If there was one principle that used to unite conservatives, it was respect for the rule of law. Not long ago, conservatives would have been horrified at wholesale violations of the norms and traditions of our political system, and would have been appalled by a president who showed overt contempt for the separation of powers.
But this week, as if on cue, most of the conservative media fell into line, celebrating President Trump’s abrupt dismissal of the F.B.I. director, James Comey, and dismissing the fact that Mr. Comey was leading an investigation into the Trump campaign and its ties to Russia. “Dems in Meltdown Over Comey Firing,” declared a headline on Fox News, as Tucker Carlson gleefully replayed clips of Democrats denouncing the move. “It’s just insane actually,” he said, referring to their reactions. On Fox and talk radio, the message was the same, with only a few conservatives willing to sound a discordant or even cautious note.
The talk-show host Rush Limbaugh was positively giddy, opening his monologue on Wednesday by praising Mr. Trump for what he called his “epic trolling” of liberals. “This is great,” Mr. Limbaugh declared. “Can we agree that Donald Trump is probably enjoying this more than anybody wants to admit or that anybody knows? So he fires Comey yesterday. Who’s he meet with today? He’s meeting with the Soviet, the Russian foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov! I mean, what an epic troll this is.”
Given the enthusiasm of the president’s apologists, it is likely that much of Mr. Trump’s base will similarly rally to him as it has in the past.
But perhaps most important, we saw once again how conservatism, with its belief in ordered liberty, is being eclipsed by something different: Loathing those who loathe the president. Rabid anti-anti-Trumpism.
In a lamentably overlooked monologue this month, Mr. Limbaugh embraced the new reality in which conservative ideas and principles had been displaced by anti-liberalism. For years, Mr. Limbaugh ran what he called the “Institute for Advanced Conservative Studies.” But in the Trump era, he told his audience, he has changed that to the “Institute for Advanced Anti-Leftist Studies.”
With Mr. Trump in the White House, conservative principles were no longer the point. “How many times during the campaign did I warn everybody Trump is not a conservative? Multiple times a day,” Mr. Limbaugh said. “How many times have I told you: ‘Do not expect Trump to be a conservative? He isn’t one.’ ”He went on to emphasize that the campaign was not about conservatism, because that’s not what Mr. Trump is about.
That was a remarkable admission, but it is also a key to understanding what is happening on the right. While there are those like Sean Hannity who are reliable cheerleaders for all things President Trump, much of the conservative news media is now less pro-Trump than it is anti-anti-Trump. The distinction is important, because anti-anti-Trumpism has become the new safe space for the right.
Here is how it works: Rather than defend President Trump’s specific actions, his conservative champions change the subject to (1) the biased “fake news” media, (2) over-the-top liberals, (3) hypocrites on the left, (4) anyone else victimizing Mr. Trump or his supporters and (5) whataboutism, as in “What about Obama?” “What about Clinton?”
For the anti-anti-Trump pundit, whatever the allegation against Mr. Trump, whatever his blunders or foibles, the other side is always worse.
But the real heart of anti-anti-Trumpism is the delight in the frustration and anger of his opponents. Mr. Trump’s base is unlikely to hold him either to promises or tangible achievements, because conservative politics is now less about ideas or accomplishments than it is about making the right enemies cry out in anguish.
I'm glad that Sykes arrives at this conclusion, it's important that we admit one party is now dedicated to the destruction of half of America in order to try to benefit themselves in the chaos and carnage. But again, this has been the obvious point of the Republican party since Reagan if not Nixon: crush the other guys and rule unopposed over them.
This is why we see the victimization complex on the right these days, that Christianity is always "under assault" (but not by the admitted serial adulterer, abuser of women and the literal walking poster boy for graven images). They have to be the victims, because it gives them the excuse to take whatever measures are necessary to destroy us, crush us, kill us.
It was always about putting us in our place, and increasingly that place is a shallow, unmarked grave. That's why they will hold on to Trump as his regime crumbles around him, because if they don't, they will know what it's like to be us. They can't handle it. They will burn this country down rather than see another non-white president, and Trump will let them.
Cry out in anguish indeed.