So the GOP candidate likely to sweep most Super Tuesday states today on TV repeatedly declined to disavow the endorsement of former top Klucker David Duke.  Good luck, Republicans, with that guy in the general election.

I was talking with a Catholic friend today about the near-collapse of the Catholic Church after Vatican II. He said, reasonably enough, that if the Church and Catholic society had been healthy, it would not have fallen apart, and certainly not so quickly. I think something similar is the case for the GOP. For me, the aha moment was when Trump trashed the Iraq War on the South Carolina debate stage. Yeah, he was unfair in some of the accusations he made, but the most astonishing thing about it was that 13 years have gone by, and still, it’s taboo for GOP presidential candidates to criticize that disastrous war.

That is not a party with a brain. Read David Frum’s Storified tweetstorm about how the GOP brought Trump onto themselves.

I had planned to blog something today catching up to some Trumpsplaining posts I’d read over the weekend. Trump’s big mouth makes it all too easy to not take the Trump phenomenon seriously. It really is unthinkable that a major presidential candidate would waffle on the KKK — the KKK! — but I think it would be a mistake to think that that’s all we need to consider about him. The sort of radicalism that Trump symbolizes doesn’t just emerge overnight. I thought Peggy Noonan’s column about this stuff was insightful. Excerpt:

If you are an unprotected American—one with limited resources and negligible access to power—you have absorbed some lessons from the past 20 years’ experience of illegal immigration. You know the Democrats won’t protect you and the Republicans won’t help you. Both parties refused to control the border. The Republicans were afraid of being called illiberal, racist, of losing a demographic for a generation. The Democrats wanted to keep the issue alive to use it as a wedge against the Republicans and to establish themselves as owners of the Hispanic vote.

Many Americans suffered from illegal immigration—its impact on labor markets, financial costs, crime, the sense that the rule of law was collapsing. But the protected did fine—more workers at lower wages. No effect of illegal immigration was likely to hurt them personally.

It was good for the protected. But the unprotected watched and saw. They realized the protected were not looking out for them, and they inferred that they were not looking out for the country, either.

The unprotected came to think they owed the establishment—another word for the protected—nothing, no particular loyalty, no old allegiance.

Mr. Trump came from that.

I offer to you this excerpt from a reader’s e-mail as more explanation. The reader says he will not vote Trump, but he gets where Trump’s coming from. I slightly edited this to protect his privacy:

Do you read Jim Geraghty’s [National Review writer] morning newsletter? It’s often valuable but some of his commentary lately has gotten very problematic.  In writing about these voters, he says today:

“you only have a high school education, your economic prospects are going to be limited, no matter who is president. We can argue about whether employers overvalue college degrees, but it’s hardly been a secret that employers in the highest-paying fields aren’t interested in job applicants with only a high-school degree, or high-school dropouts.

Today, lot of Americans are telling anyone who will listen, “I got screwed.” You risk an apoplectic frenzy if you dare respond . . . “Are you sure? Are you absolutely certain that your disappointing life circumstances aren’t a result of the decisions you’ve made? At all?” If a man looks at his life, and concludes his prospects for a better future are slim, how much of that is society or the economy’s fault, and how much of it is his fault? It’s a lot easier to blame Wall Street or the richest 1 percent or the elites than to acknowledge our own mistakes and bad decisions.

Maybe I’m a cynic, but I keep running across “victims” who don’t seem like actual victims. Was the housing bubble really just an endless series of Wall Street fat-cats and “predatory lenders” going after well-meaning, hard-working Americans who just dreamed of owning a home? It had nothing to do with people buying houses they couldn’t afford and assuming they could sell them quickly?

Back on January 26 of last year, the Washington Post wrote a lengthy profile piece presumably meant to be a heartbreaking portrait of victims of the housing bubble in Prince George’s County. The article showcased Comfort and Kofi Boateng, legal immigrants from Ghana, who “struggle under nearly $1 million in debt that they will never be able to repay . . .”

Wait for it…

“on the 3,292-square-foot, six-bedroom, red-brick Colonial they bought for $617,055 in 2005. The Boatengs have not made a mortgage payment in 2,322 days — more than six years — according to their most recent mortgage statement.”

These folks have lived in a six-bedroom house and haven’t paid a dime for six years, and we’re supposed to believe they’re the victims here?

The Postcontinued, “Their plight illustrates how some of the people swallowed up by the easy credit era of the previous decade have yet to reemerge years later.” Wait, living in a house for six years for free is a plight?

You probably remember this poster boy for Occupy Wall Street: “Frustrated by huge class sizes, sparse resources and a disorganized bureaucracy, [Joe Therrien] set off to the University of Connecticut to get an MFA in his passion–puppetry. Three years and $35,000 in student loans later, he emerged with degree in hand . . .” (Don’t worry; these days Therrian is using his puppetry skills in a show, The Seditious Conspiracy Theater Presents: A Monument to the Political Prisoner Oscar Lopez Rivera.)

