I've been saying something similar... but my opinion has been shaped heavily by watching the tame Republicans I follow for investment commentary.
A New York Times Republican is a rich person who respects and understands mainstream liberal ideas, he just doesn't agree with them. He's wealthy and believes in economic policies that will keep him that way. For all of his life, "Republican" has meant a free-trade businessperson whose interests are about the creation and preservation of wealth, and he's understood that "his team" is the Family Values party which tends to be women at home, sons at private school, and a fundamental belief in the fecklessness of Democrats.
New York Times Republicans are currently dealing with an existential crisis because they've become a splinter faction of holdouts in a world of rampant populism. Republicanism, for the non-New York Times Republicans, is border walls and deportations. It's t-shirt rallies and latent racism. It's style over substance, it's lip service to traditional talking points but a worship of cronyism over credo. And Trump has forced the New York Times Republicans to question how long it's been like this.
Republicans who read New York Times Republican columnists are looking for someone to reinforce their views that they haven't actually supported the Nazis lo these many years. They want reminders that racism and antintellectualism doesn't go clear back to Harding. They need reinforcement of their fragile egos so that they aren't left adrift and facing the bankruptcy of their ideology.
David Brooks et. al. exist to forestall the Nuremberg Trials. "There were good Nazis," they say. But in the end, they all agreed that Naziism is bad.