When this election is over and Donald Trump has been banished back to his late-Bourbon-dynasty penthouse, we can only hope that professional conservatives will take stock of their role in enabling his rise and work to correct their mistakes in the future. Based on their performances on a daily basis right now, I am not hopeful.
Exhibit No. 1 is Megyn Kelly, the Fox News anchor who mysteriously earns plaudits across the ideological spectrum for her tough journalism. On her show last Thursday, Kelly delivered an angry rebuke of Trump’s racist tirades against the “Mexican” judge overseeing the fraud suit against Trump University. Her firehose of outrage splattered all over her guest, the unfortunate Bill Bennett, who wriggled like an insect pinned to a corkboard as he absorbed Kelly’s rant.
KELLY: Now Donald Trump is saying that the judge needs to be investigated, someone should look into him just because he's ruled against Donald Trump in this litigation repeatedly, he certified the class, he denied the judgment for summary judgment. That doesn't make you biased. It doesn't. […]
And that's what's going to be what we talk about tonight until this news broke moments ago that Trump continues to attack a sitting federal judge which, who by the way, did a lot to fight the drug cartels when he was a prosecutor, based on his ethnicity, suggesting that he has an inherent -- inherent conflict of interest because of his heritage.
In response, Bennett could only wipe sweat from his forehead, mumble in agreement, and express, with all the enthusiasm of a man clambering up on a gallows, his surprise that Trump hasn’t yet started acting more presidential since wrapping up the nomination. Which is a little like being surprised that a swarm of hornets attacked you after you jammed a sharp stick through their hive.
Kelly’s indignation would be much more sympathetic if she had not just two nights before devoted a segment to a friendly conversation with fish-lipped con man Dinesh D’Souza, the right-wing gadfly who has made a career in recent years out of directing ahistorical documentaries designed to scare the same people who watch Megyn Kelly’s show into believing that Barack Obama is a racist, Marxist ideologue who wants to punish America – specifically, white people in America – as revenge for the colonialist oppression of his father’s native Kenya. D’Souza was publicizing his new movie, due out in July and titled “Hillary’s America,” which he’s pitching as a history of the Democratic Party, albeit one where the Democrats are headed by a criminal cartel and are responsible for all the racism and white supremacy in our nation’s history.
D’SOUZA: [W]e also focus on the whole history of progressivism and the Democratic Party. So we're telling an unknown story of American politics. And it's going to roil up this race, I'll tell you that.
KELLY: This is a point that we hear made fairly often about the Democrat's history when it comes to race issues in particular and one that doesn't get, you know, that much of a spotlight. But today, you know, if you listen to folks today, it's the Republicans. The Republicans are the racist party that's against blacks and the Democrats are the opposite.
D'SOUZA: Yeah, and I think this is going to be the attack on Trump. He's a racist, he's a sexist, he's a xenophobe, he hates immigrants, et cetera. I think it's very important for people to know that the Democratic Party historically has been the party of slavery, of segregation, of Jim Crow, of lynching, of the Ku Klux Klan, forced sterilization, support for fascism, the interment of the Japanese after World War II.
Imagine it: Megyn Kelly, a woman who once told her audience in no uncertain terms that “Santa Claus is white,” banters with a racist filmmaker about how a now-multicultural Democratic Party has turned the tables on Republicans by tarring its white base with the racism brush and is out for revenge. Then two days later, she cannot believe that her party’s white nominee would dare to suggest that he is the victim of racism from a judge with Latino heritage.
Whether Kelly is outraged because of the genuine racism undergirding Trump’s attack, or is just mad because it lets slip the mask she and her employers at Fox News have carefully constructed to try and hide the twinned white supremacy and sense of victimhood that animates the modern conservative movement, is unclear.
And it is also irrelevant. The simple fact is, decades of fearmongering and charged rhetoric like that found in D’Souza’s movies and on nearly every hour of broadcasting on Fox have primed the pump. Conservative audiences look at their TVs, then out their windows, and they see those dastardly Mexicans and African-Americans and every other dark-skinned ethnicity lurking in the bushes, just waiting for the right moment to force their children to read the Koran in school or use the power of the judiciary to screw over a modest white businessman who was just trying to make some money with his sham for-profit “university.”
This is the sewer from which that same businessman crawled to exploit all of these fears on his drive to the Republican nomination. Conservatives like Kelly have yet to acknowledge the role their bombast played in his rise – why would they, when the truth might threaten their multi-million-dollar employment contracts and Upper West Side apartments?
In a further irony, while talking to Bennett, Kelly played a clip of a much-condemned softball interview she held with Trump a few weeks ago, during which she asked him this question:
KELLY: Have you given any thought in this position to the power that your messaging has on the lives of the people you target and on the millions of people who take their queue (sic) from you?
Indeed. Why would Trump have thought about this when his interlocutor and her entire network have built their fame and fortune on not doing so themselves?