Mr. Ryan’s ideas have always resonated with the corporate Republican donor class. But they are indifferent, at best, to the challenges faced by the mass of ordinary Republican voters. For decades, American innovation and growth has been largely concentrating in a handful of big liberal cities. When the recovery finally came, it came to the Democratic metropolis. Most of the sparse Republican outlands never bounced back.

Jobs were scarce, opioid addiction was rife, and life felt insecure. Indeed, life expectancy for many rural whites fell. A few red states graced with booming metro areas, like Texas, flourished under Republican regimes of low taxes and light regulation. But in more rural Republican states, like Kansas under Mr. Ryan’s mentor and former boss, Gov. Sam Brownback, taxes had been cut to the bone, and the promised boom never materialized to make up for the loss and degradation of public services…

Mr. Ryan, who had dreamed of building a more inclusive party, was sincerely horrified by Mr. Trump’s divisive white-identity politics. But there wasn’t anything he and the Republican establishment could do about it. They had nothing with which to fight the towering inferno of resentment they had kindled through their arrogant, ideologically driven indifference to the pressing needs of the people they claim to represent.