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What happened to smart Republicans?

The New York Times’s comment section isn’t always the most vibrant of places, but Paul Krugman’s latest victory lap drew a nice observation from someone called Rosa.

In his post, Krugman asked:

And yet Republicans retained for a long time a fearsome reputation for political prowess. How can these be reconciled?

I don’t suppose Krugman actually cared to hear anyone else’s views, but Rosa was kind enough anyway:

Habit of Thought, Paul. I was born in 1948. I was raised that Republicans were staid, responsible, number-wonks. (Yes, this was long before ‘Republican math’ was created. ) Democrats were union, On The Waterfront Brandos, your favorite uncle who showed up at Christmas time.

Those men (and, yes, they were largely men) are dead now. I don’t mean just the R&D rank and file: I mean the leadership, too. Goldwater is long gone. So is Mike Mansfield. Tip O’Neill. LBJ. Udall. And, sure, add in George Romney, and, Margaret Chase Smith who cut McCarthy off at the knees. Once upon a time the Republican – and Democratic – party had statesmen, intelligent persons who demanded intelligent discourse.

Leap ahead 64 years. Akins. ‘I am not a witch.’ Fetus personhood. God’s gift after a rape. Every Republican on the stage saying, yes, they would use torture. Goldwater was quoted, before he died, as saying that he had nothing in common with the people in the Republican party – and that’s back when Repubs were still sane. They no longer are staid, responsible number-wonks. Maybe that started when Reagan said, “Those deficits don’t have anything to do with anything.” Or when Stockman said, “We fed in the numbers and we didn’t like what we got out so we made up new ones.” Whatever, the shallow, hollow Republicans of today have no prowess – just a reputation, one that stinks.

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