with Kansas is that they tried to cut taxes to the bone with the promise that doing so would spike growth, and bring more revenues. Guess What? It was a massive failure. Now Trump and his lackeys are pressing for the same thing at the federal level: Let’s cut taxes on the wealthy and watch the economic growth that is sure to come! It didn’t work in Kansas. It won’t work in DC. But here they go again. That’s the problem with Republicans. Trying the same failed policy again and again, while expecting different results.

  138. "... [Conservatism has] become a movement of plutocrats and grievance-mongers with an ever-weaker understanding of the common good." Understanding? Oh, conservative pundits, conservative media and the GOP well understand the common good. It's not weaker - it's just not a goal anymore. I defy you, Mr. Douthat, to find a conservative who actually _believes_ in the common good anymore. Randian libertarianism is basically a grand philosophical justification for deliberately _ignoring_ the common good; religious conservatism is about favoring Christianity and "Judeo-Christian" values over all others, demonizing non-western religions and cultures; and elite conservatism is about pillaging our infrastructure, the environment and social bonds in favor of the wealthy retaining their wealth at the expense of all others. American conservatism, at bottom, has become a bankrupt ideology with different faces but the same outcome. No matter if the motivation is asserting the primacy of white Christianity over minorities and the dispossessed, the primacy of tax cuts over building infrastructure and supporting the under-served, or subsidizing the wealth of the privileged, the goal is to consolidate power at the _expense_ of the common good and to diminish the idea of the common good through attacks on that great bogey man, the "Liberal Elite." Trump's only difference from Reagan, Bush and Romney are that he delivers the same tropes of hate, racism and bigotry in unvarnished, explicit form.

  139. No, Mr Douthat, the lesson is that what you consider Frank's then-inaccurate caricature of Republicans is what they've been all along and that is why so very many feel no qualms about lapping up Trump's anger, hatred, and racism. Reagan and Bush were what they knew they were stuck with until something more to their liking came along. Don't feel badly about being duped; I was too in my younger years. Your best bet is to just come clean, admit it, and move on. Forgiveness is there if you seek it.

  140. "But it also requires looking backward, to Bush and Reagan, to a Republicanism that had a thousand flaws but also understood a few important things Trump’s party has deliberately forgotten." And by all means,keep the conservative blinders on. On important matters like global warming, stick with the "Chinese hoax" theory. Make sure that down and out workers are protected from the curse of unionism. Stick with improving healthcare by gutting insurance for 20 million or so Americans. The DACA cruelty is really tough love. Don't let go of Reagan's insight that the government is always the problem. Sure sending jobs out of the country, and outsourcing are decisions made by financial and industrial managers, based on bottom line considerations, but once the jobs are gone, the elite left must bear the true blame for the loss. And don't confuse what Evangelicals Christians must stand for, with what Jesus stood for. Apples and oranges.

  141. Stunning to offer an analysis of recent republican administrations without mentioning the reliance on dog whistle racism. And where is the reflection upon the support to the financial services industry? Bush took a bashing last week in the Times but your effort to define him is simplistic. The Republican agenda has been devastating to the middle class, the poor and especially to people of color and intentionally divisive among them. Democrats not much better. But please, step back and see what has happened. The citizens of the U.S. are ill served by their politicians, and this continues today. Be honest that W was a part of that truth.

  142. Douthat maintains that there's an inherent morality in being a "values voter". He skips over the fact that many of these voters' "values" are bigoted and cruel. "Values" like homophobia (denying equal rights to the LGBT community), theocracy (forcing their Christian religion onto every American, and discriminating against other religions), xenophobia (rejecting millions of immigrants who came to America for safety and opportunity), racism, puritanical misogyny, etc. Frank recognized how cynical GOP leaders like Rove exploited these "values" to manipulate their bigoted, spiteful voter base. Morality was nowhere to be seen.

