Third, even as he’s wooed the disaffected and non-ideological, Trump has also won over or at least neutralized an important segment of the conservative media. He isn’t Rush Limbaugh or Sarah Palin, sure, but they’ve both been covering for him, as have a raft of performers who like to portray themselves as keepers of True Conservatism’s flame. And this cover has enabled Trump — no True Conservative himself, to put it mildly — to put together an unusual coalition, a mix of hard-right and radical-center voters, that’s unlike anything in recent politics.
Now if I wanted to avoid giving Trump his due, I could claim that I didn’t underestimate him, I misread everyone else — from the voters supporting him despite his demagoguery to the right-wing entertainers willing to forgive his ideological deviations.
I certainly overestimated poor Jeb Bush, whom I wrongly predicted would profit from Trump’s rise. But for the rest — no, I had a pretty low opinion of the right-wing entertainment complex to begin with, and I’m not remotely surprised that the white working class would rally to a candidate running on populist and nationalist themes.
I am very surprised, though, that Trump himself would have the political savvy, the (relative) discipline and yes, the stamina required to exploit that opening and become that populist. And for that failure of imagination, I humbly repent.