To understand why the current conservative crack-up so confounds the Republican establishment, you have to recognize that the party is facing two separate but simultaneous revolts: one led by Ted Cruz, the other by Donald Trump.The first is well described by E.J. Dionne Jr. in his important new book, “Why the Right Went Wrong.” For six decades, he explains, conservatives promised their voters that they were going to roll back big government. In the 1950s and early ’60s, they ran against the New Deal (Social Security). Then they railed against the Great Society (Medicare). Today it is Obamacare.
But they never actually did anything. Despite nominating Goldwater and electing Nixon, Reagan and two Bushes, despite a congressional revolution led by Newt Gingrich, these programs endured, and new ones were created.
The simple reason for this is that while Americans might oppose the welfare state in theory, in practice they like it. And the bulk of government spending is on the middle class, not the poor. Social Security and Medicare take up more than twice as much of the federal budget as all non-defense discretionary spending . One middle-class tax exemption — for employer-based health care — costs the federal government more than three times the total for the food stamp program.