  143. What is wrong with the Republican party is the dangerous belief of those Ayn Rand worshipers that control it that unfettered capitalism can lead to anything other than rigid aristocracy. They seek to recreate the British parliamentary system before it had a House of Commons, and they are coming very close. Aristocracy is meritocracy's opposite and where excessive opportunity is provided for the offspring of the wealthy at the expense of everyone below, especially the poor. Eventually this leads to the abuse of human capital and such a system is doomed to fail when competing against systems that promote and give power based on merit rather than birthright. It is insidious, and appears in this nation in the form of the disparity of the quality of early education, criminal justice (inequitable and excessive incarceration) health care, and the debt burden to achieve a higher education. These issues assure that a significant portion of our population have no hope of achieving their potential, which weakens our entire nation and its economy in the long run. It also tends to make us miserable, no matter where we lie in the hierarchy.

  144. Inadvertently or not Ross you described at length what's wrong with the GOP, it's a one-trick pony about cutting taxes garnished with the social issue du jour. The last Republican president who saw a bigger picture of governing was Nixon. Look back to him.

  145. Former President W was no racist but during his presidency and before, the GOP was well immersed in fomenting ethnicity-based culture conflict with a "values" agenda that implicitly or explicitly accused the left of having none. Witness Pat Buchanan and countless vile insinuations of the faux-erudite Newt Gingrich. As for the middle class crumbs left on the floor from the Bush-era tax cuts, we must also count the resulting explosion of national deficit and debt, the longer-term consequences of which hurt the middle class most of all. Compared with the Trump administration. the Bush years seem like a bygone age of enlightenment, but the bar could not possibly be lower.

  146. ...well and succinctly said!

  147. Excuse me..."But Bush was also the president of Medicare Part D, No Child Left Behind, a big homeownership push and a larger child tax credit and lower rates for almost everyone, not just the upper class." Big home-ownership push? Really? In 2008 I believe that the crash of the US economy based, in large part, on the fraudulent mortgage industry, would belie any benefit therefrom. Those who lost everything and were put out "on the street" were worse off after Bush than before. As was the country.

  148. No, it isn't the case that too many conservatives have decided to become part of Frank's caricature. Frank was correct. You are blinded to the hypocrisy and shameful lack of concern for the poor and the middle class that has been such a large part of Republican policies and actions since Gingrich. Actually, it goes back to Reagan, whom Chris Dodd accurately described as "a kindly man with a cruel program." Trump is merely the logical end of all the trickle down, let's make war, let's get rich, let's pretend we're for families core of the GOP.

  149. Your comments on the values voters reminds me that in a country claiming to support personal freedom, moral positions are the only way to compel others to live as you wish them to. What a great thing. A person can have a wonderful option of himself, an get the compulsion of others for free.

  150. Excellent article. To me, that brutish jingoistic narcissism, that cruel contempt for anyone seen as inferior, especially when she/he dares to kneel, speak out, or object in any way - has become the very definition of our "president" and his cohorts in government now. It truly seems as if he (and they) are willing to destroy any beneficial policies that were promoted by Obama and the Democrats - no matter what effect these hard-hearted destructions will have on the ordinary citizens of this country. I hope Republicans will be able to separate themselves from the self-promoting, cruel attitudes boasted by Trump, but many people seem to love these very qualities, often out of pure spite and maliciousness - they love to see the "snowflakes" melt. Cry the beloved country.

  151. "What about Kansas", indeed? No comment on the brilliant success of the Sam Brownback (Koch Brothers) tax cuts in Kansas and their ability to lift Kansas's economy and jobs performance above their high tax neighbors like Minnesota? No comment on the trashing of the Kansas public education--once of of the best states? Best of all, no comment on how the Kansas income pass thru to a low corporate tax rate cost the state billions as business owners shift income from the personal stream to their wholly owned business? The the states are the laboratories of democracy, then the lab results show how worthless and self-serving our latest tax "reform" plan will be.

  152. Let us not forget or rewrite history. Bush's tax cuts willfully paved the way for the historic income inequality that is currently prevalent. As a result, the top one tenth of one percent continue to reside in their own greatly reinforced "gated community" world, at the increasing expense to the rest of us.

