Jonathan Bernstein fears "that the Republican Party now has stumbled into a situation in which there are strong incentives to lose elections":

When Democrats win, as they did in 1992 and 2008, apparently the first reaction of a lot of people is to become very, very easy marks for "conservative" scam artists. So ratings for talk shows skyrocket, and the best-seller lists fill up with anti-Obama and anti-Clinton and anti-liberal books. There's a lot of money to be made! At least, there's a lot of money to be made if you're willing to traffic in wild rumors, apocalyptic comparisons, and extremism of all varieties. But extremism (yes, including in 1994 and 2010) doesn't help politicians get elected.

The problem, of course, is that to the extent that politicians are self-interested, they face a major incentive to join in the gravy train and cash in by appealing to those easy marks rather than try to appeal to a majority of the electorate. That breaks, or at least threatens to break, the fundamental logic that makes representative democracy work: politicians try hard to govern well because their careers depend on election. When, instead, the road to career success involves making a lot of noise, pleasing the fringe, and retiring to a comfortable gig on Fox News, then financial self-interest is going to work against satisfying constituents.

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