It’s odd. On the subject of guns, conservatives have dominated public policy, both in Washington and in the states, for decades. Pro-NRA Republicans run Congress, most state legislatures, most gubernatorial mansions and the White House. Few gun control advocates believe they can even pass a new version of the assault weapons ban they passed in 1994. Yet by focusing on culture, not policy, conservatives over the last two weeks have told themselves that their most basic freedoms—not merely their right to own a gun, but their rights to free speech and perhaps life itself—are at risk.
This dynamic isn’t unique to guns. It’s how American politics now works. Even when conservatives win elections and pass laws, they look at the trend among cultural elites—the media, Hollywood, universities, even corporations—and feel like they’re losing. Even as they gain more political power, their declining cultural power makes them feel threatened and despised. Which makes them easy prey for people like Trump.