Now that it’s clear the Republican Party will nominate a delusional, dishonest, disinforming, ethnocentric, egomaniacal billionaire with virtually no understanding of foreign or domestic policy to be president of the United States, the obvious question is who to blame. One might naturally assume that the obvious answer would be the people and the party that chose him. Conservative politicians and many members of the punditocracy, however, have other ideas. Like Trump voters, they’ve somehow picked the people they happened to hate in the first place.
When Donald Trump first began to dominate the Republican debates last fall, right-wing politicians pushed the same “blame” button they have hit reflexively just about every day since January 2009. “Let’s be honest,” Bobby Jindal explained to readers of The Wall Street Journal, “there would be no Donald Trump, dominating the political scene today if it were not for President Obama.” Writing on the Journal’s editorial page, neocon Bret Stephens agreed. “Donald Trump is Barack Obama squared,” he insisted, calling both men “epic narcissists who see themselves as singularly suited to redeem an America that is not only imperfect but fundamentally broken.”
As the Trump phenomenon grew and other GOP candidates’ prospects dimmed, a more complex explanation was required. As with global warming, gun control, evolutionary theory, and birth control, Trumpism was discovered to be part of a global media conspiracy. “He’s being treated with kid gloves by many in the media, in the hopes that he’s the nominee,” whined media darling Marco Rubio. “The media knows Donald can’t win the general, that Hillary would wallop him,” added Ted Cruz.
In far-right circles, to blame the media is by definition to blame liberals. But interestingly, this notion has appeal on the far left as well. In an article posted on The Intercept last week titled “The Culture That Created Donald Trump Was Liberal, Not Conservative,” Jim Lewis complained that NBC, Time, Random House, Condé Nast, and Andy Warhol’s acolytes created Trump. Possibly aware that no sensible list of liberals would ever look like the one above, Lewis further explained that it was “those coastal cultural gatekeepers—presumably mostly liberal—who first elevated” Trump. The word “presumably” sure does a lot of work there—to say nothing of the fact that Trump’s celebrity and his political career are quite obviously two separate phenomena. (Nobody’s nominating Kim Kardashian to be president, after all.)
If talk of evil “coastal” elites inspires nostalgia for Andrew Sullivan, then you’re in luck. The writer who accused Gore voters in those areas of supporting treason after 9/11 is back, now in New York magazine, and he, too, has located the conspiracy at work to elect Trump (and thereby, he argues, to literally end the Republic). Like David Horowitz and Christopher Hitchens before him, Sullivan has managed to travel 180 degrees across the political spectrum while continuing to blame liberals for everything he doesn’t like. In this case, it takes him to the same place as the right-wing pundit S.E. Cupp (“Blame Liberals for the Rise of Trump”) and the conservative Naval War College political scientist Tom Nichols (“How the P.C. Police Propelled Donald Trump”), both of whom blame the tyranny of political correctness for Trump’s victory.