Donald Trump's Crab Bucket Moral Universe

Donald Trump's Crab Bucket Moral Universe

From the Weekly Standard:

We should be clear about this. John McCain haunts the Trump White House, not because of his votes or policy disagreements, but because he represents the man that Donald Trump cannot ever be.

McCain, who is battling brain cancer, is exiting the stage as a Man in Full, his integrity intact and intent on having the last word. With every passing day he sharpens the contrast between himself and the man in the Oval Office: In his final book, due out this month, he writes of Trump that “[f]lattery secures his friendship, criticism his enmity.” The former prisoner of war has also expressed his opposition to the nomination of Gina Haspel to lead the CIA.

“It doesn’t matter, he’s dying anyway,” White House aide Kelly Sadler reportedly quipped dismissively. Sadler’s crass comment drew angry and well-deserved rebukes. "People have wondered when decency would hit rock bottom with this administration,” former Vice President Joe Biden said in a pointed statement. “It happened yesterday."

Notably, the White House does not deny Sadler’s mockery. But on Friday, Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, refused to apologize, expressing more concern about the leak than the attack itself. "I'm not going to get into a back and forth because people want to create issues of a leaked meeting.” The voluble Trump himself is also notably silent, unwilling to make a single gracious gesture or expression of regret.

None of this should be surprising, because in Trump World, the tone is set from the top.

The Closing of the Liberal Mind

The Closing of the Liberal Mind

From the Weekly Standard:

This piece by Eric Levitz has been around for a few days and has already been widely panned. But I think it’s worth more discussion, if for no other reason than its unusual honesty.

Writing in New York Magazine's “Daily Intelligencer,” Levitz argues that in its quest for “diversity,” the liberal media doesn’t need conservatives. He’s not simply calling for the defenestration of provocative writers like Kevin Williamson; he argues that liberal publications can do without any conservative voices at all.

Levitz makes two general points: Conservative ideas have no merit because the right is wrong just about everything and that conservative intellectuals have no constituency to speak of. “Donald Trump’s election exposed the irrelevance of conservative intellectuals,” he writes, “and thereby, the incoherence of many a liberal publication’s mission statement.”

The Indispensability of Hannah Arendt in the Age of Trump

The Indispensability of Hannah Arendt in the Age of Trump

From the Weekly Standard:

One of my favorite stories about Winston Churchill goes like this.

Churchill: "Madam, would you sleep with me for 5 million pounds?" 

Socialite: "My goodness, Mr. Churchill ... Well, I suppose ...”

Churchill: "Would you sleep with me for 5 pounds?"

Socialite: "Mr. Churchill, what kind of woman do you think I am?!"

Churchill: "Madam, we've already established that. Now we are haggling about the price.”

Unfortunately, the story is what we would now call fake news. The same anecdote has been attributed at various times to George Bernard Shaw, Groucho Marx, Mark Twain, W.C. Fields, Bertrand Russell, H.G. Wells, and, implausibly, Woodrow Wilson.

In time, it will probably be ascribed to Donald Trump.

But the story came to mind last week, when the Washington Post’s Dan Balz asked, “Does it bother anyone that President Trump has been caught lying? Does it bother anyone that this is not new? Does it bother anyone that the president has been shown to be a liar?”

Stephen Hayes and I discussed the question on the Daily Standard podcast last week.

Of course, we pretty much know the answer. Many Americans, perhaps most, do indeed care. But in an age of tribal and transactional politics, a lot of folks frankly don’t, and are not afraid to say so:

Republican Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.) said Sunday that he believes Americans are more concerned with the economy than falsehoods from President Trump.

“I think people are much more concerned about the economy and job preparation,” Blunt told CNN’s “State of the Union,” adding that Trump's misstatements did not come up during a visit last week to his home state…

Blunt’s comments echoed USA Today’s report from a focus group of Trump supporters: “Yes, they think President Trump's lying about Stormy Daniels. And no, they really do not care.”

