Several weeks into the Trump presidency, one can divide the reaction among conservative commentators into three categories.
At one extreme sit those conservatives who championed Trump during the campaign, and still do: Breitbart, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter, among others. Their base is talk radio. They pride themselves on speaking for those plainspoken, dirt-under-the-fingernails conservatives who loathe not only Hillary Clinton, but Paul Ryan. Their chief enemies are globalism and multiculturalism, which they believe infect both parties, and are destroying America from without and within. Their ideological forefathers are Joseph McCarthy, George Wallace and Pat Buchanan, who claimed that America’s cosmopolitan, deracinated ruling elite had betrayed the white Christians to whom the country truly belonged.
At the other extreme sit conservatives like my Atlantic colleague David Frum, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced and International Studies Professor Eliot Cohen, and New York Times columnist David Brooks, who warned against Trump during the campaign, and believe he is now vindicating their fears.
For them, conservatism is about prudence, inherited wisdom, and a government that first does no harm; they see none of those virtues in Trump. They see themselves as the inheritors of a rich conservative intellectual tradition; Trump’s ignorance embarrasses them. And they believe America should stand for ideals that transcend race, religion and geography; they fear white Christian identity politics in their bones. They are, to my mind, highly admirable. But they don’t have much of a base. They can denounce Trump because they work for institutions that don’t primarily cater to his supporters.