We used to have two political parties in the US that disagreed on many issues but they managed to put the national interest ahead of Party interest. That is no longer true. The Republican Party has been a revolutionary party for the last 40 years. Its mission is to overturn the democratic system that took so long for our nation to establish. It is funded by oligarchs, who it serves, but it can't win elections without the votes of ordinary citizens. Richard Nixon showed them the way. Most of the voters care more about social values than they do about other issues. He claimed to represent the "moral majority". The Democratic Party consisted of liberals who did not appreciate our traditional values. It was the party of hippies who did respect our religious values or our economic system. Its opposition to the war in Vietnam also showed that it hated America. This strategy, which was known as the "Southern Strategy" was also tainted with racism. It worked well for Nixon until he got carried away by his own zeal and got caught violating laws that he pledged to defend as our president. The Tea Party movement, within the Republican Party, is a more organized version of Nixon's Southern Strategy. Republican candidates cannot win primary elections without appealing to the belief system of its Tea Party base. The clown show that we see today in the GOP primary campaign has been taken to an extreme by Donald Trump. He does a better job telling the GOP base what it wants to hear than the other candidates who also worry about winning the general election if they are nominated. They each have a story to tell, but its pretty much the same for all of them.
Krugman has little sympathy for the media. They have to pretend that the debates are serious and that each of the candidates would be a good president if they were nominated. They are forced to be irrational in order to ignore the irrationality that they observe. Their attention is focused on the horse race. They tell us who is winning and who is losing but little else.
At a deeper level, the real political debate is economic. Thomas Palley argues that both of our political parties represent a slightly different version of what he calls the neo-liberal policy box. Republicans blame government for our economic problems, and Democrats want to correct the "market failures" that were responsible for the crisis and for our slow recovery. They offer slightly different versions of the neo-liberal policy box that has provided most of the gains from productivity to the oligarchs. The neo-liberal policy box is subordinate to the financial sector which directs the game, and has provided the financial tools that have enabled the game to work. It is not surprising that neither party has offered an effective way to escape the neo-liberal policy box into which most of us have been placed. The GOP would make things worse but the box cannot be attacked by either party. The policy box originated in America, but it has been sold to much of the Western world. Perhaps that is why value issues have dominated political debate in much of the Western world. The policy box is off limits.