This constellation of media players could have at any moment pumped the brakes on Trump and Trumpism during the 2016 election, and could do so now. At any moment, Rupert or the sons could have told Roger Ailes, “OK…that’s enough.” The as-yet unchronicled conspiracy – and I use that word deliberately – between the c-suite at Fox News, Matt Drudge, Trumpbart, Rush Limbaugh is a story waiting to be told. They and others actively elected to elide Trump’s endless catalog of ideological sins, moral shortcomings, mob ties, Russian moneymen, personal weirdnesses, trophy wives, serial bankruptcies, persistent tax shenanigans, low-grade intellect, thinly-veiled racial animus, and conspiracy email-forwarding kooky grandpa affect.
The “populist movement” explanation for 2016 isn’t entirely wrong, but it took the full throttle efforts of the high-volume media enablers to promote Trump as the singular remedy for the moral, economic, and political collapse they decried each day for their credulous viewers and listeners to make that “movement” happen. Even after 25 years in this movement, I can’t help but feel a sense of wonder at how brazen their marketing and monetization of Trump has been, and at its spectacular cost to conservatism.