  153. The GOP now has a lock on the future of politics for a long time due to its ability to re district (gerrymander) elections at virtually every level. Black voters are routinely disenfranchised in elections The electoral college is a joke - whereby a shortfall of 3 million votes results in a GOP President. Our democracy has been alternatively hijacked or sold to the highest bidder. The constitutional Government process has been overridden and checks and balances eliminated. The GOP has achieved all this by effective use of widespread and deep seated racism as a wedge issue in the poor / blue collar/ still segregated bible belt. We now have all branches of Government dominated long term by Republicans and the grip is still being tightened.

  154. You da man. If we didn't have income inequality, we could be enjoying the economy of Venezuela, Cambodia, Mexico.

  155. This cannot go uncommented upon. One has to wonder if Mr. Douthat has read Frank’s book. Social issues are central to his analysis. Values lie at the heart of resentment of the educated. Beyond that, to mention the dignity of Bush and Romney without also mentioning the dignity of Obama strikes me as simply revealing the possibility of racism in both Douthat and many Trump voters. This is a very unserious and somewhat infuriating piece.

  156. Ross can do that to you. Unsettle and infuriate. He knows he has been a big part of the problem that we now face, tries to address it, but then, wiggle, shift, can't quite do it and comes up short and woefully inadequate.

  157. "Unserious and..........infuriating" is par for theDouthat course. Briefly mention the Reagan/Bush mistakes and pretend the Republicans haven't been heading toward Trump for a long, long time.

  158. "Note that I don’t mean the religious conservatives who supported Trump reluctantly and in a transactional spirit, and who welcome his conservative judicial nominees." This is a charitable way of describing religious conservatives who sold their souls for conservative judicial nominees they hope will breathe life into their two idols: repeal of Wade v Roe and a judicial imprimatur for discriminating against gay in public conveyances under the guise of "religious freedom."

  159. These people aren't conservative they are reactionary. They want to return to the days when established "truth" was that all people who aren't 100% caucasian are inferior and it's alright to enslave them because it's for their own betterment. If they could do it they would repeal the 13th 14th and 15th amendments and reinstate the Dred Scott decision as the law of the land.

  160. I wonder how these same "religious conservatives" feel about a stolen Supreme Court seat? Is stealing not forbidden in the Ten Commandments?

  161. Hmmm. Social issues. moral stakes.... How about "thou shalt not kill" versus "thou shalt not have access to birth control or family planning" ... how about "love thy neighbor as thyself" versus "those that are different deserve no rights" How about simple human decency versus discrimination. "blessed are the poor" versus "tax cuts for the rich-maybe it will trickle down...most likely not" The Republican party nor right wing nor Christian evangelicals have the corner on moral authority. As I see it, Democrats have done far more for "all men are created equal", therefore have equal rights", have done far more attempting to address the needs of the poor, have better values with regards to civil rights, religious liberty (in that all religion (or lack thereof) is regarded as personal and valid-not just Protestant Christianity), equal rights for women, for minorities, and LGBT communities. The so called Values Voter group has values that DO discriminate, that create hate sometimes, and seek to deprive those with different values of their rights to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness".

  162. Ross, you spend a lot of time debunking Thomas Frank, only to embrace his conclusions now. And the way out is not a return to Reaganism, which after all decried government as the problem, not the solution. It is a more robust and respectful embrace of both markets and government, beginning in health care. And it won't be the Republicans who find a path out of the jam we're in. You helped get us here, beginning with Reagan.

