How did sane Republicans acclimate themselves to a political environment constrained by insane demands? Through self-delusion and flight. In the decade after the takeover you could hear business Republicans, in private conversation, explain away the antics of anti-gay crusaders or bizarre abortion extremists as “harmless.” Religious fanatics welcomed into the party (and now occupying all major leadership positions) were “useful idiots” being manipulated toward the party’s wider business and commercial goals.
By the time that illusion became impossible to sustain, those who held it were either fully co-opted to the party’s new lunatic goals or had simply been pushed into irrelevance. As Orwell wrote in 1984, “We have always been at war with Eastasia.” When we abandon our attachment to empirical realities in pursuit of public calm, crazy takes over. Crazy, if tolerated, will in time create its own new normal, pushing reason to the margins before extinguishing it altogether.