Live from the Republicans' Self-Made Gehenna: Norm Ornstein: The Political Scientist Who Saw Trump's Rise Coming: "I had focused for so long on the growing dysfunction inside the Republican Party...

...I believed that its leaders had generated an awful lot of the anger out there... combined that with the set of polls that we began to see that showed 60 to 70 percent support for outsiders and insurgents... thought that this conventional wisdom that... these flavors of the month would emerge but then fade, and the voters would eventually fall back on an establishment figure... didn’t ring true.... And then when I began to look at who the outsider and insurgent candidates were, it just seemed to me that Trump and Cruz were the two most likely to emerge. Because they both tapped into different elements of this anger out there....

This is a self-inflicted wound by Republican leaders. Over many years, they've adopted strategies that have trivialized and delegitimized government. They were willing to play to a nativist element. And they tried to use, instead of stand up to, the apocalyptic visions and extremism of some cable television, talk radio, and other media outlets on the right.... They've delegitimized President Obama, but they've failed to succeed with any of the promises they've made to their rank and file voters, or Tea Party adherents. So when I looked at that, my view was, 'what makes you think, after all of these failures, that you're going to have a group of compliant people who are just going to fall in line behind an establishment figure?'....

Back in 1978, when I first came to AEI, Tom Mann and I set up a series of small, off the record dinners with some new members of Congress. And one of them, Newt Gingrich, stood out right away. As a brand new member of the House, he had a full-blown theory of how Republicans could break out of their seemingly permanent minority, and build a majority. And over the next 16 years, he put that plan into action. He delegitimized the Congress and the Democratic leadership, convincing people that they were arrogant and corrupt and that the process was so bad that anything would be better than this. He tribalized the political process. He went out and recruited the candidates, and gave them the language to use about how disgusting and despicable and horrible and immoral and unpatriotic the Democrats were. That swept in the Republican majority in 1994. The problem is that all the people he recruited to come in really believed that shit.... So what followed has been a very deliberate attempt to blow up and delegitimize government.... And Republican leaders, like Mitch McConnell and Eric Cantor, were complicit in this. I think when Republicans had their stunning victory in 2010, Cantor et al thought they could now co-opt these people. Instead, they were co-opted themselves....

There are several strains that run through the Republican Party and its base now. First, there's an anti-establishment, anti-leadership populist base that is driven by identity politics and culture and a visceral reaction against leaders of all sorts. That's best represented by Trump. Then, there's a more radical conservative ideology... the Freedom Caucus and Cruz... want[s] to blow up all of government, and are willing to use more radical tactics..... Finally, there's an establishment leadership. That's not a moderate leadership... very conservative... [but] see a party winning elections and holding power as sometimes requiring tactical moves to make compromises....

If we’re laying the odds here, I still think it is more like 80/20 that he loses. There are a lot of reasons to think that he is not gonna be able to expand this message to a much larger group of people once you move beyond trying to impress a Republican Party audience.... [But] I would not discount entirely the possibility that he could win, for the following set of reasons. One, tribalism is still a dominant force.... This to me suggests we’re not gonna have a 45-state blowout like Goldwater faced, or a 49-state one like Mondale or McGovern had.... If events occur that create more of a desire for change, then people might roll the dice with Trump.... 20 percent sounds like not much, but is quite tangible....

For the Republicans, in the aftermath of this election we’re gonna see a pitched battle across these different boundaries — the anti-leadership populist base, the radical conservatives, and the establishment leadership. At the moment, I don't see anyone who can stitch them together. And I think it’ll be a while before that happens.

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