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All the Best People

Would you let these people watch your children?
April 1, 2019
All the Best People
(Photos: GettyImages / Shutterstock)

Two incidents from this weekend illustrate the biggest problem conservatism faces in the age of Trump.

The first was the Twitter meltdown of a writer named D.C. McAllister.

D.C. McAllister—Denise—became famous at the Federalist by being basically the Amanda Marcotte of the right. The Federalist disassociated itself with her this weekend after she went on Twitter rants against first Meghan McCain (Federalist editor Ben Domenech’s wife) and then journalist Yashar Ali. You can read a summary of the incident here, if you really want to.

Or maybe don’t, because it’s beside the point. The scandal of Denise McAllister isn’t what she tweeted over the past week. It’s the essays she has published at the Federalist over the years. She wrote dozens and dozens of pieces, including:

And yet, somehow the problem with McAllister wasn’t her writing but her tweeting?

This may shock you, but it is basically an open secret that McAllister has mental health problems. You very much should read this thread from Rebecca Cusey, a former colleague of McAllister’s at the Federalist. But here’s the key part:

Exhibit 2 from the weekend was the release of the Alex Jones deposition by the plaintiffs in his defamation lawsuit. This one you probably should look at. Though not the full four hours, because that would melt your brain.

PART 1: Alex Jones / Sandy Hook Video Deposition

PART 2: Alex Jones / Sandy Hook Video Deposition

For our purposes, the key part is this: The substance of the lawsuit primarily concerns Jones’ longstanding contention that the Sandy Hook school shooting was a “false flag” operation designed to curtail gun rights. Asked about this by plaintiff’s counsel, Jones says that he

almost had like a form of psychosis back in the past where I basically thought everything was staged, even though I’m now learning a lot of times things aren’t staged.

Alex Jones almost had a form of psychosis? No way!

'Don't touch me': Marco Rubio and Alex Jones clash

And yet, in the weeks after Twitter banned the guy who says he was “suffering from a form of psychosis” as he spread actionable lies, the Federalist—the same place that gave McAllister a home for all those years—ran defense after defense after defense after defense after defense after defense after defense of Jones.

It’s almost as if they thought it was important to give psychosis a platform.

Over the last three years conservatism has gone crazy. Perhaps you’ve noticed this.

It’s not just McAllister and Alex Jones. There’s Laura Loomer, who handcuffed herself to the doors of Twitter’s offices and went after a 20-year-old pro-life reporter to get him fired because she was angry about his tweets. There’s Milo, who brags about how great pedophilia can be. There’s Kurt Schlichter writing one-handed race war slash fiction. There’s Jesse Kelly fantasizing about scalping liberals. There’s Julie Kelly insisting that David French’s wife, who was repeatedly abused by a pastor as a 12-year-old girl, “screwed around with her preacher when she was a teen.”

What do these people all have in common? Two things: First, they don’t seem like normal, well-adjusted adults. Second, they all love them some Trump.

What does it say about conservatism when David Frum and Mona Charen and George Will hop off the bus and these people hop on?

Look: There are plenty of normal, well-adjusted Trump supporters. You may disagree philosophically with Michael Anton or Charles Kesler or Scott Johnson. I have my disagreements with all of them. But they’re all perfectly normal, good-faith human beings. You’d be happy to leave your kids with any one of them while you went to the store. (Disclosure: Johnson is a friend and I know and like Anton.)

Would you be willing to leave your kids with McAllister, Jones, Loomer, Milo, Schlichter, or the Kelly twins? I doubt it. Because they do not present as normal, well-adjusted adults. And yet they have been given platforms by conservative media organizations.

Why? There’s only one possible explanation: Because they’re on Team Trump.

Trumpism is singular in that it doesn’t allow people to pick and choose with only conditional support. You can’t be a cafeteria Trumper and say, “Yeah, I’m here for the wall and judges, but I’m not signing on with tariffs. And the North Korea stuff is terrible policy.”

You don’t see a lot of that, do you? Instead, Trumpism demands that people be all-in, for everything. No matter how stupid or malignant the policy or behavior.

This is a new development in conservative politics. In 2012, no one thought they had to support Mitt Romney all the way down the line. In George W. Bush’s administration, conservatives rebelled against a SCOTUS nomination and against immigration reform, which was the primary policy initiative of his second term. No one thought that the binary choice of Bush-Kerry meant that they had to contort themselves to defend everything he said.

It’s different with Trump.

And this dynamic seems to apply not just to Trump himself, but to his supporters in the media. There are exceptions, of course. But I don’t see a lot of people in conservative media saying, “I support the president, but Denise McAllister and Alex Jones are nuts. And those other racists and weirdos ought to go away.”

Instead, there seems to be some sort of omertà where being a Trump supporter grants you blanket immunity in conservative world—and often a media platform to go with it.

Frankly, I don’t understand this dynamic. Maybe it’s that negative partisanship overrides everything, full stop. Maybe it’s that conservatives actually do love violence-porn race-war fantasies. Maybe it’s that people truly believe that the sexual abuse of children is just “screwing around” instigated by the kids. Maybe threatening to sic your lawyers on a 20-year-old because of his tweets is standard operating procedure.

Maybe these are all perfectly normal things and I’m the crazy one.

Or maybe it’s as simple as this: Trumpism corrupts everything it touches.

Jonathan V. Last

Jonathan V. Last is editor of The Bulwark.