Sunday, March 13, 2016

This is how the GOP imploded: The real story behind the conservative crack-up, and the creation of Donald Trump

Donald Trump used right-wing rhetoric to steal the conservative base. But this crack-up has been a long time coming

Heather Cox Richardson

Today’s civil war in the GOP has observers scrambling to make sense of the struggle among the current Republican presidential candidates. Pundits are trying to find the roots of the chaos in President Obama’s 2008 election or in the rise of the Tea Party in 2010. But the current fights are only the fallout from a split that started in the 1930s, cracked open in the 1960s, and was complete in the 1990s.

We cannot understand the present without understanding that earlier rift.

The Republican Party split in two in response to the New Deal. In the 1920s, Republicans had embraced the idea that “the business of America is business,” as President Calvin Coolidge put it. But when the bottom fell out of the American economy, Democrat Franklin Delano Roosevelt insisted that the government must stop the abuses that had created the crisis. During his administration, Democrats passed laws to regulate business and finance, as well as to protect labor and provide a basic safety net for Americans. But Republicans loathed these policies. They thought that the taxes necessary to support an active government would tie up capital that wealthy men would otherwise use to invest in the economy. They howled that the New Deal threatened freedom, made people dependent on government, ushered in socialism, and launched a class war that would destroy the nation. And voters reelected FDR in 1936 with more than 60% of the vote.

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