Krugman Spells It Out

When Mitt Romney announced that he would not campaign for a second Senate term, the announcement did more than simply mark the political exit of one prominent Republican. It was yet another indicator of the metamorphosis of a once-rational political party.

As usual, Paul Krugman’s assessment of that metamorphosis was dead-on. In “The Road from Mitt Romney to MAGA,” Krugman described the decline of the GOP. As Krugman notes, Romney is clear-eyed about what has happened to his party and given his willingness to say what others are unwilling to admit, he is a comparative profile in courage. That said, according to Krugman, Romney–and Republicans like him–have also been part of the problem, enabling the party’s devolution.

It’s good to see Romney speaking up now, but the party he’s criticizing is in large part a monster that people like him helped create.

For the basic story of the Republican Party, going back to the 1970s, is this: Advocates of right-wing economic policies, which redistributed income from workers to the wealthy, sought to sell their agenda by exploiting social intolerance and animosity. They had considerable success with this strategy. But eventually the extremists they thought they were using ended up ruling the party.

When Romney ran for President, Democrats accused him of being a plutocrat whose policies would enrich the wealthy and hurt average Americans. Those Democrats were right. Krugman enumerates the policy positions Romney adopted during that campaign, and points out that they would indeed have hurt non-wealthy Americans.

In particular, Romney was a strenuous opponent of the Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. Obamacare, which was enacted in 2010 but didn’t take full effect until 2014 — an especially cynical position since Obamacare was very similar to the health reform Romney himself had enacted as governor of Massachusetts. If he had won in 2012, he would almost surely have found a way to block the A.C.A.’s rollout, which in turn would have meant blocking the large reduction in the number of Americans without health insurance after 2014.

The GOP accepted the basic premises of the New Deal through the presidency of Dwight Eisenhower. When Eisenhower was President, the top marginal tax rate was 91 percent and roughly a third of American workers were unionized. Krugman quotes from a letter sent by Eisenhower to his brother, in which he wrote:

“Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again”; while there were a few conservatives who thought differently, “their number is negligible and they are stupid.”

Their number remains negligible, but thanks to two things: the systemic distortions that form much of the discussion on this blog, and the success of culture-war appeals to racism–they exercise disproportionate power.

Krugman writes that, in the 1970s, the Republican Party began to be dominated by people who did want to roll back the New Deal legacy. He reminds readers of efforts like George W. Bush’s proposed privatization of Social Security and Trump’s corporate tax cut and multiple promises to demolish the A.C.A.

Republicans offset the unpopularity of their economic policies by harnessing culture war policies —” hostility toward nonwhites, L.G.B.T.Q. Americans, immigrants and more.”

In 2004, for example, Bush made opposition to gay marriage a central theme of his campaign, only to declare after the election that he had a mandate for the aforementioned attempt to privatize Social Security…

But eventually the forces that economic conservatives were trying to use ended up using them. This wasn’t something that suddenly happened with the Trump nomination; people who think that the G.O.P. suddenly changed forget how prevalent crazy conspiracy theories and refusal to acknowledge the legitimacy of Democratic electoral victories already were in the 1990s. The current dominance of MAGA represents a culmination of a process that has been going on for decades.

And for the most part, Republican politicians who probably weren’t extremists themselves went along.

Krugman says we should give Romney credit for finally reaching his limit. But he reminds us that it took until very late in the game for Romney to get there — and that the “game” was one that he and people like him had basically started.

So here we are.

Even plutocrats like Romney who have massively benefitted from their culture war misdirections have begun deserting the ship; even the most privileged beneficiaries of corporatism have begun to recognize the damage that’s been done.

The question that keeps me up at night is whether the forces of hate and resentment unleashed in the pursuit of economic advantage will prove too powerful to control.

I guess we’ll know the answer to that question next November…..


  1. “The question that keeps me up at night is whether the forces of hate and resentment unleashed in the pursuit of economic advantage will prove too powerful to control.”

