Tucker Carlson, the man slated to take over O’Reilly’s timeslot on Fox (and my former boss) summed up his predecessor’s shtick in a 2003 book:
O’Reilly is Everyman—the faithful but slightly lapsed Catholic son of the working class who knows slick, eastern Establishment BS when he sees it. A guy who tells the truth and demands that others do the same. A guy who won’t be pushed around or take maybe for an answer. A populist, basically, but a modern one. Biased, not bigoted.
That paragraph comes a lot closer to describing a lot of rank-and-file Republican voters than “zealous champion of Social Security privatization” and the sooner that people would like to see small-government conservatism advance learn to grapple with that reality, the better.
None of this makes these Republicans “alt-right.” Few of them would probably yell at their coworkers for using unfamiliar phrases like “play us out.” But these are not people in Adam Smith neckties either.
Paradoxically, O’Reilly is losing his platform right at the time vaguely conservative-ish populism has made it all the way to the White House, much to the shock and consternation of many who claim to speak for conservatism in the media.