Really interesting read from Jonathan Chait, with a lot of truth in it. I hail from a family that is part Rockefeller Republican in origin, no not today's so called moderates, but ones like Jacob Javitz who would be to the left of at least a third of today's Democratic caucus.
Here is a taste:
IT HAS TO DO WITH the strange and sad fate of Republican moderation. After all, moderates, or at least relative moderates, do continue to exist in the Republican Party. They merely do not exercise power in any meaningful, open way. They provide off-the-record quotations to reporters, expressing unease over whichever radical turn the party has taken at any given moment. They can be found in Washington and elsewhere rolling their eyes at their colleagues. The odd figure with nothing left to lose—say, a senator who has lost a primary challenge—may even deliver a forceful assault on the party’s uncompromising direction.
For the most part, though, Republican moderation is a kind of secret creed, a freemasonry of the right. It lacks institutions that might legitimize it, or even a language to express itself. And since conservatism is the only acceptable ideology, the party has no open arguments with itself. Thus the “debate” in the Republican Party is entirely between genuine ideological warriors and unwilling conscripts, with intraparty skirmishes generally taking the form of hunts for secret heresies.
In this sense, Romney’s capture of the nomination is perfectly emblematic of the state of the party. Conservative activists spent months resisting Romney, sometimes furiously, despite the fact that he was defending no positions that they disagreed with. Across the entire ideological spectrum—in social, economic, and foreign policy—Romney stood shoulder to shoulder with his party’s reactionary wing. When Romney took on his hapless opponents, he assailed them from the right, as soft on immigration or anti-capitalist. The sole point of hesitation centered on conservatives’ suspicion that Romney did not actually believe what he was saying.
If you like history, particularly political history, this provides a good general outline of what happened, now conservatives who are not lunatics became moderates and those who used to be written off as crazies now control the party rhetorically, ideologically and tempermentally.