Most of all, the Never Trump pundits had a duty to put away childish preoccupation with themselves and realize that every circumstance contains the possibility of better and worse outcomes. Mr. Trump is not a principled politician in whatever limited sense the word applies in Washington. He is hardly a Republican. He is not ideological. The potential for new coalitions to get interesting things done was obvious with his arrival, but it’s hard not to suspect the Russia hoax was exactly and deeply what many of Mr. Trump’s fans said—a defense by a reckless elite of its own status unrelated to any policy or philosophical goal. And playing a supporting role were lousy judgment and a colossal failure by many pundits to do the job of pundits and appreciate what’s interesting about the times they are living in.
And it was interesting. When Mr. Trump came down the escalator, I was surprised by the effectiveness of his presentation and urged colleagues by email to tune in. Two months later, in response to a variety of online signs and portents, I had no trouble believing Mr. Putin’s trolls were getting behind the Trump boomlet. Why wouldn’t they? First of all, the Internet Research Agency in St. Petersburg is a moneymaking operation. Mr. Trump was a click magnet. Without instruction, its trolls likely would also have seen in his rise the kind of outlandish, apparently disreputable democratic phenomenon Mr. Putin would always like to hype.