Paul Krugman: How Trump Exposed the Utter Hollowness of the Brain-Dead GOP


Paul Krugman explores why Trump's attacks were so effective during the GOP primary, but seem to be failing against Hillary Clinton in Monday's column. For starters, he says: "The Republican establishment was easily overthrown because it was already hollow at the core." The Democratic establishment, while flawed certainly, is rather different, Krugman argues.

As some political scientists are now acknowledging, America’s two major parties are not at all symmetric. The G.O.P. is, or was until Mr. Trump arrived, a top-down hierarchical structure enforcing a strict, ideologically pure party line. The Democrats, by contrast, are a “coalition of social groups,” from teachers’ unions to Planned Parenthood, seeking specific benefits from government action.

This diversity of interests sometimes reduces Democrats’ effectiveness: the old Will Rogers joke, “I am not a member of any organized political party — I’m a Democrat” still rings true. But it also means that the Democratic establishment, such as it is, is resilient against Trump-style coups.

And while some have said the Bernie Sanders insurgency was similar to what Trump did to the Republican establishment, Krugman demurs. She won handily, he says, despite extremely negative media coverage.

Last week Harvard’s Shorenstein Center released a report on media treatment of the candidates during 2015, showing that Mrs. Clinton received by far the most unfavorable coverage. Even when reports focused on issues rather than alleged scandals, 84 percent of her coverage was negative — twice as high as for Mr. Trump. As the report notes, “Clinton’s negative coverage can be equated to millions of dollars in attack ads, with her on the receiving end.”

And yet she won, fairly easily, because she had the solid support of key elements of the Democratic coalition, especially nonwhite voters.

Initially pulling close to even with Clinton, Trump has been sinking ever since. None of his usual tactics seem to be working with Clinton. He even failed to win points in the aftermath of the Orlando mass shooting, which most pundits thought would benefit him. "Mrs. Clinton’s response looked presidential, his didn’t," Krugman says. Democrats are managing to do what Republicans could not seem to muster, to make Trump look ridiculous, which he absolutely is.

Krugman's conclusion is that the Democratic establishment, unlike the Republican one, is "fairly robust. I’m not saying that its members are angels, which they aren’t. Some, no doubt, are personally corrupt. But the various groups making up the party’s coalition really care about and believe in their positions — they’re not just saying what the Koch brothers pay them to say."

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