Americans who voted for the president say they don't believe his denial of the adult film star's claim that she had a 2006 affair with Trump, the same year that Melania Trump gave birth to their son Barron. But that hasn't tempered their sky-high support for the president.

This is no longer a bug. It is a feature, wherein the indifference to Trump’s mendacity has become as much a reflex as the right’s newfound moral relativism. We are no longer even haggling about the price.

Matt Schlapp Has a Point, Sort Of.

Matt Schlapp Has a Point, Sort Of.

From the Weekly Standard:

I wasn’t going to write anything about Matt Schlapp this week but I think it’s never a good idea pass up the opportunity to use the word “oleaginous.”

Last week, Schlapp became one of the central figures of the Bonfire of Hypocrisy set off by the latest iteration of the White House Correspondent’s dinner.

Even in a town where obsequious careerism is a way of life, Schlapp and his wife Mercedes, have found a way to distinguish themselves, becoming in the words of a New York Times profile, D.C.’s new “it couple.”

While others have twisted themselves into pretzels to accommodate the demands of the Trump era, the Schlapps have taken the effort to a distinctive conjugal level. These days, their oleaginous talents are devoted to an audience of one. “Before falling asleep each night,” the Times reported, ‘ the couple would lie in bed rehearsing how they would explain this or that Trumpian tweet or uproar on TV the next morning.”

Not surprisingly, when the Schlapps chose to walk out of the White House Correspondence Dinner in protest of the comedian Michelle Wolf’s offensive humor, it set off irony meters across the punditocracy.

And then there was this detail from The Times story:

 "It’s why America hates the out of touch leftist media elite,” Ms. Schlapp tweeted from a limousine en route to an exclusive after-party organized by NBC/MSNBC." (Asked about the couple’s own membership in the elite, Mr. Schlapp responded, “I mean, I’m not trying to act like I’m driving a garbage truck in Des Moines.”)

Having exhausted the possibilities of self-parody, one imagines that Schlapp dropped the mic. But he didn’t, because he never does.

Pence Demonstrated How Trumpism Corrupts.

Pence Demonstrated How Trumpism Corrupts.

We’re too close to all of this to know whether we are living through farce or tragedy. The return of President Trump’s former doctor Harold Bornstein to the national stage suggests the latter. Bornstein now admits that his glowing letter declaring “unequivocally,” that Trump “will be the healthiest individual ever elected to the presidency,” was, in fact dictated by Trump himself.

But we all sort of knew that, didn’t we? (We should have.)

We have also grown used to watching how proximity to Trump seems to diminish otherwise rational and respected players. Since Trump won’t adapt to the role of the presidency, others adapt to him, and the results are seldom pretty.

Which brings us to Vice President Mike Pence’s appearance in Arizona, and his shout out to former Sheriff Joe Arpaio:

Pence said at the tax event that he was “honored” by the former sheriff’s attendance, and called Arpaio a “great friend of this president and tireless champion of strong borders and the rule of law,” to cheers from the crowd.

Where to even begin? Far from being a champion of the “rule of law,” Arpaio is a man who defied the law to violate constitutional rights. He was convicted of criminal contempt for violating a federal court order to stop detaining immigrants who had not broken the law.

 

Pat Buchanan's Brave New World

Pat Buchanan's Brave New World

From the Weekly Standard:

It’s springtime for Pat Buchanan.

Once a respected voice on the right, erstwhile presidential candidate, and omnipresent talking head, Pat Buchanan has in recent years languished in obscurity, so it would be easy to dismiss him as a bitter, disappointed figure skulking at the fringes since being effectively and appropriately cast out of the conservative movement for his chronic flirtation with anti-Semitism. But it is difficult to deny his influence on a strain of right-wing politics that, until recently, has lain dormant.

Indeed, Buchanan was pushing his nationalist, nativist, anti-globalist politics while Donald Trump was still trolling the New York tabloids, stalking Playboy models, and donating to Democrats. But with Trump’s rise, Buchananism is getting a second wind, and with a bizarre twist: Pat Buchanan has grown disgusted with democracy itself.

