Washington Post features a lucid, beautifully written opinion piece by former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson, who declares that Trump has sickened the conservative mind, driven it mad with conspiracy theories; he writes of the Seth Rich tragedy and the ugly exploitation on FOX, the progression of formerly ordinary Reaganites like Rush Limbaugh to full-fledged unhinged loons, www.washingtonpost.com/…

He says, 

To many observers on the left, the initial embrace of Seth Rich conspiracy theories by conservative media figures was merely a confirmation of the right’s deformed soul. But for those of us who remember that Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity were once relatively mainstream Reaganites, their extended vacation in the fever swamps is even more disturbing. If once you knew better, the indictment is deeper.

The cruel exploitation of the memory of Rich, a Democratic National Committee staffer who was shot dead last summer, was horrifying and clarifying. The Hannity right, without evidence, accused Rich rather than the Russians of leaking damaging DNC emails. In doing so, it has proved its willingness to credit anything — no matter how obviously deceptive or toxic — to defend President Trump and harm his opponents. Even if it means becoming a megaphone for Russian influence.

The basic, human questions are simple. How could conservative media figures not have felt — felt in their hearts and bones — the God-awful ickiness of it? How did the genes of generosity and simple humanity get turned off? Is this insensibility the risk of prolonged exposure to our radioactive political culture? If so, all of us should stand back a moment and tend to the health of our revulsion.”

Well, it’s hard to disagree with the diagnosis!  But — did this all just start with Trump?  Is this really a new phenomenon?  

I don’t disagree that Trump represents something uniquely horrible in American politics.  But the GOP had been evolving in this direction for decades — seeing Medicare and Civil Rights as “the path into darkness,” to paraphrase none other than Reagan himself.   Take a moment and read this speech of his from 1964, sourcebooks.fordham.edu/…

Is that any less extremist than the worst of Trump or Ryan?  It’s more eloquent certainly but the bones, the sentiments are obvious and plain.  And look at Reagan’s actual policies — the “Great Game” in Central Asia, Iran-Contra, fomenting war between Iran and Iraq, arming Saddam Hussein to the teeth then using cutouts to arm Iran as well; interference — nay — warmongering in Latin America — overthrowing elected leftist governments; suborning the will of the people there to better serve right wing policies and corporate interests.

So I welcome Gerson’s insights.  But we need a great deal more honesty from Republicans and we need it right now, before the nation is lost forever.