Look, before you take on five or six figures in debt, maybe you should take a little time to think about how much money you’ll be able to earn when you’re finished. That’s not “the system” being unfair to you; that’s supply and demand.

Promoting personal responsibility is hard enough without political leaders who keep rushing to the cameras to tell Americans that nothing is ever their fault; it’s always the work of these nefarious sinister, powerful forces.

Is there any sign that Americans have learned the right lessons from the Obama years? Doesn’t it seem like we’re hungrier than ever for new scapegoats?”

The reader adds:

To which I say, come the f**k on.

Now on the one hand a lot of Trump voters aren’t going to read or care what Jim Geraghty has to say but this is getting to be a bit much.  Of course there are Occupy Wall Street/SJW types out there who want the government to subsidize their puppet plays, and of course there are plenty of people who leveraged gobs of debt in their personal lives who have yet to recover from an economic crash in 2008.  But from my own experience there are a lot of people like me.  Indulge me for a minute:

Graduated high school in 1999 and went to school at [state university].  Finished in four years with a double major in history and political science.  No idea what to do with a job (and no good advising in undergrad) so I worked at a law firm while decided between law school and grad school.  Went to grad school and got  M.A. in History while prepping for a PhD elsewhere.  Got married while working on the M.A.  PhD programs turned out to be a bust (the quality programs had acceptance rates of something like 5%) so I opted to go into teaching high school.  Right now I’m working in insurance because I wanted to make a career change three years ago.  It’s not worked out for me and my family so I’m probably going back into education and I’ll try to do some volunteer work that perhaps I can turn into a full-time job in the years to come.  But here’s the rub – there was a time, not that long ago, when a guy could graduate from a major public university in his region with a B.A. in humanities and could get a job doing just about anything.   It was understood that if you could read and write in a cogent fashion you could probably learn to be a decent banker or advertising man, and of course education and law were always options.  But now if you don’t have a marketing degree, good luck getting a job in advertising or marketing unless you want to be the kid getting coffee.

When Geraghty says “we can argue over whether employers overvalue college degrees,” he’s wrong – there is no argument.  Employers do overvalue college degrees.  It’s not just some goober at Wellesley that majors in Indonesian LGBT puppetry – if you’ve got a humanities or social sciences degree (Economics excluded), you better have a law degree (worth less and less all the time) or hope you’ve got a good personal network that can help you land a job with someone willing to overlook the fact that your degree isn’t specific to a career field.

Geraghty – and presumably other conservatives – can call this excuse-making all they want, but when your entire educational experience in high school and undergraduate points in one direction and then the job market changes underneath your feet – whose fault is that?  I could be in better financial shape if I had used a credit card less often or whatever, but my career prospects and earning potential wouldn’t be any different.  I don’t think I’m alone – I’d guess a lot of Bernie voters have similar backgrounds to mine.  The system – their education and their employers (real and potential) did in fact let them down.

Now I won’t vote for Trump – I’m supporting Rubio in the primary and would shift to Cruz if I had to but I find myself agreeing with Michael Brendan Dougherty on this (Douthat and Frum have done well, too).  For what it’s worth, Kevin Williamson isn’t entirely wrong, either, but I think MBD is more right than Kevin.  (I taught at an all-white school that was a weird mix of rural and suburban so I know about working class moochers, as I’d wager you’ve also seen in rural Louisiana).

But this is a classic example of how some conservative opinion makers are completely out of touch with reality.  It’s similar to another conservative tendency, one that has feed Trumpism – when for years all liberals were derided as latte-swilling, Volvo drivers.  I knew at twenty-one that was b.s. but all it did was polarize talk radio listeners.   More damning has been the tendency to call anyone GOP legislator who didn’t do the immediate bidding of the talk radio crowd a squish who was more concerned about getting an invite to someone’s Georgetown cocktail party or chomping foie gras at Bistro du’Coin in DuPont Circle – now the anti-elitist crowd has come round to support Trump. So when Rush (who I used to love) says he’s not responsible for this, he does in fact bear some measure of responsibility for this nonsense.

Lastly – on Trump’s Iraq comments.  I think he – and you, alas – are wrong for two reasons.  One, Trump is blaming W for the WTC falling.  That’s a completely unreasonable criticism. [NFR: I agree. — RD] Second, it is perfectly reasonable to say as Rand Paul said, that invading Iraq was a serious error.  I can live with that; but Trump is accusing GWB and his advisers of intentionally misleading the American people from the get-go, and yes, that’s moving into some conspiracy territory more in line with Code Pink or ANSWR.  That’s too far, even if one wants to make the case that Iraq was a mistake (an argument I would rent, but not buy).

Unless there’s a major turnaround for Rubio or Cruz on Tuesday, that’s going to be the day that the Republican Party as we have known it dies. As I’ve said before, it will have been a suicide. Again, David Frum explains it in a few short tweets. Me, I cannot think of a more symbolic moment in this regard than the Republican presidential candidates, except for Trump, being unable to say the Iraq War was a mistake.