Most people would consider it a bad evening if they had to spend a couple of hours at a posh party being verbally brutalized by the other guests: enduring boos and jeers, having their face and figure trashed, being likened to Hitler and linked to the KKK, fielding suggestions that they should kill themselves, and being called a bitch, an abortion, a c-nt, and the spitting image of “a truck-stop transvestite whore.” Worse still if this beatdown were broadcast for the amusement of cable TV viewers everywhere.
Ann Coulter is not most people. Oh, sure, the right-wing provocateur looked mildly dyspeptic at times during Comedy Central’s September 5th roast of actor Rob Lowe. But all things considered, Coulter took it pretty well as speaker after speaker turned their knives away from Lowe and onto her. She smiled a fair amount, gamely delivered her prepared remarks (despite all the booing), and resisted the normal human impulse to flee the stage or burst into tears when, for instance, comedian Nikki Glaser told her: “The only person you will ever make happy is the Mexican who digs your grave.”
Of course, one would expect Coulter to have the hide of a rhino. It was, after all, her willingness to be the most shameless, vitriolic hatemonger in the punditsphere that shot her to fame during the Bill Clinton era. Recognizing that her ability to shock and appall keeps her on top, Coulter has always lapped up the insults of detractors like a top-shelf margarita on Cinco de Mayo. They are proof of her relevance.
But remaining conservatism’s nastiest bomb-thrower is hard work in this political climate, with younger, hungrier comers forever nipping at Coulter’s heels. Just last summer, in fact, the political chattering class was wondering rather loudly whether Coulter’s shtick had lost its sparkle. For the first time in 17 years, liberals and conservatives observed, she had not been invited to speak at CPAC, conservatives’ annual love-in/dog-and-pony show. Meanwhile, her 11th book, the anti-immigration screed Adios America!, was garnering less liberal outrage—and fewer conservative laurels—than her previous literary offerings. (Both mainstream and social media greeted it with a yawn.)
In late June of 2015, New York magazine ran a piece titled “Ann Coulter Wants to Know Why She Doesn’t Make You Mad Anymore,” that opened with Coulter’s complaining to writer Annie Lowrey, “They’re ignoring me now!” and then walked readers through the fading of Coulter’s star. A few days later, Salon offered its take on Coulter’s diminution: “Sure, she’ll sell her books to the small group of people who can’t get enough of her bilious humor and hatred but her days of being a mainstream pop culture phenomenon are over. Everybody’s heard it all before.”
The discussion continued at least through March, when Wonkette asked: “[R]emember the heyday of the late nineties and early oughts [sic], when you couldn’t turn over a viciously nativist racist homophobic rock without finding Coulter underneath? Those days are—thank sweet baby Jesus in heaven—gone now, but Coulter’s hunger for the limelight isn’t, which means she has to keep hurling herself at the election news cycle in a desperate bid for relevance.”
As it turned out, this election was Coulter’s fastpass back into the limelight.
Specifically, Coulter aligned herself early with Trump and his hard-core immigrant bashing, and then commenced to smacking all of his primary opponents as gutless squishes. (Yes, even Ted Cruz.) While most establishment Republicans held their noses or made apologies for Trump’s uglier statements, Coulter went all in, pitching him as the only real man in the race, possessing a superhuman combo of brains, balls, and moral fortitude—like the genetically engineered spawn of William F. Buckley, Dirty Harry, and Jesus.
Once Trump snagged the nomination, Coulter really went wild. Last month, she started touring the country plugging her quick-and-dirty hagiography, In Trump We Trust: E Pluribus Awesome. And aside from an awkward day or two when it looked as though Trump might be dialing back the immigration bashing, she has consistently ramped up the adulatory rhetoric. As she tweeted mid-August: “I don’t care if @realDonaldTrump wants to perform abortions in White House after this immigration policy paper.” A couple of weeks later, she told Bloomberg’s Joshua Green: “My worship of him is like the people of North Korea for Dear Leader—blind loyalty. Once he gave that Mexican rapist speech, I’ll walk across glass for him.” In a podcast for Politico this week, she went even farther: “I worship him like the North Koreans worship the Dear Leader--yes, I would die for him.”
Now, the thing about Coulter is that she is always half-joking. (The woman is the ultimate cynical performance artist.) That said, being even half serious in her Trump worship has been enough to revive Coulter’s act. Because these days, there is no more shocking position to take among the political establishment. Forget being an openly racist, nationalistic, sexist, Islamaphobic homophobe. Those tics can be excused under the right conditions. But a member of the political elite not just accepting but effusively lionizing Donald J. Trump? That’s a bridge too far. And so Coulter has found a fresh path to outrage.
Coulter doesn’t exactly see it this way, rejecting the very idea that her mojo had ever stalled. “You’re starting from the wrong premise, to wit, that when the media announces I’m finished, I must be finished,” she emailed me. “They have written the same epitaph every year since 1999, right after I published my first of 12 NYT bestsellers. I have a brief collection of such claims at the beginning of my sixth NYT bestseller, If Democrats Had Any Brains, They’d be Republicans, which at that point, included my annual media epitaphs only from 1999 to 2007. It shouldn’t be hard to find the rest.” As for her absence from conservative conclaves: “CPAC, like the rest of official Washington, has become a lobbying arm for open borders,” she charged. “I wasn’t invited to La Raza or the Chamber of Commerce's annual convention last year either. As the rise of Trump shows, they’re the ones who have become irrelevant.”
Spoken like the woman who claims credit for teaching Trump everything he knows about scapegoating immigrants––especially all the “spicy stuff” about Mexican rapists, which she has repeatedly asserted he pulled from Adios America! (This is not an unreasonable assumption considering how much time the book devotes to precisely that subject.) Perhaps. But Trump, not Coulter, is angry white America’s chosen messiah. It’s hard to imagine that, without him, Coulter would have been the subject of a lengthy profile in Politico this week, which cheekily crowned her “doyenne of the deplorables.” And there’s no way she would have been invited to—much less wound up the unofficial star of—a Comedy Central roast.
But thanks to Trump, Ann Coulter is riding high once more. And if that means getting slagged as a “truck-stop transvestite whore” now and again, so be it.