Back in the day, the end of the Whig Party was mostly about slavery. Every Whig was pro-tariff. Every Whig wanted to spend the tariff money on canals and bridges and railroads. But Slavery was the issue of the day and the media had not yet developed the Cold War framing of ideological parties held together by coherent supra-policy theories about the proper size and scope of government.
You couldn't moderately own humans. People picked a side. The party fell apart.
Thanks to the political spectrum metaphor and a High Broderist Media, the GOP has been the party of moderate slave ownership since 1981. Ronald Reagan’s First Inaugural embraced George Wallace and States Rights. His political existence was built on the claim that Medicare literally equaled tyranny. The savior of the GOP was demonstrably racist and dedicated to ending the welfare state, with a pile of John Birch rhetoric just for fun.
But George H. W. Bush was also a Republican, and he wasn’t that terrible, right? Reagan wasn’t the above list of crazy ideas, Reagan was “conservative.” And the quality of political ideology is imagined to be a spectrum. This faulty model therefore implied the existence of a moderate conservative.
GOP voters have thus been able to say, “Medicare is tyranny? No, I’m more moderate than that.”
The party of Reagan is a coalition between big business, the Southern Strategy, and suburban college whites who like low taxes. If they were people, you could put the three of them in a room and have a reality show where they all end up literally killing each other. The party coalition would not be possible without the political spectrum metaphor which allow each member to imagine a happy middle that the party as a whole agrees upon.
Trump makes it all too concise and too clear that the middle is not here:
There is no middle between suburban college white “seems like hunters don’t need machine guns" AND racist rural whites “I need guns to murder tyrants; the slaughter of innocent children is simply the price of freedom.”
There is no middle between the suburban college white faith in good public schools AND the racist strategy of vouchers to transfer public money to private segregated schools.
There is no middle between suburban college white belief in nation of immigrants/American Dream combined with businesses need for tech and ag labor AND racist fear of invading “other” stealing their jobs.
There is no middle between suburban college white love of National Parks and genuine, if tepid, environmentalism AND racist climate denial, drill baby drill combined with big business desire to keep oil profits coming as long as their is oil in the ground.
There is no middle between the big business desire to treat “labor” as just another cost center to minimize AND the end of all the jobs that used to employ Americans with high school educations.
There is no middle between rural racist “college creates unemployed English majors” AND suburban college whites planning their entire financial future around 529 accounts and quality public universities.
There is no middle ground between rural Evangelical “all abortion is murder; Democrats are baby killers” AND suburban college white “I don’t love it but the alternative is worse.”
Abraham Lincoln's Eulogy for Henry Clay, delivered at a local memorial service held in Springfield: