Conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks penned a lament of the Republican party's internal demise last week - its "rot", in Brooks' words - and essentially made the case that the rot was inevitable. That this is where the populism of the right was bound to lead, and that it began long before the emergence of Donald Trump or Roy Moore.
That’s the way these corrupt bargains always work. You think you’re only giving your tormentor a little piece of yourself, but he keeps asking and asking, and before long he owns your entire soul.
How did the GOP find its way to a president who traffics in conspiracy theories and has multiple allegations of sexual misconduct against him? Or a "patriarchic bigot" like Moore? According to Brooks,
The reason, I guess, is that the rot that has brought us to the brink of Senator Roy Moore began long ago. Starting with Sarah Palin and the spread of Fox News, the G.O.P. traded an ethos of excellence for an ethos of hucksterism.
By his estimation, Brooks says, this intrusion of populism into the party came at the expense of a history of intellectual, moral, leadership excellence:
Populism abandoned all that — and had to by its very nature. Excellence is hierarchical. Excellence requires work, time, experience and talent. Populism doesn’t believe in hierarchy. Populism doesn’t demand the effort required to understand the best that has been thought and said. Populism celebrates the quick slogan, the impulsive slash, the easy ignorant assertion. Populism is blind to mastery and embraces mediocrity.
The rot afflicting the G.O.P. is comprehensive — moral, intellectual, political and reputational. More and more former Republicans wake up every day and realize: “I’m homeless. I’m politically homeless.”