On Tuesday, November 3, 1964 the Republican candidate for president, Barry Goldwater, lost the presidential election to Lyndon B. Johnson by nearly twenty points. It was the most lopsided victory since James Monroe's re-election in 1820.
After Goldwater's defeat, Republican strategists set a course that would eventually return the presidency to the party and to Ronald Reagan in 1981. Their formula distilled to a simple phrase, "compassionate conservatism."
Compassionate conservatism was a bridge to voters who believed in a moral majority and up-by-the-bootstraps personal responsibility instead of government regulation. Faith was the glue that held the bridge together. Faith and political money from business.
Donald Trump's victory in Indiana yesterday capped the wholly improbable collapse of that Republican bridge. Donald Trump, in a unique way, outed compassionate conservatism.
Despite the best efforts of handlers to moderate his political instincts -- Trump emerged as a de novo creation of disaffected GOP voters who are not compassionate or conservative. What they are, mainly, is angry.
In the not-so-distant past, the business community in America -- exemplified by organizations like the US Chamber of Commerce, its state and local affiliates -- were politically agnostic. That changed dramatically in the 1980's and early 1990's when, as a result of globalization, Chamber members began to experience both the opportunities and perils of mature markets upset by technological revolution and borderless commerce.
In the 1960's, following Goldwater's devastating loss, a business elite coalesced against what they believed to be the fundamental threat: angry baby-boomers who opposed the war in Vietnam, choosing liberation and smoking pot instead of working to make America great again.
Democrats were perceived as favoring ossified restrictions -- the unions -- at the expense of shareholders and business owners. Despite Bill Clinton's strategy of "triangulation", business sought safe harbor with the GOP.
Something changed in 2015: the angriest primary voters were Republican.
Donald Trump's victory -- an insurgency against the GOP status quo -- has broken into pieces what Democrats could never have achieved. Trump's appeal to Republican primary voters? He cannot be controlled by a GOP status quo that has failed to deliver a better, safer and more economically secure America.
The Republicans who voted for Trump aren't worried about morality or marijuana, they are worried about the crystal meth lab down the street. They aren't worried about lefty Democrats, they are worried about oligarchs who moved jobs and capital overseas. Faith and morality -- contrary to Ted Cruz's exhortations -- don't mean so much. Call it the Dennis Hastert effect.
After twenty plus years of success by GOP message makers, this year core Republican voters said enough: give us a billionaire who doesn't need to take money from the corporate elite. Give us a celebrity who puts his stamp on everything from skyscrapers to bottled water. Give us, GOP, change we can believe in: Donald Trump.
The angst of the GOP is real. Not a single, pre-approved candidate to be president, beginning with Jeb Bush, could sell the angry GOP voter. Without values voters, including the moral majority and Chamber of Commerce wrapped in compassion, the GOP center does not hold, or, will only hold in districts, in state legislative or Congressional races where its money advantage is overwhelming.
Chances are that in the general presidential election, GOP money will leave Donald Trump alone. For top funders, the goal will be to retain the US Senate and their dominance of executive and legislative branches in the states. They will help Donald Trump in one key way: continue to fund mistrust of Hilary Clinton. When Hilary wins, she will be a centrist they can deal with, just like they dealt with Lyndon Johnson.