This isn’t entirely new. Buchanan’s animus toward the “democracy worshippers of the West” is something he has been nursing for years, but in a recent column, he made his position explicit, along with his admiration for authoritarian strong men like Hungary’s Viktor Orbán. “The title the Ayatollah bestowed upon us, ‘The Great Satan,’ is not altogether undeserved,” he wrote (emphasis added).

As columnist Anne Applebaum asked, “Who else on the American Right now openly hates America?”

The Conscience of Ann Coulter

The Conscience of Ann Coulter

Give her credit: Ann Coulter is a woman of strong convictions. Those convictions may be wrongheaded, bizarre, and even bigoted, but she knows what she believes and is willing to hold Donald Trump accountable. Unless he builds the wall (and not just some candy-ass fence) she's done with him—ready to turn on him with the white hot bitterness of the true believer who suddenly awakes to betrayal.

It's easy to mock Coulter, who wrote a book titled In Trump We Trust, for ever thinking she could trust Trump (and I will probably go on doing so), but at least something mattered to her. Unlike the cultists for whom Trump can do no wrong, and who will not hold him to any of his promises as long as he fights the right enemies, Coulter's politics have a very clear standard. "We have been betrayed over and over and over with presidents promising to do something about immigration," she explained to the New York Times's Frank Bruni. "If he played us for suckers, oh, you will not see rage like you have seen."

Trump does seem worried. After a few days pretending that he hadn't really been rolled on the border wall (Congress allocated only $1.6 billion of the $25 billion he had requested in the budget passed last month), Trump has ramped up his anti-immigrant rhetoric, killed the deal to regularize the status of so-called "dreamers," lashed out at Mexico, and authorized sending the National Guard to patrol the border.

The GOP Surrenders to Trump

The GOP Surrenders to Trump

My latest in the New York Daily News:

It is not Donald Trump's fault that the State of the Union has devolved into a reality television spectacle, with equal parts puffery and pep rally.

What Trump has done, however, has been to turn it into a full-fledged alternative reality experience in which we get to imagine that he might actually be a uniter, a statesman and an empathetic human being. He is, of course, none of those things, but for a while last week both partisans and pundits could indulge their fantasies.

The occasion did, however, serve to highlight a genuine reality in Washington D.C.: the surrender of the GOP to Trump and its willingness to serve as his political praetorian guard.

Rituals of sycophantic abasement by the GOP have by now become almost routine, as we saw with the fawning praise heaped on the President at the celebration following the passage of the tax cut bill.

But last week had a different feel to it. We saw was the GOP's full-blooded embrace of the Trump presidency and of Trump himself, including his attempts to obstruct and derail the investigation into his conduct.

Ruth, Meet Gracie

Ruth, Meet Gracie

My latest in the Weekly Standard:

I wish Ruth Marcus had come to the birthday party Wednesday night.

Not that I know her that well, but I’ve always found her pleasant, decent, and smart. We’ve exchanged green room pleasantries and apparently last week during a joint appearance, I introduced her to the term “pornstache” (in a discussion of John Bolton’s facial hair).

A few weeks ago, Marcus created a stir with her column headlined: “I would’ve aborted a fetus with Down syndrome. Women need that right.” A mother of two, Marcus wrote that she was old enough to be tested for Down syndrome after the 15thweek of her pregnancy. “I can say without hesitation,” she wrote, “that, tragic as I would have felt, and ghastly as a second-trimester abortion would have been, I would have terminated those pregnancies had the testing come back positive. I would have grieved the loss and moved on.”

I would have liked to have taken Ms. Marcus to Gracie Jagler’s 21st birthday party.

Gracie had her hair done for the event and a limousine brought her to the local Elks Club lodge for the gathering of families and friends. Coincidentally, her birthday fell on World Down Syndrome Day, which was appropriate since Gracie was born with an extra chromosome.

National Review.... Reviews "How the Right Lost Its Mind"

National Review.... Reviews "How the Right Lost Its Mind"

From the November 13, 2017 edition.

