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In a blistering New York Times column, Brooks accuses today's Republican Party of betraying the actual tenets of conservatism. "By traditional definitions," he writes, "conservatism stands for intellectual humility, a belief in steady, incremental change, a preference for reform rather than revolution, a respect for hierarchy, precedence, balance and order, and a tone of voice that is prudent, measured and responsible."

Today's Republicans, he continues, have abandoned all that. The GOP is increasingly driven by a faction that "regards the messy business of politics as soiled and impure. Compromise is corruption. Inconvenient facts are ignored. Countrymen with different views are regarded as aliens. Political identity became a sort of ethnic identity, and any compromise was regarded as a blood betrayal."

Over the past 30 years, or at least since Rush Limbaugh came on the scene, the Republican rhetorical tone has grown ever more bombastic, hyperbolic and imbalanced. Public figures are prisoners of their own prose styles, and Republicans from Newt Gingrich through Ben Carson have become addicted to a crisis mentality. Civilization was always on the brink of collapse. Every setback, like the passage of Obamacare, became the ruination of the republic. Comparisons to Nazi Germany became a staple.

This produced a radical mind-set.

The result is a party that has convinced its voters that America needs a political revolution and is now surprised to find its voters turning to revolutionaries. "These insurgents are incompetent at governing and unwilling to be governed," Brooks says. "But they are not a spontaneous growth. It took a thousand small betrayals of conservatism to get to the dysfunction we see all around."