Krugman meditates on "the modern Republican Party," the party that holds "disdain for workers" and "contempt for the masses" and regards "the rest of us unworthy of even a pretense of respect." The rap is that the Republican Party "has become a party of the wealthy, by the wealthy, and for the wealthy" (my italics), however Krugman's condemnation is a rather weak one, unless becoming in politics encompasses century-long spans.
What, after all, of the Gilded Age, of the Harding-Coolidge era, and of the contemporary, bipartisan orgy of corporate cash? Or, going the other direction, if plutocratic incest is a modern transgression, then "modern" must be redefined as reaching back to the Age of Homer.
In the GOP there is something more pernicious--and more pervasive--at work; something, it seems, that far surpasses the customary narrow-mindedness and insularity and arrogance of wealth. And that something, I think, lies in the unrestricted use of "contempt." Hardcore Republicans have simply come to possess a contempt for everyone and everything unRepublican.
Pinpointing Republican contempt's year of gestation is always tricky, but 1933 is as good and valid as any. This was the year that America fundamentally rewrote its social contract--the year in which dispossessed Americans demanded that power in its material manifestations flow down as well as up--and the Republican ethos has never forgiven America. In one form or another, through one minor or major faction or another, the GOP has worked to turn back the clock ever since.
To Republicans, Washington D.C. is ancient Rome--wicked and sprawling and traitorous to its simple origins--and they're the persecuted and singularly virtuous Christians. (Franklin D. Roosevelt, needless to say, was brutal Caesar, whose legacy has been a long line of yet more brutal Caesars.)
In short, Republicanism has morphed from a political philosophy to an intense theology of the pure. Politics may be the art of negotiation, but Piety is the fortress of uncompromising devotion--to the Cause (which itself can morph from day to day, depending on what the heretics are up to). Those who adhere not to the Cause are, by definition, impure. And for the impure, Republicans hold nothing but contempt--because Republicans aren't so much political as they are profoundly, tribally theological.
It's their City on the Hill, and by God they'll have it. The rest can just go to hell.