Benda used to be a favorite among conservative thinkers who saw him as a prophetic voice against multiculturalism, postmodernism and other left-wing academic fads rooted in 19th century German Romanticism. Where are those thinkers now that Mr. Trump is using his own fetish for action and cult of success to dismiss his political opponents as losers, lowlifes and criminals? Where are they now that Mr. Trump’s Breitbart minions are organizing political hatreds against “globalists” and other new enemies of the people?
They are busy devising ever-more elaborate excuses for the Republican nominee. A flawed messenger for a worthy message. An agent of mass disruption in an era of secular stagnation. A hollow man who may yet take our good advice and stumble his way to greatness. A jerk who nonetheless compares favorably to Mrs. Clinton.
What all this shows is that most conservative intellectuals have proved incapable of self-examination or even simple observation. Donald Trump is a demagogue. Period. The fervor of his crowds recalls Nasser’s Egypt. His convictions are illiberal. His manners are disgusting. His temper is frightening. It ought to have been the job of thoughtful conservatives in this season to point this out, time and again. If they can’t do that, what good are they?