Georgetown political science professor Joshua Mitchell, via Marginal Revolution:
There is another reason why the Republican Party could not contain Trump, a perhaps deeper reason. Michael Oakeshott, an under-read political thinker in the mid-20th century, remarked in his exquisite essay, “Rationalism in Politics,” that one of the more pathological notions of our age is that political life can be understood in terms of “principles” that must be applied to circumstances. Politics-as-engineering, if you will. Republicans themselves succumbed to this notion, and members of the rank and file have noticed. Republicans stood for “the principles of the constitution,” for “the principles of the free market,” etc. The problem with standing for principles is that it allows you to remain unsullied by the political fray, to stand back and wait until yet another presidential election cycle when “our principles” can perhaps be applied. And if we lose, it’s OK, because we still have “our principles.” What Trump has been able to seize upon is growing dissatisfaction with this endless deferral, the sociological arrangement for which looks like comfortable Inside-the-Beltway Republicans defending “principles” and rank-and-file Republicans far from Washington-Babylon watching in horror and disgust.And, I'd add, that pointing and spluttering in horror and disgust explicitly adopts the terminology and moral framework of the Left. Operationally, "conservatism" is not actually conservative.
Since at least the Great Society Democrats have been telling their constituents, “Here’s what liberalism can do for you.” Republicans seem to endlessly ask their constituents what can they do for conservatism (“Donate to my think tank!” “Buy my magazine!” “Vote for me!” “Sign up for this war!”). Their (overwhelmingly white) base duly votes for the Republican’s limited government-fiscal prudence-meritocracy platform, then watches as government, budget deficits, and political correctness all increase. Nothing the base voted for is actually accomplished, and the perception is these platitudes are being mouthed solely to get comfortable sinecures.
Immigration exposed this cozy scam. Immigration is extremely problematic for proletarian and petit bourgeois communities. But the same people who left the Democratic party to vote for Reagan have to listen as people like John McCain and Lindsey Graham call them bigots for not wanting their voting power and economic clout diluted and their children made strangers in their own country. When the battle lines started getting drawn, the Republican leadership proudly linked arms with the Democrats and did the bidding of their donor class. Donald Trump spotted that disconnect-–an electoral $100 bill lying on the floor–-and like the ruthless Scots-Irish businessman he is, grabbed it in both fists. He made his campaign all about, “Here’s what I’m going to do for you,” and rode it to ultimate victory.
Any of the other Republican candidates could have done that, but they didn’t. This was vindication of the Sailer Strategy: if you want conservative electoral victory, you need to support conservatively-inclined people. Affordable Family Formation: keep the land cheap and the wages high, because that’s what gets families started and married people with children tend to incline conservative. This may require abandonment on occasion of precious, precious principle but like the Democrats realize, this isn’t about principle, it’s about winning. That’s how they captured the institutions.
In a diverse society, it’s not what your candidate supports; it’s whether they support you.
I called it, here, and here.