How Trump split conservatives three ways

“Safe Space” Conservatives

At the same time as the Holocaust statement and the refugee executive order disturb many on the right, the Gorsuch announcement is extremely popular among conservatives. For most conservative writers, it is likely that this constant up and down will remain the status quo throughout the administration. They will be discomfited some days, and exhilarated the next. Sometimes these extremes will happen on the same day.

Jonah Goldberg has observed that some conservatives are trying to find a “safe space” by focusing their attention on media bias against Trump and the excesses of anti-Trump protesters, both in the streets and in the Senate. As Goldberg put it, “When conservatives –– I’m not referring to Republican political hacks, that’s their job; I’m referring to actual conservative writers –– go out and respond to the negative coverage solely by attacking the MSM messengers, they are in effect condoning –– or at least providing cover for –– Trump’s behavior and feeding the idea that he’s a victim whenever anyone does anything other than applaud.” Given this tendency, we may be seeing the emergence of a new and distinct group: the Safe Space Conservatives. The Safe Spacers are not comfortable with everything Trump does, but are choosing to direct their fire at the media and the left, with whom they are even less comfortable. One reason why Trump attacks the media so frequently is that anti-media sentiment may be one of the few remaining unifying tendencies across all of conservatism. The liberal writer and frequent conservatism critic Peter Beinart sees something similar, calling these people the anti-anti-Trump right.

Ultimately, it is this group that may offer us the best barometer of how things are going. They may decisively break for Trump if he’s succeeding, but should they peel away, it might be a sign that his movement is losing traction. A related phenomenon is that of conservatives who are rooting for Trump to be successful as a conservative. This group is willing to criticize Trump when he’s wrong yet praise him when he’s right. This tendency, seen in places like National Review, makes NR’s reportage interesting to watch, not just to gauge how Trump is doing, but also to get a clearer take on matters—somewhere between the largely hostile mainstream media and liberal press, and the overtly pro-Trump and Trump-boosting organs such as Breitbart.