  163. I'm a Republican. I don't like big government. I am against almost everything they do in DC night and day, aka, The Swamp. I vote on moral issues first and all the rest second. AND, I want the government to do something to return moral values to the center of American life. What's wrong with this picture? I don't like government and I want government to do something about it! To much of our country, the national govt. is something "away", something not from here, something a bit strange, fearful. Does anyone remember that Obama was staging war games in Texas a couple of years ago as part of a master plan to take over the country and stay in office? Never mind. The old south still hates "the north" from the Civil War. The far west hates Washington because it owns and controls so much public land. The Republicans generally hate federal taxes because of the vast power amassed by Washington to tax for the common good. They aren't really interested in that all that much. They want to whack away at "common" and shift to "good for me", which is, after all, a basic human instinct. In a round about way, Douthat is saying the party he loves has gone nuts. They hired Trump because he was the anti-Hillary and because he was the nuttiest guy in the room. They're fed up. There's too much change in the country for them and not enough economic benefits to make them look the other way. Nothing is going to satisfy the dissatisfied 1/4 to 1/3. NOTHING. They are wedded to their grievances.

  164. As a real Republican (at least for now, depending on how far my party sinks into the Trumpian swamp), I knew you were not a Republican or a conservative by the end of the first paragraph--because I don't want "the government to do something to return moral values to the center of American life." Your caricature of conservatism is what liberals do best, a straw man argument. I do want the government to stop trying impose an alternate set of moral values on all of us. I want smaller, less intrusive, more localized government, wherein a government behemoth is not imposing anyone's moral code on all of us. What liberals want is an ever-expanding government, which enforces their values, and from which traditional religion must be walled off, which will eventually mean that government will be involved in every minute aspect of our lives and there will be no room for traditional religion.

  165. "I don't like government and I want government to do something about it!" If you don't like your neighbor, can you expect he/she will do something about it? "Does anyone remember that Obama was staging war games in Texas a couple of years ago as part of a master plan to take over the country and stay in office?" I remember the military exercises in Texas, but NEVER bought into the conspiracy theory of taking over the country. That was all right wing paranoia. "They are wedded to their grievances." I agree. But what is missing is that many of those grievances have no basis in reality. Those grievances are either unrealistic expectations, or the fruits of unsubstantiated conspiracy. It falls to the party that promoted (or at least failed to refute) those expectations and conspiracies, to correct those perceptions, or pass away with them.

  166. DougTerry; you really don't know what you are talking about\. The vast majority of us Westerners are generally happy with the US Government. Most of us want to keep federal lands federal. We appreciate out protected spaces. There is a minority of far right people who want to take federal lands, including our National Parks and Monuments and give them to the rich. You voted for Trump and the anti-American Congress. You are responsible for the worst government we have had on a hundred years.

  167. This is a sadly myopic article. The Reagan and Bush tax cuts shifted the tax burden to the middle class, to the detriment of everyone but the wealthy. Medicare Part D was never funded. No Child Left Behind was a ridiculous shift in education policy that only encouraged bureaucratic shenanigans to sustain funding. You can't point to any of these as successes. Begs the question: is there a single conservative policy enacted in the last 50 years that has strengthened the overall position and future of the US? Tax cuts, while occasionally spurring short term growth, have generated massive deficits (and the resulting debt). Other conservatives policies have created the financial bubble of 2008, loss of manufacturing jobs, and a corporate climate where fines for fraud, poisoning the environment, and blatant criminal action are only *minor costs of business*. Not to mention the Citizen's United ruling, which effectively undercuts democracy. There is not a single long-term, sustainable, conservative success story.

  168. Actually, the affordable care act is the greatest policy success with a conservative origin that I can think of

  169. Ironically--the Environmental Protection Agency.

  170. That is just wrong....and it is an important consideration. Reagan (and actually Carter) spurned important deregulation of industries that had calcified and were inhibiting growth.

  171. We are all Kansas now. The plutocrats are firmly in control...of the house, senate, White House and state legislatures in a majority of states. They have spent a lot of money accumulating politicians and now they want their due...tax breaks, deregulation, and elimination of inheritance taxes. While we argue about what Trump tweeted this week, the plutocrats are recommending compliant conservative judges, and writing legislation to enrich themselves from what little we have left. We are in crisis. Please vote in every election and remember...the tax breaks they are discussing won’t flow down to you...we middle class will always pay because....well someone has to.

