[...] Without a genuine enemy to tutor it, the right has allowed the long-standing fissures of the conservative movement to deepen and expand.
That absent tutelage is most visibly embodied in Trump, whose whims are as unlettered as his mind is untaught. Trump is a window onto the dissolution of the conservative whole, a whole that can allow itself to collapse because it has achieved so much. Battling its way to hegemony in the second half of the 20th century, the American right would never have chosen a Trump — not because it was more intelligent and virtuous or less racist and violent, but because it was disciplined by its task of destroying the left. With that left now destroyed, the foot soldiers of the right wing think to themselves: We’ve had conservative Republican presidents. We have a conservative Republican Congress. Why haven’t they delivered on the promises they’ve made for so long? Why haven’t they made us great again? Why not Trump? The more established voices in the party, many of whom opposed Trump in the primaries (though not with the focus and energy the right used to possess), think to themselves: What’s the worst that can happen in a general election? Another Clinton in the White House? She’ll not do much to disrupt our tax and regulatory regime. Why not Trump? Unlike Nixon, Reagan, or even Bush, who managed to invoke the threat of the left — whether as present reality or recent memory — to bring the factions of the right in line, Trump tweeted his way to the nomination because no one could bring any of the factions in line. Truth be told, none of them needed to. There was no threatening left waiting in the wings to dispossess them of their privileges. Once Trump secured the nomination, the party elders figured: What the hell, let’s roll the dice.