The new Showtime documentary on the Reagans is excellent, and makes an excellent postscript to the conclusion of Perlstein’s conservatism quartet. Throughout both, the comparisons between Reagan and Trump are too obvious to require further elaboration. Krugman summarizes:
For example, in 1980 life expectancy in America was similar to that in other wealthy nations; but the Reagan years mark the beginning of the great mortality divergence of the United States from the rest of the advanced world. Today, Americans can, on average, expect to live almost four fewer years than their counterparts in comparable countries.
The main point, however, is that under Reagan, irrationality and hatred for facts began to take over the G.O.P.
There has always been a conspiracy-theorizing, science-hating, anti-democratic faction in America. Before Reagan, however, mainstream conservatives and the Republican establishment refused to make alliance with that faction, keeping it on the political fringe.
Reagan, by contrast, brought the crazies inside the tent.
Many people are, I think, aware that Reagan embraced a crank economic doctrine — belief in the magical power of tax cuts. I’m not sure how many remember that the Reagan administration was also remarkably hostile to science.
As Krugman’s colleague Michelle Goldberg observes, the Trump’s deep roots in the Republican Party aren’t reason to be complacent; quite the opposite. It is, indeed, critical to what makes Trump so dangerous, and despite Biden winning a large popular vote majority 2020 shows that a Republican Party with essentially no moderate wing can be competitive in national elections because all the major federal institutions are so heavily skewed toward it coalition. This will get worse before it gets better.