If you're not sick of reading about Donald Trump yet – Can you believe it's only February and we have to do this for almost nine more months? – Matt Taibbi has a typically strong take on his appeal and why the Republican Party is getting everything it deserves this year. He isn't saying anything that readers here don't understand already, most likely, but he lays out the argument effectively: the image of the GOP as the party of the bankers and of the country club (clurb) set is inaccurate. Sure, those folks are Republicans. But they would be a tiny minority in American politics if not for armies of angry, resentful, not terribly bright, and aging white people. That's the GOP. That's the bread and butter right there.
For every suburban Republican who loves tax cuts and the National Review there are a half-dozen of the people you see at a Trump rally. No matter how many times Republican elected officials and opinion leaders have tried to convince themselves otherwise, these people do not give one shit about Conservative Values or the principle of small government. They're angry and they've been convinced that government is to blame. That is about the extent to which they have opinions that could be called "political." The rest is simply nativism, the politics of blood. They just hate everyone different. It sounds like I'm oversimplifying that to insult them, but unfortunately that's all there is to it. They hate the gays, the liberals, the environmentalists and their "science", the Pope, the Jews, the blacks, the Mexicans, the Mormons, the young, the poor, and anything remotely "foreign" or unfamiliar (including, from the looks of his crowds, fruit and occasional exercise):
Yes, millions of people responded to (conservative) rhetoric for years. But that wasn't because of the principle itself, but because it was always coupled with the more effective politics of resentment: Big-government liberals are to blame for your problems.
Elections, like criminal trials, are ultimately always about assigning blame. For a generation, conservative intellectuals have successfully pointed the finger at big-government-loving, whale-hugging liberals as the culprits behind American decline.
Stupid people are short-sighted and for years nobody in the GOP appeared smart enough, or perhaps confident enough, to wonder aloud if leading the literal Mob around by throwing chunks of red meat toward it at regular intervals was going to become problematic. Ignorant rabble are not known for their logic, after all. It was inevitable that someone who has truly mastered the art of pandering to the lowest common denominator – America wooooo! Fuck the Mexicans! Let's bomb the hell out of everything! – would come along and upstage them. No matter how expensive their suits look or how many Cato Institute quasi-intellectuals appear on Sunday talk shows spouting the tired right-wing talking points we can all recite by heart, what Trump is doing right now is exactly what the GOP has been doing for thirty years now. He's just much better at it than they are, and now they don't know what to do.