As Donald Trump rolled through Republican Indiana like famed Civil War general William Tecumseh Sherman marched on his campaign of destruction through Georgia, the Republican punditry, grasping for answers, chanted their mantra of their "base" has spoken.
One small problem: They really have no idea who that "base" that actually is.
The large, ugly pill of Donald Trump, unbound by financial obligation to either the neoconservative or the harder right billionaire anarchists who puppet the Tea Party, is a hard one to swallow for the Koch's Kool-Aid Krewe.
Reality and Republicanism often don't often mix. Modern 'true' Republicans have been raised on an unhealthy diet of mental junk food: Anti-government, anti-science, socially regressive rhetoric and a Captain America-like shield of certainty that their Ayn Randian selfishness, swathed in a misuse of the star-spangled words like "freedom" and "liberty", is a divine gift of their white male Christian God.
We're not a white right country anymore, though. We're more diverse, and the new generation of conservatives is more fiscal than socially dogmatic, Pew finds.
So maybe it's just the Kool Aid talking when slick pundits like former McCain campaign manager and MSNBC analyst Steve Schmidt make ridiculous claims that Republicans represent "half of the country," as Schmidt remarked in a take on Hilary Clinton possibly attracting Republicans in the wake of Trump's commanding win in Indiana on Tuesday night.
Conservatives make up half the populace? Maybe. But Republicans?
The Republican Party has shrunk to its most toxic 26%, according to a January Gallup Poll. 80% of the noise in the media equates to about 1 American in 10 voting.
As Pew Research revealed this week, that Republicans unfavorable rating is 62% overall, but, more tellingly, Pew notes that only 68% of Republicans view their party favorably. Compared that to the 88% of Democrats who like their own party.
What is revolutionary, in the Christian-crusaders' conservative collapse, is that fiscal conservatives, the ones that modern Republicans openly disdain and disavow, are droving to Donald Drumpf.
America's strength is its vast political center. The pitch that "both sides are to blame" and the anarchist anti-government rhetoric that pervade the Republican message have made the "independent" population so large that it isn't controllable, and it is beginning to turn on the extremists.
Most of the conservative pundits, hatched or bred in the political petri dishes of the far and far-far Right, have been quick, when asked about the demise of the GOP, to point the finger at Trump.
Crazy as he is, and really more by self-interested opportunism than patriotic intent, the fascist-flippant Trump is leading the conservative side of the moribund middle to stand up and vote against the ugly, mean-spirited, and Anti-American machine that Ted Cruz, John Kasich, and the rest of the 17 member field of Republican Survivor, that 2016 GOP clown show, represent.
The REAL conservative base wants jobs, not government shutdowns and gridlock. They want their schools to be good for their kids and the roads to their houses free of potholes and rusting bridges.
Who are they? They're largely white, but education, not class or religious belief, is what shapes a Trump voter, and draws a new line in the shifting sands of Republican politics. The less educated a conservative-leaning voter is, the more likely they seem to be voting for Trump.
People without a bachelor's degree have lost a lot of earning power, according to the Hamilton Project. They have dropped from 8%, from 76% in 1990 to 68% in 2013. It's particularly bad for non-college white men, who have lost out in manufacturing jobs, globalization, and modernization/automation that doesn't make them as necessary in the workplace. As longevity improves for most parts of the population, it declines for this group of white males.
That drives dissatisfaction, to be sure, but, they also don't see either the Neoconservatives or the Tea Party as their salvation. They've been doused with anti-government, anti-Democrat rhetoric, so they can't bring themselves to cross the line and vote for a Democrat, or they're Democrats who see appeal in Trump's misogynist message, but they don't see the social extremism of the far and far-far right as their own style.
These voters largely dial in on Trump's business credentials, which seem impressive to people who have looked to CEOs for economic salvation, and many dial out his racist, misogynist, anti-immigrant rants.
It is a repudiation of Grover Norquist's anti-government rhetoric. These conservatives want Republicans who lead, not obstruct.
The middle of the electorate, particularly the part that hears Trump loud and clear, want first and foremost their good paying jobs back, decent health care, and a future for their families.
The new conservative "base" isn't the dogmatic, dye-in-the-wool, bible-thumping, Christian soldier of the Reagan era.
For better or worse of a handle, "Trump" conservatives are economic fundamentalists, who may also groove a bit on their rich cheerleader sticking it to a few of his own, and voicing their fears of foreigners and job loss along the way.
The Republicans could not get their machine's head around that simplicity. If they don't, then look for there to be a new conservative force in American politics, and the Neocons and Tea Party regulars to be relegated to a more marginal place in the world.
Trump, with his high negatives with women and minorities, may get blown away by Hilary Clinton in November, but these people, who have found the will to make RINO a badge of honor, not a scourge, aren't going away any time soon, and will be looking for someone to articulate their rage in statehouses and at the federal level in 2018.
That group of conservatives will move the party away from the Abbott and Costello slapstick of Cruz and Bachmann and Palin to people who articulate their needs but believe in pothole-free roads, and, just maybe, science.
It could happen.