Princeton professor Julian Zelizer says the GOP establishment deserves Trump, Cruz "But Republicans have nobody to blame but themselves. The party needs to own up to the kind of politics that we now have. The style promoted by Trump, Cruz and the entire tea party is a conscious product of the key decisions and strategic choices that mainstream Republican leaders have been making for decades."
He cites events back to Reagan, courting the Moral Majority, Lee Atwater under Bush 41, McCain picking Palin, Boehner and McConnell welcoming the Tea Party (at first). Also conservative talk radio, Fox News and Drudge.
As Nancy LeTourneau sums up, The Insanity Started a Long Time Ago, "Once again today, David Brooks is pleading with Republicans to “stay sane.” His supplications completely ignore the path the GOP took that led them to where they are today. As Zeilzer notes, “the alliance, the ideas, the rhetoric and the style have all come from the heart of Republican politics.” In other words, there’s no “staying” sane. That’s because the insanity started a very long time ago."
Martin Longman analyses, Why Silver Was Wrong About Trump. He starts out saying the thought the GOP was at least reasonable and how since Gingrich he's been slowly chipping away at that notion.
The moment the organs of the GOP had to shift over to defending [Palin's] preparedness and suitability to be a heartbeat away from the nuclear codes was the moment that their brain was disconnected from the rest of their central nervous system. From there, it was a short hop to climate science denialism, Birtherism, rape-don’t-get-you-pregnantism, Benghazism, and all the rest.
But [thinking Trump support would peter out] assumes that the key animators of the conservative movement are the familiar things like low taxes, a strong national defense, and a ban on abortion. Those aren’t the keys. The keys are 1) fear 2) hatred 3) greed and 4) a need to be led. Trump encapsulates those almost perfectly.
Now, you can call my assessment harsh, but I didn’t get here lightly. I did not want to believe this. I came to this way of thinking kicking and screaming. But, since I gave up giving the Republicans credit for anything more, I haven’t been wrong yet.
So, when I saw Trump badmouthing McCain, I said it would help him when most people said it would sink his campaign. I knew the base hated McCain to begin with, hated him twice-over for losing, and they’d love seeing a strong leader kick him in the teeth.
This isn’t the kind of analysis you’ll find in a political science paper or by poring over statistics. It’s raw and visceral and human. People are responding to Trump because they’re feeling xenophobic and because they want to see the Republican establishment insulted. They don’t really care about marginal tax rates or who’s been a consistent opponent of gay rights. They want someone who will get some revenge on their enemies.
Now, finally, I don’t know that Trump will win the nomination. Maybe he won’t. But I don’t see a whole lot of distance between what he’s doing and what the rest of the candidates are doing. They’re all at least as radical as George W. Bush, and the gang they’d bring in with them is unquestionably much worse that the gang that came in in 2001. Most of these candidates are far, far to the right of Dubya on a host of issues, from Israel to climate to Islamophobia to the role of the federal government in education or medical policy.
Kevin Drum wonders, Why Do So Many People Believe Donald Trump?
This really does get at a key part of Trump's popularity: a lot of people believe him. Hell, I'd almost vote for him if I believed him. We're talking about a guy who says he's going to grow the economy at 6 percent, save Social Security, cut taxes on everyone, get rid of unemployment, crush ISIS, rebuild the military, erase the national debt, and make America great again. And the icing on the cake for conservatives is that he claims to be solidly pro-life, pro-gun, pro-religion, and in favor of nice, right-wing Supreme Court justices like Clarence Thomas. What's not to like? A few minor deviations from movement conservatism? That's piffle. Why are all those establishment Republicans opposed to him?
There are reasons, of course. But primary among them is that no one with a 3-digit IQ believes he can do this stuff. Lots of it is flatly impossible, and the rest is politically impossible. And if you don't believe Trump, then he's just a charlatan with nothing left except bad qualities: he's erratic, narcissistic, boorish, racist, thin-skinned, ideologically unreliable, opportunistic, etc. etc. It's pretty obvious why you'd oppose him.
So, really, it all comes down to whether you believe Donald Trump can do the stuff he says. It's pretty plain that he can't. So why do so many people think he can? That's the $64 trillion question.