But the deeper (and less high-minded) reason why Republicans should avoid picking up the mantle of anti-anti Trumpism is that it will perpetuate and perhaps even intensify what may be the single biggest factor in Trump’s rise: the incessant flattery of culturally alienated, conservative white male voters by right-wing talk-radio hosts.
Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and many others have created an enormous industry and made vast sums of money for themselves by telling millions of listeners, day after day, year after year, that their ill-informed, illiberal, anti-government, anti-Washington, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim views are irrefutably, indisputably, incontrovertibly correct. Such views are so obviously right, in fact, that the only plausible explanation for their failure to prevail politically (until, perhaps, now) is the constant, undeserved ridicule heaped upon them by a class of cultured despisers in Washington, the media, and even at the commanding heights of their own party’s establishment.
This is what populism has come to mean in today’s Republican Party. It’s less a consistent policy position on economics, taxes, foreign policy, national security, or even immigration as it is a form of therapy for a grievance group that’s been manipulated by profit-seeking political entertainers into a perpetual state of aggrieved indignation. Trump’s campaign has masterfully tapped into this feeling of wounded pride, festering disrespect, and craving for validation and vindication.