Is it because they reject the Enlightenment?

One of the projects of this blog is to explore how the GOP in 2013 is not like other political parties. The thesis is that at the national level the Republican Party is a fundamentally broken institution and subject to structural forces that guarantee that:

a. While the party may still, from time to time, officially support good ideas, It is impossible for the GOP to work strategically to enact policy positions which would have the net effect of improving the lives of Americans. In other words, it is impossible for the GOP to participate in the functions of government.

b. There is no turning back and no possiblity of reform. For the United States to return to a functioning two-party system, it is first necessary that the GOP cease to be a national party. 

What makes now such an outlier?

How did we get here? In the past, the two party system in America presented voters with a choice between two different styles of government, right? It has not always been a choice between one party that seeks to run the government and a second party that seeks to destroy the government. What makes now such an outlier? The people? The parties? The issues? The demographics? The stage of America's development as a nation-state?

Is it significant that the breakdown of the two party system in the US exactly coincides with the era (happily drawing to a close) of "objective journalism"?

No more Edmund Burke?

One hypothesis: in the past, to the extent that our debates were ideological along a left/right axis, both sides were arguing different aspects of the liberal tradition. That is, all the ideological touchstones, on both sides, were leaders of the Enlightenment. Conservatives never sought to claw us back any further than Edmund Burke, a liberal thinker who ran in the same circles as David Hume and Adam Smith, two of the most important fathers of American (capital "L") Liberalism.

But Edmund Burke, famous for his critique of the French Revolution, is forgotten by the Tea Party. They love, love, love, Burke's contemporary and enthusiastic supporter of the French Revolution, Thomas Jefferson, aphorizing the idea that:  "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." Burke would be physically sick.

Does this tell us why?

We do hear that quote a lot, but, unfortunately, the rejection of Edmund Burke strikes me as descriptive of what has happened to the GOP without offering any insights into why it has happened. The history of ideas is important, but not helpful in this case.