  172. " ..namely, that a depressing percentage of American conservatives seem perfectly happy with the bargain that Frank claimed defined their party, with a president who ignores their economic interests and public policy more generally and offers instead the perpetual distraction of Twitter feuds and pseudo-patriotic grandstanding." They are even dumber than we thought!

  173. The only person that could make W actually look like he was a somewhat good President is Trump. But then Trump would make a monkey look good. Let us not glorify W in your attempt to explain Republicans. Medicare Part D was a giveaway to Big Pharma and an excuse for those robbers to charge ever more for drugs that can be bought for a pittance elsewhere in the civilized world. And let us not forget the economic disaster that W rained down on us. No thank you. I prefer to look back on the presidency of Obama, when decency and intelligence prevailed, (Faith-based initiatives? What are those anyway and where in the Constitution are such proclaimed?) and we were brought back from the brink of collapse, not fearing nuclear armageddon was around the corner.

  174. Ross, you still haven't addressed the root of the problem - how the party actually ended up this way. Could the answer simply be that Republican voters are uneducated, and therefore easy prey for cynical and unprincipled politicians?

  175. Much as We, the People, might like to believe that "you can't fool all the people all of the time", the Republican Party has shown you can dupe enough of them to hold sway for a very long time. When Mitch McConnell infamously said, "we will make Obama a one-term president", he was acknowledging that the GOP stands for power and dishonorable conduct, not progress for the people, even if they occasionally sweeten their policies with the crumbs that Douthat finds so nourishing.

  176. What's the matter with Republicans? Given the behaviour that most currently seem to condone and applaud it would appear the matter with Republicans is that they are acting like Republicans.

  177. Thomas Frank was more right than wrong when his book first came out. From Reagan on, the Republicans served up cakes to the wealthy and crumbs to the working man. Reagan initiated the second Gilded Age on the way to the extreme levels of income inequality we now have. Republicans, the party of the working and middle class, ya, right.

  178. My recollection of the "Reagan Revolution" is the outcome that mothers had to go to work to keep the family afloat.

  179. Ross, this is more Bla-bla-bla and some revisionist history to make oneself feel better at what Republicans have wrought on this country since Reagan. What he isn't saying is let's just look at the facts. The fact that Reagan lied, lied about Iran-Contra, lied about the effects of tax cuts, lied about the evils of Medicare as a private citizen because he was paid well to say those words was the beginning. Bush I of all the Republicans was the only Republican President with any sense of decency. Somehow both his sons failed to learn or appreciate that along with the rest of Conservatives. But the real issue is they are not conservatives and never were. They were just the paid political class that has continued to lie to the American people with the aid of FOX news in getting people to vote against their economic interest, and the interest of the country. Tax cuts proposed by Bush II or Trump when the economy is good should be rejected because this is the time we should be paying down the debt, not increasing it. We should be increasing taxes on those whose taxes were cut and failed to generate jobs or taxable revenue as promised. They owe this country not the other way around. Ross's comments are nothing more than noise signifying nothing but the total collapse of principle, integrity and decency within the Republican party. What Trump represents is the now public display of what total corruption looks and sounds like without the veil of pretending to be good Christians.

  180. I had to stop reading at the description of Medicare Part D and Bush's push for home ownership as programs for the middle class. One was a givaway to the pharmaceutical industry, the other helped the middle class into the Great Recession. Whatever is wrong with Republicans, Ross won't be the one to figure it out.

  181. “So 'What’s the Matter With Kansas?' was a poor guide to the party of Reagan and George W. Bush, but thus far it is a very useful guide to the Trump administration." Actually, that book was a SUPERB guide to the party of Reagan and both Bushes. Trump has merely exposed the moral nakedness that has been there for some time. His malign genius was that he saw and exploited existing fault lines.

