The roots of our current discontent lie here. And conservatives are right to be angry. But the establishment does not shoulder the blame alone. As one conservative strategist told us: “Leadership is to blame for never identifying any hill worth dying on,” but critics of the establishment “are to blame for only being interested in dying.”
To put it another way: If the establishment is responsible for the conditions that led to Donald Trump, many critics of the establishment are responsible for making him the frontrunner. Since Trump entered the race, these voices — on television, on talk radio, in Congress, even in the Republican presidential field — amplified his craziness. They rationalized his vulgarity, explained away his insults, ignored his lies, even celebrated his ignorance.
Mock a war hero? Trump isn’t politically correct! Ban every Muslim? The man has a point! Embrace a Russian dictator who kills his political opponents and journalists? Trump being Trump! Belittle the looks of a female opponent? He’ll be tough on Hillary! Ridicule a reporter with a disability? Finally someone who stands up to the liberal media! Nuclear triad? Hezbollah versus Hamas? Quds Force or the Kurds? He’ll hire people who know these things!
Some of those who have championed Trump have become true believers. Rush Limbaugh said last week that the rise of Trump means “nationalism and populism have overtaken conservatism in terms of appeal.” For others, he was a means to an end. Mark Levin, who was more a Trump defender than a Trump booster, has become a harsh critic, accusing Trump of practicing “crony capitalism” and “taking the low road” in his attacks on Ted Cruz. Last week, Levin tweeted: “Based on what you’ve observed today & the last few days, do you believe Trump’s a reliably solid conservative?”