That Limbaugh is being a complete hypocrite is a trivial observation. If a Democratic president had been caught doing this, of course Limbaugh would be screaming for his impeachment with equal volume and ferocity. What is more interesting is the rationale he offers: a simple appeal to hatred of the opposition—as a justification, as an inducement, as an end in itself.

If Trump has done something that “upsets the Washington media,” conservatives no longer have to bother asking whether it was good or bad, whether anyone is right or wrong to be upset by it. The very fact that it upsets “the media” is justification enough.

The big thing we’ve discovered over the past four years is the number of people for whom the actual content of ideas and policy is largely irrelevant, compared to the pure tribal satisfaction of venting their hatred for the “elites” and the “mainstream media.” The source of Donald Trump’s bizarre allure among conservatives is the constant, unrelenting intensity with which he allows them to indulge in this—a form of tribal hatred that is all the purer precisely because it has been freed from any pretense of having to be loyal to abstract principles.

In short, conservatives have sold their souls for the sheer pleasure of partisan hatred. And it’s not going to be easy to break this spell.