This segment feels like a new phase in the debate over whether Trump truly qualifies as a populist conservative. For the first two months of Trumpmania, the position taken by his fans essentially was that he gets a pass on not being much of a conservative because he’s such a superb populist. If you hate political correctness, if you’re tired of the political class in Washington talking down to you and then making a hash of every policy they touch, Trump’s your guy. He’s a middle finger to the establishment of both parties, especially to the not-so-conservative-themselves GOP. That’s not the argument Coulter and Hannity are making, though. Cooke comes in here demanding to know how two conservatives as famous as them can possibly be shilling for a guy who’s held the liberal position on every major issue — health care, abortion, guns, eminent domain, you name it — and the answer is … well, he’s had a charge of heart. Or he’s a businessman, therefore he’s allowed to play on both sides of the fence or whatever. Or that his new positions, like the idea that he’s going to get Mexico to pay for a border wall, are actually plausible and worth taking seriously.

Glenn Beck watched this segment live last night and then took to Facebook afterward, wondering if he’d woken up in the Twilight Zone.

He is part of the problem when he by his own admission, buys politicians; he said he identifies his “policies more as a democrat”; he makes President Obama look truly humble; he was very pro abortion until very recently; he still says “don’t defund planned parenthood”; he is pro “assault weapon ban”; he is in favor of a wealth tax that would just “take money out of people’s bank accounts”; he is for boots on the ground in Iraq and ‘taking the oil’ from the Iraqi people; he is a progressive ‘republican’; he says single payer health care works; he said he would give people more than just Obama care; the First Lady would be the first to have posed nude in lesbian porno shots; he said that he keeps all the bibles he is given in a “special place” out side the city – and he only goes to church on Christmas and Easter; he is generally not a likable guy; he has around 16% favorability with Hispanics and he has gone bankrupt 4 times.

This is an honest question. I really want to understand:

Why are big name “conservatives” supporting him? I get it if you are tired of politicians, a republican progressive, or you are only about winning (although those who say they would NEVER vote for him is over 50% of REPUBLICANS). Perhaps you are angry and you just want to make someone pay or just want something done and you don’t care how it gets done, but what PRINCIPLES does he have that they are attracted to?

I am not talking about the average Joe, I am talking about Sean Hannity or Ann Colter. How about Savage or Rush?

When Cooke confronts her about Trump’s 24-hour flip-flop on whether to defund Planned Parenthood, she’s actually reduced to arguing that that doesn’t prove he’s not conservative, merely that he was ignorant of how the group is funded because he’s not a professional politician. Trump 2016: Easily rolled by liberals because he doesn’t know the issues, but definitely conservative.

Coulter’s not really representative of the big-name conservatives mentioned by Beck in his post because she’s been more open to centrist Republican presidential nominees than they have in the past. She used to love Chris Christie until his Senate appointee in New Jersey voted for the Gang of Eight amnesty bill. She loves Mitt Romney even now, having once gone so far as to write a defense of RomneyCare(!) in the middle of the 2012 primary. That’s not to say her support for Trump isn’t weird, because it is — one thing Christie and Romney had in common circa 2012 was that they were among the GOP’s most electable options. If you wanted to be charitable to Coulter, you could have defended her at the time by claiming that she was merely interested in maximizing the party’s chances of winning. Trump does … not maximize our chances. Still, if she was willing to tolerate conservative heresies from Christie and Romney, it’s no great surprise that she’d tolerate them from him too. Especially since, with his “Mexican rapists” comment early on, he injected one of Coulter’s core themes — crime committed by illegals, a key part of her new book — into the presidential debate. In fact, Coulter defends Romney to this day principally because he pushed self-deportation as a solution to illegal immigration in 2012. She may not be a single-issue voter but immigration appears to be her number one, by far. And Trump’s the guy who’s making the GOP establishment squirm on that point, never mind the fact that he’s awfully squishy on what he’d do about illegals himself.

As for what Beck says about Hannity, Rush, Ingraham, et al., who are normally quick to call out RINOs for their departures from conservative orthodoxy but seem willing to extend Trump an infinite line of credit, you tell me. My theory is that they’re enjoying his anti-establishment fireworks too but that mostly they’re trying to stay on the right side of their audience by not coming after him. They’re perceived in the wider media and among the GOP establishment as conduits to the Republican base; they articulate the concerns of grassroots conservatives and shape opinion about what the grassroots should properly be concerned about. If they go after Trump as a fake and listeners revolt (Erick Erickson’s still getting hate mail a week after disinviting Trump from the Red State Gathering), it’ll be seen as proof that they’re not as much in tune with the base as they thought. Essentially, their own status as supreme channelers of populist conservatism would be trumped by the cult of Trump. That’s not a fight worth picking, especially this early in the campaign. I’d be curious to know what Beck, himself a famous anti-establishmentarian and a guy who sees this from the inside, thinks is the reason his colleagues are falling in line for Trump. It can’t be that they think he’s really a conservative who’d be as principled in resisting Democrats as president as, say, Ted Cruz would be. Can it?