How would a professor account for the fact that it only really happens on the right wing of the political spectrum, you dont get a moderate left party ever talking hard left to appeal to the margins.
Its always the right wing and whether they mean it or not they have succeeded in moving the centre ground to the right. For instance the Clinton administration was fiscally conservative and reduced the national debt in time for the Bush administrations creation of Homeland Security, that's an entirely new agency and source of graduate recruitment, and military adventures in the wake of 9/11. That rightward swing isnt acknowledged by the right wing, not even the moderates or politicians, instead it has involved a rebranding of moderate left wingers as militant extremists.
Why didnt the Bush administration reduce welfare? They where on the record as suggesting they would replace it entirely with private charity. That is what has alienated their supporters because like the communists in Russia when confronted with the unworkability of the ideas in practice instead of abandoning the ideas or revising them they decided a great betrayal had taken place by key players who usurped the whole deal.
Those supporters ARE alienated, they are stewing in anger and stockpiling arms and ammunition, maybe they'll keep themselves to themselves like they suggest is their plan but I suspect any sort of upheavel and they will come out shooting. Like opening fire on an unarmed and peaceful trade union picket kind of thing. If anyone intervenes to keep the peace then they'll shoot them too.
I dont think its really a matter of politicians and elected representative making policy in office that is something to worry about. The Tea Partiers for instance dont imagine themselves to be partisan, sure they have a special hatred for the left wing but they hate the right wing too because they imagine that they are left wing too (the left wing being thought of in reductive terms of anything the state does).
Re: Welfare I think there's evidence enough that people may fiddle with it but that the reality is its needed to circulate the money in a mass producing, mass consuming economy, I favour a fairer means than unemployment benefits for doing that but when all tax and spending is attacked the same the conservative snake really is swallowing its own tail.