I had noticed the Republican party beginning to slide from the late 1980s and through the 1990s… just after I was old enough to become politically aware. I initially sympathized with Republican positions and attitudes. As the years passed, I moved further to the libertarian center and became more politically independent. After I left the religion, I gave up some of my libertarian leanings (which is a whole other story), and I moved even further into the center. Meanwhile, however, the GOP progressively slid further into extremism that ought to be marginalized in polite society. The 10% on the margins, the exception that proves the rule, became the rule that confounds the exception.
It’s gotten worse.
Judging from this year’s Republican primaries, the more blatantly extreme you are and the more disconnected from reality, the more likely Republicans are to nominate you for office. This is not a literary hyperbole or metaphor, and it is not just opinion. This is an observation and a truth claim, and it can be validated or disconfirmed by examining the claims and rhetoric of this year’s Republican nominees.
The party has gone batshit crazy.
But David Corn is 10 years older than I, and exploring the history is part of his job. He has a longer perspective than from the 1980s. In a recent piece, he notes:
Since the 1950s, the GOP has repeatedly mined fear, resentment, prejudice, and grievance and played to extremist forces so the party could win elections. Trump assembling white supremacists, neo-Nazis, Christian nationalists, QAnoners, and others who formed a violent terrorist mob on January 6 is only the most flagrant manifestation of the tried-and-true GOP tactic to court kooks and bigots. It’s an ugly and shameful history that has led the Party of Lincoln, founded in 1854 to oppose the extension of slavery, to the Party of Trump, which capitalizes on racism and assaults democracy.
In a recent interview with Joe Scarborough (another former Republican), Corn acknowledged that it has indeed gotten worse. But the pattern goes all the way back to Joseph McCarthy and the party’s response to him. McCarthy wasn’t just a paranoid nut job with power. He was a paranoid nut job with power and a Republican party that enabled and supported him. The parallels are creepy.
In retrospect, maybe my change in attitude over the years toward the GOP has more to do with my personal development and not any fundamental change in the party itself.