So, here’s the blunt reality. As Trump leaves the White House and enters private life, the trail back to moral norms, back to integrity, and back to robust and meaningful ideological debate (as opposed to “own the libs” trolling, conspiracy theories, and personal insults) will be extraordinarily difficult. After all, Trump will be gone, but conservative media is still dominated by the same personalities and the same outlets that have helped lead the right astray.

Moreover, because the election was close, the argument for conservative media to reform itself will have to be moral and patriotic rather than self-interested and pragmatic – made to a community that specifically scorns norms and often mocks arguments based on character or integrity. Trump lost, but his constituency remains vast. His personal style remains dominant. Imitating him and defending him will remain the path of least resistance (and good ratings) for the immediately foreseeable future.

But the need for courage remains, even if the marketplace demand is suspect. Conspiracy theories like the Dominion theory Trump tweeted are false. Belief in conspiracies harms this nation. Indeed, we’ve witnessed the high cost of low trust in our nation’s response to the Coronavirus. Anti-masking ideologies, “just the flu” misinformation, and “plandemic” conspiracies have cost lives.