By Guy Benson

For years, Charlie Sykes sat atop the totem pole of Wisconsin’s extraordinarily influential talk-radio universe. He and his fellow righty talkers played an integral role in reshaping the Badger State’s politics from progressive blue to reformist red, serving as indispensable allies to the political figures who ushered in this improbable transformation — Governor Scott Walker, House speaker Paul Ryan, former RNC chairman and White House chief of staff Reince Priebus, and Senator Ron Johnson the most prominent among them. Electoral victories brought real results, with Sykes serving on the front lines to defend and buttress the Walker administration on a string of paradigm-shifting reforms. Most notable was the controversial, and ultimately successful, budget overhaul that whipped Wisconsin’s organized Left into a frenzy, culminating in a powerful rebuke to them by voters in 2012’s failed recall election — an outcome in which Sykes & Co. had a significant hand.

It’s jarring, therefore, to watch Sykes promote his new book, How the Right Lost Its Mind, as a celebrated guest on MSNBC. It’s the same cable-news network whose hosts’ exquisitely gloomy election-night reactions to Walker’s recall triumph were a source of schadenfreude-filled delight to many conservatives, Sykes very much included. Following a rather abrupt retirement, which might look to some observers like a self-imposed exile, the polite, bespectacled commentator is now off the radio dial in Wisconsin. His new on-air home is alongside Rachel Maddow and friends. In some conservative circles, ostensibly conservative pundits whose bread is disproportionately buttered by criticizing Republicans from the left are often derided for making a living by being useful to liberals. You know the formulation the liberals use: “Even Conservative X says . . .”

But given Sykes’s years of unassailable service to the conservative cause in a critical battleground state, it feels deeply unfair to cast him as someone eager to be useful to the Left. Just the opposite: He devoted his long-running daily radio program to being a pestering, relentless, effective thorn in liberals’ side. Wisconsin Democrats have the battle scars to prove it. So, to borrow from the title of another post-election book, what happened?

Is Donald Trump's Presidency Becoming... Normal?

Is Donald Trump's Presidency Becoming... Normal?

Even though Donald Trump’s poll number continue to be abysmal, there is something of an anti-anti-Trump backlash underway in GOP circles. Never-Trump conservatives have never been a particularly robust group and their numbers seem to be dwindling by the day. But now they are taking friendly fire.  Even the venerable Trump skeptic David Brooks suggests in The New York Times that Trump critcs have not only gone too far in their opposition, but actually seem to “be getting dumber.”

While Brooks appears to be reacting to the Michael Woolf’s journalistically-challenged best seller, he is echoing a growing refrain on the right: If you ignore Trump’s tweets and other erratic utterances, his presidency is really not all that bad. (Brooks wrote just days before Trump referred to African countries as “shitholes.”)

The argument from Brooks and other Trump rationalizers s actually quite plausible: under Trump the GOP has been able to pass sweeping tax reform, eliminate the individual mandate, roll back the regulatory state, and install conservative judges throughout the federal judiciary, including, most notably, the Supreme Court.  The stock market continues to soar, unemployment is down, and the excommunication of Steve Bannon could mark a turn toward a more normal presidency, with rational and prudent center-right figures now steering the policy ship.

Some Tips for Retirement in the Age of Trump

Some Tips for Retirement in the Age of Trump

My gratuitous advice in Sunday's New York Times:

Milwaukee — When I retired from daily broadcasting in late 2016, I knew I had to make some serious resolutions. I no longer had to set the alarm for 4:15 a.m., but I didn’t want to sleep so late that I spent the morning walking around the house in a robe. (Trust me, that’ll happen sooner than you think.)

I also knew that I needed to continue to speak out about the bizarre fever that seemed to have gripped my fellow conservatives who had embraced Donald Trump.

Originally, my plan was to sit in a rocking chair, and after a few weeks to start rocking. But the election wrecked those plans, making retirement in the Era of Trump a complicated affair.