  182. Ross Douthat says Thomas Frank was wrong when he wrote that from Reagan thru both Bushes the GOP pushed an anti labor anti poor and middle class agenda because they offset wealthy donor fealty without things like Medicare Part D which was good for the middle class. The upper income tax rates were only but a sliver of the many ways that the GOP has transferred wealth from the American public to corporate America and from the middle class and poor to the most affluent. The change in how much wealth is monopolized by the wealthy compared to previous generations is evidences of this, which I guess is why Mr. Douthat doesn't cite it. And to talk about the generosity of the Bush tax cuts for the middle class is to forget that it gave back hundreds of at most a thousand or two to the middle class while returning hundreds of thousands and millions to the wealthy. So, no, Thomas Frank wasn't wrong, Mr. Douthat is, and intellectually dishonest too. The caricature here is the caricature of capitalism that the GOP has been selling the American public since Reagan and trickle down economics. It didn't trickle down much, that's a fact, and your two or three sentence takedown of Whats The Matter in Kansas actually tells us more about whats the matter with Mr. Douthat. about GOP economic policies from Reagan thru the Bushes pushing a pro corporate anti labor anti middle class and working man agenda.

  183. "Bush was also the president of Medicare Part D, No Child Left Behind, a big homeownership push and a larger child tax credit and lower rates for almost everyone, not just the upper class." The plutocrats benefitted more than the middle class as a result of these bills: Medicare Part D was a budget buster that the GOP cognoscenti knew would lead to a demand for austerity measures and Congress passed to keep Big Pharma donors and the shareholders happy.... No Child Left Behind set the stage for the privatization of public education, and this was not an unwitting decision on the part of the plutocrats who stood to make a killing when the new for-profit charter schools replaced the so-called "Failing" schools identified by NCLB We know how the GOP increased home ownership... and we know what happened as a result... those new homeowners lost out but government bailed out the banks who knowingly made toxic loans And a percentage decrease on the tax rate of a middling income does not yield NEARLY as much money as a percentage decrease on a top tax rate... These bills are all examples of what's the matter with the GOP... and what happens when corporations are defined as citizens

  184. If you are going to look backwards, I believe you have to find a conservative before Reagan, because this is the man who started the erosion of our government institutions. He really damaged the country with his "Government is the problem". As for Bush, this article reminds me a sketch (can't remember the program) in which Will Ferrell, who used to imitate W, appears on the stage, and his first words are: "How do you like me now?" The matter with Republicans is that they have to stop lying. And I'm not talking "politician embellishment of the facts", but outright conflicting lies. Only then they (and the country) can start to move back in the right direction (which for a majority of Americans is, literally, something in the center).

  185. Republican or Conservative are inappropriate labels. Trump wants to put everything in his pocket and ensure 100% of it goes to his children. He doesn't want to pay workers and he doesn't want to pay taxes. Workers are losers and we all know he despises losers, so, conveniently, they don't deserve payment and they don't deserve welfare subsidies paid for from taxes. Trump is not alone. Business owners used to understand that there was a cost of goods and a cost of labor but now, after 50 years of M&A activity designed to divorce companies from any employee responsibility/pension plan/health and welfare plan/minimum wage, union, or environmental safety regulation, the billionaire class feels stupid if they pay employees, little less treat them decently or give them benefits. Those cost too much. Investment bankers and investment managers are the priests of this new feel good right to wealth Christianity where the right to amass a fortune is paramount. Unfortunately, their efforts are not well coordinated and we are merely releasing billions of dollars into our money supply in order to make up for the billions that the billionaires have hoarded out of our economy. We need politicians with a vision beyond the next quarterly reporting period. We need businesses with long term goals. We need a system of taxation that keeps the money moving through our economy rather than parking nearly all of it in billionaire pockets.

  186. As always, Douthat willfully misses the mark. Trump is not a deviation from Bush. To understand why, he could simply refer to an article from this very paper: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/10/17/magazine/faith-certainty-and-the-presi... This is where you'll see the infamous quote from a Bush aide deriding those of us in the "reality-based community" who used reason and empiricism to make policy decisions. The Republican Party is still following the same playbook, selling lies to an uneducated base, promising strength and prosperity while delivering tax cuts for the rich and death to brown people.