So Mitt Romney is retiring from the Senate. This is bad news. As excerpts from a forthcoming biography reveal, Romney is cleareyed about what has happened to his party and, if what he says is true, is a profile in courage compared with colleagues who share his horror but are unwilling to say anything.

Yet some of the commentary I’ve seen about Romney comes close to hagiography, which he doesn’t deserve. It’s good to see Romney speaking up now, but the party he’s criticizing is in large part a monster that people like him helped create.

For the basic story of the Republican Party, going back to the 1970s, is this: Advocates of right-wing economic policies, which redistributed income from workers to the wealthy, sought to sell their agenda by exploiting social intolerance and animosity. They had considerable success with this strategy. But eventually the extremists they thought they were using ended

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