The GOP’s innovation was to harness and nurture that craziness for votes. It flattered and wooed the guy in the barbershop — and the woman in the beauty parlor — by taking them seriously. Through its media partners — Fox “News” and talk radio kingpins from Rush Limbaugh on down — and with the timely arrival of the internet and social media, it gave them support and a megaphone.

In return, it reaped the nigh-nuclear energy of kooks, cranks, outcasts and iconoclasts whose take-no-prisoners anger invigorated a Grand Old Party. But they also pushed that party further and further to the right — past Nixon, past Reagan and the Bushes, past political and intellectual coherence. Past decorum.

Until finally, the party sold its soul to the Donald.

The damage to GOP credibility is profound. The damage to America is worse. We find ourselves a nation that cannot have meaningful discussion of its issues because some of us have pulled away from the center, from common cause and shared mission, choosing instead to dwell in a pestilential swamp where newspaper hacks collude with presidents and Billy Bush is Jason Bourne.