E. J. Dionne is more ideological, yet he recognizes the same things at work.
There are many reasons to criticize the far right and what it has done to the GOP, with the complicity of its so-called Establishment. But it's both remarkably elitist and also an analytical mistake to write off Trump's backers as "crazies" while ignoring the source of their frustrations. They tend to be less well-to-do Republicans who are fed up with the political system, dislike the codes and conventions that dictate the way most politicians talk, and have lost confidence that politics and government can really do very much for them.There are limits to what government can do, and I await the Republican or Libertarian voice who will point out that fifty years of the War on Poverty, Great Society, Model Cities, Urban Renewal and the rest of the Democrats' holy artifacts haven't done much for less well-to-do Democrats. I suspect that's not where Mr Dionne is going.
But there's an unconventional alternative: lifting up politics by embracing the idea that voters, especially those being hammered by the economy, aren't dunces and would like for their government and their politicians to take concrete steps to improve their situations. This is especially important in a new economy that simply doesn't deliver to large parts of the middle class, let alone the poor.And Mr Trump, rent-seeker extraordinaire, is unlikely to be the vehicle for freeing the middle class and the poor from its government shackles. Mr Dionne is probably of the tax-and-spend approach, and yet his closing remarks call for new thinking.
Is there no Republican engaging in a real — as opposed to superficial — questioning of the party's old assumptions? Is there not even a glimmer of acknowledgment that if stagnating wages are the problem, further tilting the system toward employers and financiers is unlikely to solve it?
Trump's supporters have an intuition that something is deeply wrong in their party. Their explanations for its shortcomings may differ from my own, but they are correct that the party is not delivering what they have a right to expect. Most candidates will play along with the disaffection. Those who try instead to reverse the loss of faith by responding to it constructively will deserve to win the debate.
It's the rent-seeking, stupid.
But I have sufficient beer to refill the mug and enjoy the show tonight.
More, perhaps of substance, or perhaps not, later.