Donald Trump and the new conservative opposition

No, his movement is not an Obama-like personality cult, nor “agrarian national populism,” nor proto-fascism. The Trump phenomenon is neither so ominous nor so complicated. It is today what it has been from the start: a rebellion against the media elite.

Yet while Trump counted on the initial support of much of the conservative media, he no longer needs conservatism to win–or to govern. There are more conservatives than liberals in America, but conservatives may be relegated to minority partner in a winning coalition.

At best, what the conservative intellectuals mounting a likely doomed effort to stop Trump are actually doing–though they may not realize it–is staking a claim to lead the new opposition.

They are laying down a marker, and articulating a set of conservative principles that could guide a Republican-led Congress as it begins, under a hypothetical Trump administration, to take seriously its role as a check on the executive.

The danger is that in attempting to stop Trump, these conservatives risk alienating him totally. If there is one near-constant in the Trump campaign, it is his use of a strategy that game theorists call “massive retaliatory strike“: he is friendly by default, but hits back hard if challenged.