I started thinking about that this past week, when Orrin Hatch, the seven-term Republican senator from Utah, announced that he wouldn’t run for re-election this year. He joins two Republican colleagues, Bob Corker and Jeff Flake, in announcing retirement. Word is that Steve Bannon is also likely to have a lot more free time on his hands soon, especially since the billionaire Mercer family has cut off his funding, one of the few things that has kept him relevant.

So even though they didn’t ask, I’m going to offer some pointers.

Read the whole thing here: 

https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/06/opinion/sunday/retirement-tips-trump-age.html?_r=0

What the Trump-Bannon Crackup Means.. and Doesn't Mean

What the Trump-Bannon Crackup Means.. and Doesn't Mean

My latest in Sunday's New York Daily News:

The increasingly nasty breakup between Donald Trump and Steve Bannon could mark the first genuine rupture in the Trumpist ranks, but so far the civil war on the right has been decidedly one-sided.

Bannon has been abandoned by many of his populist-nationalist media allies, who scurried to establish their fealty to the regime. Perhaps worse for Bannon, he has alienated his dark money patrons, the Mercers, a breach that may cost him his job at Breitbart.

In his romantic self-regard, Bannon is likely to think of himself as the Robespierre of this Trumpian revolution, who was ultimately destroyed by the forces he helped release. But Bannon is reaping what he has sowed.

For the last year, he imagined that he could control, shape and use Donald Trump as an empty vessel to fill with his poisonous worldview (he even at one point described him as an "imperfect vessel" for the political upheaval he had long been envisioning). Like so many others on the right, Steve Bannon thought he could ride the tiger. Instead, he and his allies have become the latest road kill in this shambolic presidency.

A Short History of Trump's Birtherism (And How The GOP Reacted)

A Short History of Trump's Birtherism (And How The GOP Reacted)

From: "How The Right Lost Its Mind"

For many on the Right, the ur-conspiracy theory of the Obama presidency was the notion that Obama had not been born in the United States and was therefore not constitutionally eligible to be president. An entire cottage industry of “birthers” sprang up, complete with elaborate attempts to document the “evidence” that Obama was, in fact, a secret Kenyan. Arguably, Donald Trump launched his successful presidential bid by seizing upon the issue, which he milked for the maximum amount of publicity. Trump would eventually disavow birtherism in the final months of the 2016 campaign, while attempting to blame its origins (falsely) on his rival Hillary Clinton. But for five years, Trump had questioned Obama’s birthplace.

In March 2011, Trump appeared on the Laura Ingraham Show to declare: "He doesn't have a birth certificate, or if he does, there's something on that certificate that is very bad for him. Now, somebody told me -- and I have no idea if this is bad for him or not, but perhaps it would be -- that where it says 'religion,' it might have 'Muslim.' And if you're a Muslim, you don't change your religion, by the way." On CNN, he escalated his rhetoric, saying that “if he wasn’t born in this country, he shouldn’t be the president of the United States.” After Obama produced the certificate in April 2011, Trump briefly acknowledged his legitimacy, but quickly seemed to recant, saying “a lot of people do not think it was an authentic certificate.”

To be sure, some conservatives with megaphones denounced the birthers. Early on, talk show host Michael Medved called the movement’s leaders “crazy, nutburger, demagogue, money-hungry, exploitative, irresponsible, filthy conservative imposters” who had become “the worst enemy of the conservative movement.” Birtherism, he said, “makes us look weird. It makes us look crazy. It makes us look demented. It makes us look sick, troubled, and not suitable for civilized company.”

But despite repeated attempts to debunk the theory, many leading Republicans either stayed silent or refused to forcefully denounce the theories that were springing up. One reason for their reluctance was that “birtherism” was not fringe notion in the GOP. A Public Policy Poll in February of 2011 found that birthers had become a majority among likely Republican primary voters --  51% said they did not think Barack Obama was born in the United States. Less than a third of GOP voters -- 28 percent – said they firmly believed that he was born here, while 21 percent weren’t sure.