    That is the question which should have been put to the Republican National Committee in 2015 when they allowed Trump to slither down that escalator to announce he was running for president. We should also be asking about the RNC vote which gave him the nomination with his 20% of their vote vs. the 80% who voted against him. I watched the RNC Convention and the full roll call when, after each state gave their varied nomination results, all votes were given to Trump. The final count appeared as if Republicans in all states supported him 100%; where are those 80% today who helped perpetrate this resulting treasonous action against our nation? It has only taken them EIGHT years to virtually destroy what it has taken two and a half Centuries to build. With all its faults and failings it was the best nation on earth and we could sleep at night knowing that we could change the faults and failings; today those faults and failings are ruling every American citizen. We are now controlled by the “go along to get along” GOP whose 80% allowed the 20% to rule; those numbers are probably the same in the House of Representatives today being ruled by Trump’s MAGA, White Nationalist, Freedom Caucus minority with their slight majority control. And let us not forget that ONE man in the Senate, Tommy Tuberville, who has managed alone to block military action to appoint leaders as we are becoming surrounded by wars which are edging closer and closer to boots on the ground here.

    Out of The Hague, Netherlands, came a news item that international legal experts say both sides in the Israeli/Hamas war are violating international laws. The United Nations Commission of Inquery is collecting and preserving evidence of war crimes by all sides. President Joe Biden pressed Israel to operate by rules of war but he appears to be standing alone to be crying out to stop the war against all humanitarian rules of law. The Russian war against Ukraine and the Republican internal war in the House blocking any action in the federal government, along with all of the indictments against their leader Trump have become non-issues in the media.

    “I guess we’ll know the answer to that question next November…..” If these current conditions continue; we know the answer today without waiting till next November as we watch hate and resentment rule.

  2. All is not doom and gloom. The unraveling of the Republican Party is being played out front and center for all 2024 voters to see in the House of Representatives where candidates for the Speaker’s seat drawn from the far right contingent of that party find themselves unable to obtain any majority support or traction among their own political group to win. This debacle underscores the inane depths to which that party has gone, being unable to offer anything constructive to the body politic for the benefit of this nation. It will not be forgotten at the polls.

  3. Well stated, JoAnn. Thinking about November 2024 not only keeps me awake at night, but gives me anxiety attacks and stomach aches. I don’t recognize my country anymore.

  4. While it is clear that the Republican Party of years past is clearly collapsing in front of us; that doesn’t mean that it is going away. What it is devolving into is a far-right Nazi style political party. Now that is what keeps me awake at night.

  5. It ain’t just here folks….get more awake. Over the past week, BOTH Australia and New Zealand had elections which moved both of these very liberal democracies to the RIGHT. There is a “wave” out there in our human race…

  6. It is highly likely that a MAGA Republican could replace Mittens’ seat. In such a case, Romney would not receive any praise from me.

    The Republican Party’s decline shows how money dominates politics. If we want to reverse this trend and restore a more democratic system, we must eliminate the influence of money. However, it will be next to impossible with Charles Koch planning to spend $5 billion.

    Money is a common factor, and it is a fast way to gain power and become a millionaire. Millionaires in our two-party political system are owned by billionaires. Neither party will attempt to overturn the Citizens United ruling, so let’s not forget all the Supreme Court cases that have strengthened money’s role in politics.

    Romney did not need the money, so he could have been more vocal as the party went insane. He did stand alone during the impeachment hearings, and I gave him credit for that. However, he receives no credit for his current position. If anything, the party asked him to resign because he was not on good terms.

  7. What bothers me is how both we on the left and those of you who are liberal Or middle of the road tear each other apart, and how inept the Democrats generally are- coalitions built around fear and hate with paid propagandists vs us “amateurs”

  8. This essay and “discussion” today highlights the fact and trend that shows how the ancient instincts of greed, fear and tribalism are tearing our democracy apart. Republicans don’t care about anything except money from the likes of Charles Koch. These greedy bastards want it ALL, but possess brains too small to understand the consequences of their greed and partisanship.

