The whole GOP goes rogue

Many Republicans are now alarmed that their choice may come down to Trump, the candidate of a reality-show populism that tries to look like the real thing, and Sen. Ted Cruz, an ideologue whom they fear would lead their cause to a devastating defeat. There is an honorable pushback against this outcome from champions of a genuinely more moderate and tolerant brand of conservatism — the columnists Michael Gerson and David Brooks among them.

But this is a battle that needed to be joined long ago (which, I should say, is a central theme of my new book, “Why the Right Went Wrong”). A showdown was required before the steady, large-scale defection of moderate voters from the party. Now that opponents of Trump and Cruz need the moderates, they are no longer there — except, perhaps, in states where independents might cross into the party’s primaries to save it from itself.

And instead of battling the impulses now engulfing the party, GOP honchos exploited them. They fanned nativist feeling by claiming that illegal immigrants were flooding across our borders, even when net immigration from Mexico had fallen below zero.

They promised radical reductions in the size of government, knowing no Republican president, including Ronald Reagan, could pull this off. They pledged to “take the country back,” leaving vague the identity of the people (other than Obama) from whom it was to be reclaimed. Their audiences filled in the blank. They denounced Obamacare as socialist, something, as Sen. Bernie Sanders is pointing out, it decidedly is not. Indeed, it’s rooted in proposals Republicans once made themselves.