The GOP Knew What It Was Getting

The GOP Knew What It Was Getting

My latest, in the New York Review of Books:

“Think of Donald Trump’s personal qualities,” the former presidential nominee told the audience. “The bullying, the greed, the showing off, the misogyny, the absurd third-grade theatrics.”

He reminded the audience that Trump was “an individual who mocked a disabled reporter, who attributed a reporter’s questions to her menstrual cycle, who mocked a brilliant rival who happened to be a woman due to her appearance, who bragged about his marital affairs, and who laces his public speeches with vulgarity.”

He laid out the clear and present danger posed by Trump. “He creates scapegoats of Muslims and Mexican immigrants. He calls for the use of torture. He calls for killing the innocent children and family members of terrorists. He cheers assaults on protesters. He applauds the prospect of twisting the Constitution to limit First Amendment freedom of the press. This is the very brand of anger that has led other nations into the abyss.”

Beyond Trump’s unfitness for office was his coarsening effect on the culture. “Now, imagine your children and your grandchildren acting the way he does. Would you welcome that? Haven’t we seen before what happens when people in prominent positions fail the basic responsibility of honorable conduct? We have. And it always injures our families and our country.”

At stake was the future of our democracy, the former nominee said, citing John Adams. “Remember, democracy never lasts long; it soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide.”

That was March 3, 2016, and the speaker was Mitt Romney. As extraordinary as his indictment was, it had little discernible effect on Trump’s march toward the Republican nomination. But the speech underlines a central reality of our politics: the GOP knew what it was embracing; it was all there and Republicans were warned. They may have been deluded, but they were not uninformed.

Like so many of his fellow Republicans, Romney would eventually make his peace with Trump, even entertaining over a dinner of frogs’ legs the possibility of becoming his secretary of state. Nearly a year after Trump’s election, congressional Republicans and the president find themselves locked in a relationship of morbid co-dependency, but it is not one based on misunderstanding. There was no mystery, no hidden knowledge, about who or what Donald Trump was, or what it would mean to invest him with the royal purple of the presidency. Republicans gave it to him knowingly.

When Did The GOP Learn to Love Deficits?

When Did The GOP Learn to Love Deficits?

My latest from the Los Angeles Times: 

Not that long ago, Rep. Paul Ryan was freaked out about the national debt.

The “red tidal wave of debt,” he told Sean Hannity back in 2012, would trigger what he called the “most predictable economic crisis we have ever had in this country.” Debt would mean nothing less than the “end of the American dream.”

In 2012, the debt stood at $15 trillion, and the exploding costs of entitlements, Ryan said, meant that “by the time my grandkids are raising their grandkids, we are taking 80 cents out of every dollar just to pay for this federal government at that time.”

Ryan, who was then House Budget Committee chairman and soon to be the GOP’s vice presidential nominee, warned that the debt crisis would be catastrophic to the American way of life, leading to a massive rise in interest rates and — eventually — “bitter austerity” measures including “cuts to current seniors” and “cuts to the safety net.”

He also said the crisis was imminent: “All the experts are telling us we have about two to three years, is the time frame they tell us.”

That was five years ago. Ryan is now speaker of the House, and the national debt now exceeds $20 trillion. But he’s pushing ahead with tax cuts that are likely to increase that figure by trillions more. And that’s only part of the story.

Hugh Hewitt And The GOP's Captive Minds

Hugh Hewitt And The GOP's Captive Minds

I find much to admire about Hugh Hewitt, who has managed to resist many of the temptations to blather and bombast to which so many of his talk radio colleagues have succumbed. 

But Hewitt has also carved out a niche as a reliable rationalizer of Trumpism. His talents in that direction were on display last weekend as he manfully tried to make the case that, despite appearances, there was no civil war in the GOP (and shouldn't be one, since everything is going so swimmingly.) In Hewitt's rosy world, there was "only a series of skirmishes on the fringes of the party and among its chattering Manhattan-Beltway class estranged from President Trump." 

