Political caricatures don’t come much broader than these. Strange was the establishment incarnate; Moore was the Republican electorate’s id made ruddy flesh, an avatar of the latent nativism and conspiracism that Donald Trump’s detractors inside and outside the Republican Party blamed for his rise.
.. This was a “Jurassic Park” vision of the Republican base, in which party leaders, after fecklessly creating and nurturing a monster, find themselves powerless to stop it once the electric fences go out on the island.
.. Reagan’s 1980 campaign won seven percent more of the labor-union vote than Gerald Ford did in 1976, but he won just 10 percent of the nonwhite vote, significantly less than Ford.
.. Many of the major contenders for the 1988 Republican presidential nomination ran explicitly on the idea of bringing nonwhite constituencies into the party — none more enthusiastically than Representative Jack Kemp of New York.
.. Kemp believed that his vision of racial outreach could bring the party control of Washington.
.. Kemp lost to George Bush — himself a self-identified base-broadener, but one whose candidacy was marred by the race-baiting “Willie Horton” ad
.. Lee Atwater, Bush’s campaign manager, vowed — and later apologized for vowing — that “by the time we’re finished, they’re going to wonder whether Willie Horton is Dukakis’s running mate.”
.. It was a testament to the party’s cynicism, naïveté or both that Atwater, in taking the helm of the Republican National Committee after Bush’s victory, was tasked with improving outreach to black and Hispanic voters.
.. The base had, in Gingrich’s formulation, become something new: not a coalition to be expanded but a force to be propitiated or crossed at Bush’s peril. It was not there to be molded by politicians like Jack Kemp. It was there to give orders to them, through mediums like Gingrich
.. When Bob Dole — who had campaigned for the 1988 nomination on, as his spokeswoman put it, the “need to broaden the base of the Republican Party” — said he had no “litmus test” for the abortion views of his running mate in 1996, he drew harsh words from James Dobson
.. It implies that the Republican Party is not a coalition of interests but the tribune of an essentially unified tribe.
.. Conservatives often point out, correctly, that today’s Democratic base is, if anything, more monolithic in its policy views than its Republican counterpart, with more uniform positions on issues like abortion, immigration and taxes.
.. Republican voters, meanwhile, passed over candidates with actual fiscal-conservative and evangelical bona fides, like Ted Cruz, in favor of one whose only sustained and consistent point of contact with past Republican practice was the winking subtext of the party’s white identity politics, delivered without the wink. One party’s base knew what it believed; the other’s knew who it was.