I wrote before about Donald Trump’s destruction of the Republican Party. However, it’s difficult to understand just how devastating this election cycle has been to the party and conservatism until you look at it from the ground level, so to speak.
Take Breitbart, for example. While its eponymous founder both praised Cruz and told us Trump was obviously “not a conservative” shortly before his death, those who have carried on his cyberlegacy jumped onto the Trump train early, separating themselves from much of the conservative blogosphere. Then, when one of their own reporters was grabbed by Trump’s ubiquitous henchman, Corey Lewandowski (which Lewandowski and Trump both unconvincingly denied), the resulting side-taking ended with a significant exodus of Breitbart writers and editors, including both reporter Michelle Fields and editor Ben Shapiro.
And speaking of Ben Shapiro, another Trump-caused rift is between those who once stood together against what they called “Social Justice Warriors.” Now, former allies stand on opposite sides of the Trump wall, with hyperfans Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos at the top of the Trump-pile, and skeptics like Steven Crowder and #NeverTrump Ben Shapiro decrying the altright White Nationalist mob Trump seems to be leading, as well as Trump himself.
Which brings us to Trump and the great Himself of all conservative media, Rush Limbaugh. Limbaugh, while attempting to project the appearance of being neutral on the primary (and showing genuine sorrow at the end of the Cruz campaign) was clearly quite a fan of Trump. During moments in the primary season when Cruz partisans were hoping for support from “Maha Rushi,” particularly when Trump said something outrageously unconservative…crickets. Many conservative viewers have stopped listening to Limbaugh after decades of loyalty. Moreover, Rush’s full-throated, post-Indiana Trump stance puts him at odds with a man he has often called “The Great One”—Mark Levin. Another of Levin’s formerly huge and seemingly inseparable fans, Sean Hannity, has been so far in the Trump tank you can see the bubbles coming out of his head during his almost nightly one-hour “exclusive” interviews with The Donald.
Levin came late to the anti-Trump team, and even later to #NeverTrump. Even now, he seems to be inviting Trump to lure him away from #NeverTrump, but expects Trump to earn his vote. Levin now makes common cause with Glenn Beck, who is so solidly #NeverTrump he—as far as I know alone among the media giants—took the Libertarian Party seriously this year. But among friends of Beck, the crowd is mixed. Rabbi Daniel Lapin, to whom Beck is very close, is now on the Trump train, as is his go-to guy on the dangers of American communism, Daniel Horowitz. Author Brad Thor, on the other hand, is so serious about his #NeverTrump conviction, he challenged Beck’s audience to imagine what it will be like if Trump is elected and becomes the Latin American-style caudillo he appears to be becoming. Misunderstood as a call for Trump’s assassination, the comments got Beck suspended by Sirius XM (although Beck was also scheduled to be on vacation that week).
One can look, as well, to the halls of government. While several governors—Jindal, Christie, Scott—have endorsed him (though with varying degrees of enthusiasm), New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez, Chair of the Republican Governors’ Association, has not, and has been publicly attacked by Trump for her resistance. Senator Jeff Sessions was an early and eager adopter, even rumored to be under consideration for Vice Presidcent, while Mike Lee is not talking about it, and Ben Sasse has stated publicly that America deserves a third option to the two unpalatable major party candidates—and was himself under consideration by those who consider themselves decision-makers in the #NeverTrump movement for a time. House Speaker Paul Ryan was slow to endorse Trump and may suffer for it on both sides, since Trump partisans, including Sarah Palin, have put some weight behind Ryan’s primary opponent, while Wisconsin voters themselves, particularly in his district, expressed their disdain for Trump by giving their delegates to Ted Cruz.
And on and on it goes. While the Drudge Report quite obviously went all-in for Trump and took every opportunity to slant its links to anti-Cruz partisans, Conservative Review backed Cruz and has thus far not jumped on the Trump train. Fox News has been rent asunder, as well. While Hannity, Eric Boling, and Bill O’Reilly can’t find a Trump outrage they can’t defend—and Tucker Carlson recently said Trump University (a scam that Trump is being sued over on both coasts and will go to trial for on November 28) is no more of a scam than Princeton—Megyn Kelly has a hot-and-cold relationship with Trump, Greg Gutfeld maintains a skeptical pose, and Dana Perino seems to have resisted the Trump charm so far.
There are Trump evangelicals and #NeverTrump evangelicals. There are pro-life groups that are giving him the benefit of the doubt on his newly-minted claims to be pro-life, and there are pro-life groups who are still spooked by his long history of donating to pro-choice Democrats and his notorious interview in which he said he would not ban partial-birth abortion—something so heinous even the Supreme Court said it could be banned.
In short, there is not a part of the conservative movement the candidacy of Donald Trump has not rent asunder, set at odds, or blown apart. The future is bleak, and the demand from the presumptive nominee is clear: surrender, or die.