The Never Trump movement has become a long-running version of “Saturday Night Live’s” “More Cowbell” skit. It seems every column, editorial, television appearance, panel participation and probably every trip to Safeway must include a Never Trumper’s own version of Cato the Elder’s “Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam” — “Furthermore, I consider that Carthage must be destroyed.” Admiring lookers-on then respond via tweet or Facebook post: “Well done! But it could use more cowbell.” And so more cowbell we get.

Hewitt  betrays a small note of defensiveness, even as he claims the mantle of substance and seriousness in contrast to the nabobs nattering on about things like Russia, the rule of law, attacks on democratic norms and what not.

How The Right Lost Its Mind And Charlie Sykes Lost His Faith In The GOP

My interview with WPR's To The Best of Our Knowledge:

"Charlie Sykes spent more than two decades hosting a popular conservative talk-radio show. He railed against the Clintons and Obama. He helped push Paul Ryan and Scott Walker onto the national stage. And today he’s a Trump critic who's profoundly disillusioned with the Republican Party. He explains why in a book called “How the Right Lost Its Mind.”"

Listen here: https://www.ttbook.org/interview/how-right-lost-its-mind-and-charlie-sykes-lost-his-faith-gop

A Guide For Perplexed Conservatives In The Age of Trump

A Guide For Perplexed Conservatives In The Age of Trump

Published at NBC News Think: 

How are we going to survive this thing?

These are (to put it mildly) tough times to be a conservative, especially one who is skeptical of Donald Trump. While there will be some real policy victories — the judiciary for example — conservatives have watched these past nine months as conservativism has been tarnished by a politics of cruelty, insult, and erratic tweet storms. And it’s likely to get worse before it gets better.

So far, only a handful of elected Republicans have been willing to speak out — Jeff Flake, Ben Sasse, John McCain and Bob Corker come to mind — but we are going to have to hear more from contrarian conservatives if the movement has any hope of salvaging its brand, and its soul.

Being a contrarian comes rather naturally to me (maybe it’s genetics), and I suppose this current dissatisfaction takes me full circle. Back in the 1970s, I became a “recovering Liberal,” when I looked around me and decided I no longer wanted to be a part of what that movement had become. My decision came slowly, but it was ultimately liberating to break free from tribal politics and its tendentious talking points.

So this feels familiar to me. If the conservative movement wishes to be defined by the nativist, authoritarian, post-truth culture of Trump-Bannon-Drudge-Hannity-Palin, then I’m out.

So what does that mean?

The American Conservative: Exorcising the Conservative Media

The American Conservative: Exorcising the Conservative Media

Really great discussion of 'How The Lost Its Mind" in the American Conservative:

A long time ago (two years, actually), there was a sort of person we referred to as a “full-spectrum conservative.” Full-spectrum conservatives supported traditional morals, free enterprise, and a strong public investment in national security. For this group, 2016 was not a good year.

Trumpian populists effectively set fire to the proverbial three-legged stool. The full-spectrum conservatives of yesteryear were faced with a choice: move quickly or else find yourself on the ground. Many moved. Some took the fall. And few took the latter course quite so spectacularly as Charles Sykes, the radio host whose March 2016 interview with Donald Trump helped send the real estate tycoon spiraling into a dramatic primary loss in his home state of Wisconsin. Sykes won that battle, but he and his associates went on to lose the war. Now he’s compiled his thoughts on conservatism’s decline into a new book, How the Right Lost Its Mind.

If nothing else, the book is a triumph for this reason alone: though he clearly views Donald Trump’s election as a catastrophe (both for conservatism and for America), Sykes manages to discourse on the problem for 274 pages without allowing the Mogul to hog the spotlight. It’s refreshing to find a discussion of right-wing politics that doesn’t veer into yet another attempt to chart the murky waters of Trump’s fevered brain. Instead, Sykes wants to understand how the party of Ronald Reagan and William F. Buckley could have degenerated to the point where a frivolous attention-seeker ducked out of a Democratic Party fundraiser just in time to take the GOP on a cosmic joyride.

Here’s the core of Sykes’ answer: Right-wing media created a fever swamp of misinformation, fanaticism, and resentment, which ultimately derailed the party and American politics.