    It’s all quite sick. As Sheila II says, “I don’t recognize my country anymore.”

    Until the somnolent, rational people get off their asses and vote out all Republicans, this cancer in our body politic – and soon to visit everyone’s neighborhood – will kill our democracy.

  9. Gee, sounds familiar!!!

    They built Frankenstein’s monster, but in the current scenario, Frankenstein’s monster becomes the master, and the master becomes cannon fodder. They could never control the monster if they wanted to. And the intestinal fortitude it would take to take on this monster is not possessed in anyone that I’ve ever seen in the political realm.

    It’s almost like politicians playing with dynamite, they lite the fuse and decide that it will only explode with the force of a cherry bomb. And I would venture to say I don’t think that works the way they think it does.

    If you look at the Jim Jordan’s, the MTGs, the Boberts, The Matt Gaetz’s amongst plenty of others, They seem to be possessed by something. Because there is no logic in their actions. It’s pure Anarchaic malfeasance! This is reminiscent of the 38th chapter of Ezekiel, when basically, these instigators will have no control over their actions.

    The flailing of humanity and humanity’s governments absolutely is at a breaking point. Human rights are being cast aside, lawless actions continue unabated, the inmates are running the asylums! And all I can say, if this is the time? It’s time!

    Read Daniel 11: 40 – 45!!!

    I mean, right now so many of The so-called mainstream in this country are calling for a genocide! So what genocide is appropriate? Is it a particular religious belief? Or, a political belief, or an ethnicity? Or a culture? Or a combination of all? This is a very disgustingly morally corrupt time we live in, and It cannot continue indefinitely!

  10. Didn’t anybody read the other recent article about Romney? He’s 76 years old, pays 5k $ a day for armed security for his family and said, Enough of this sh*t. Everything trump touches dies. Romney is reading the tea leaves and has decided his days are numbered. Nobody talks to him, he’s lonely in DC and since nobody likes him, he’s taking his millions and going home.

    Bye bye Romney. Thanks for your attempts but your Bane capitalism is what helped destroy our country, our unions, our tax laws and made you a multimillionaire. You have enough money for several lifetimes while the rest of the country is living paycheck to paycheck. Bye Felicia.

  11. We are not dealing with the Republican Party of yore, which doesn’t exist, having gone the way of the Whigs. We are trying to deal with a “party” that has been captured by fascists as though it were a political party involved in governing, i.e., taxation, budgeting, environmental concerns etc. That is a waste of time and effort. That party’s fascist captors have no interest in debating the issues and being bound by electoral results. (e.g., if you lose an election, deny the result and/or if in power, remove the authority of such Democrat to carry out the powers of such office by post- election legislative edict, thus destroying the will of the people and the bedrock principle of majority rule).

    Fascists are primarily interested in the acquisition and dictatorial use of power; hence we see their disdain for majority rule, their use of institutional destruction, election denial, insult and other means in ending our Madisonian democracy. This is not Kansas anymore, Totos; the Republicans you and I may remember, i.e., those who accepted the will of the people as expressed in elections, the peaceful transition of power resulting therefrom etc. are not the same people we are dealing with today, and we must change our means of dealing with their fascist captors who are clearly intent on destruction of our democracy which, as I often write, is our most precious asset held in common and one of the last few things worth dying for. When? Yesterday!

  12. Peggy,

    It won’t. Get young people and “minorities” registered to vote. THAT will work.

  13. Gerald, your comments are spot on. So many Republican leaders (leaders in name only) remain silent and hope Trump gets hit by a train. They hold a losing hand but won’t fold. They’re our version of Quislings.

  14. The roots may go back further.

    I just finished reading “The Big Myth” by Conway and Oreskes. Their thesis, very well documented, is tate the rich and powerful, and their corporations, have been at war with the liberalization of our government since before the New Deal, first fighting child labor laws, workplace protections, and TR’s trust busting. Each generation got smarter, and losing the battle against the New Deal (but, like the South, not conceding the war) they upped their propaganda game, with articles, books, and “documentary films”, all distributed free. They funded the “Chicago School” of economics, paying for faculty slots for their people. They funded GE Theater with Ronald Reagan. This last has excellent writing, excellent acting, and vetted messaging to tell their version of reality.

