“Vigilant Democrats worry today that the Republican Party is only playing possum, or that it can be revived by extraordinary means such as a Martian invasion. In fact, the GOP is a mummy-wrapped skeleton sitting in its own chilly mausoleum of bilious resentments and creepy sentimentality. What remains to call themselves Republicans are baldly badly educated or just prankish Confederate re-enactors—chubby men in gray and butternut suits with gold buttons and feather-tipped hats, clanking down stairs with shiny sabers. A handful of them are just boors from the South who look poorly on horseback and wave unread Bibles while calling for Billy Sunday to rise like the gold market.

What about Ike and Richard Nixon and the worshipped California cowboy manqué Ronald Reagan? Not one of them cared a toothpick for the Republican Party of their time and each struggled mightily to remake it. Ike was indifferent to partisanship: His beating of the splenetic Robert Taft in 1952 for the nomination was the success of a conqueror over a sharpie. Nixon was a troubled, spiteful Quaker who despised the Republican Party as the ‘Eastern Establishment,’ and who governed as a liberal Democrat with the apostasy of wage and price controls, the EPA, and embassies to the mass-murdering Mao and the hollow Brezhnev. Reagan was a right-wing Democrat from homespun Illinois who, after years of failing in Hollywood and then charming California, swamped Jimmy Carter and Walter Mondale with the passionate votes of the Democratic Party. I have long suspected that the Kennedys voted for Reagan twice.”