    Their message was simple. Big business is always good and should be believed without question. “The Market” never fails, while government is always bad (ignoring subsidies to business) and all government programs fail. Government cannot be trusted to tell the truth (climate change, COVID, and the winner of the election). Oh yes, and taxes are theft.

    As memories of the New Deal’s successes faded (including that Social Security is a government program), they moved into politics. From there, Krugman picks up the alliance with bigots, racists, homophobes, etc.

    The bright hope for the future will be the realization that the MAGA Republicans mean what they say about bigotry and the further realization that “The Market” is not god-like and needs rules and regulations to protect the people.

    The political questions are not regulation versus no regulations, but which laws and regulations benefit the people the most. Also, and more important, do we want an autocracy run by bigots, or an imperfect democracy striving to eliminate bigotry, or at least restraining people from acting on their bigotry.

    Sorry, Sheila, but some things need to be answered.
    Propaganda can be subtle. JoAnn points out that both sides in the Hamas/Israel war are being investigated for war crimes. The news reports the number of dead. All very subtle.

    What is lost? Hamas, acting on their promised policies, targeted children (no children, no future Jews), raped women, filmed their atrocities to brag and celebrate, killed entire kibbutzim (mini-genocide), and set fire to cars and homes with people trapped inside, all targeting civilians (as were their rockets).

    Hamas also placed their military installations in the middle of civilian populations, and mined the roads leading out of Gaza City. The Israelis could just wring their hands and wait for the extermination of the country and the Jewish people. Or, bad things happen.

    I hope for a time of peace for Palestinians and Israelis. I hope for a time where America will put MAGA bigots back in the closet. At least this second hope seems possible.

  15. Vernon, the “…greedy BASTARDS want it all,” was boldly, stupidly, but boldly, reinforced by St. Reagan’s claim that “You can have it all! Talk about a treasonous bastard!! Yeah, let’s go behind a sitting president’s back and make a deal!!
    Peggy, your praying will help as much as praying helped my wife’s grandson when he prayed for my wife to find the pocketbook she dropped from the car door. It di not get found.
    Romney, and his ilk are properly skewered by Krugman. One is not in charge when one dances with the devil.

  16. I can feel the urgency of those wanting a different politic in the Republican party and the desire for Trump to be turned out. What I am seeing is that many that voted for Biden who are Democrats are resenting the current administration so much they are willing to cross over and vote for Trump. But looking back, Instead of electing a president like Romney, a fiscal conservative, who thought he had the presidential election won, it chose to inflict upon itself more national debt through expenditures it really cant afford doubling the national debt in 8 short years. Because of The bland economy and failure by Democrats to put forth a worthy candidate, Trump stepped in and it wasnt 20% as JoAnn stated but 65% of Republicans that wanted strong change instead.
    Trump was popular and even Oprah Winfrey acted as if they wanted him to run in the past. Where Romney is gulity is that he instead of being useful,
    Romney and many other Republicans helped get Biden elected, a Presdent who couldn’t stop glaring at his watch as murdered soldiers at his helm of control gave away control of Afghanistan.
    It was disgusting to see such disdain for troops who served and gave their lives. Americans are now being held hostage and trapped inside Gaza. Tom Cotton and other senators are calling on Biden to use US troops to extract them.
    Everyone still who has expectations on the current administration has said they are backing his actions.
    On Sunday, Jake Sullivan took credit for the peace and the US and Israel intelligence together continued to fail the people of the middle east.
    Hopefully the Iranian drive to stop the peace process will fail. Egypt must open its borders to immigrants to let innocent Palestinian people a place as Hamas is being. Even though we know and understand we have list deterrence under Biden we need to back the current president, but he needs to step it up on Iran. 90% (according to the senate) of support to the Hamas

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