I’ve been hard on Fox News in some of my columns over the past few months ― not so much on the network itself or its hard-news reporting (which is superb), but on a number of its influential analysis-show hosts. Several have been behaving more like Trump campaign spokespeople than the conservative commentators I once knew them to be.
What I’ve found particularly disheartening is that for years (decades in some instances), these same people had based their compelling, consistent arguments on conservative and traditional sensibilities that they seemed to genuinely espouse.
In many ways, they exemplified the success of the Fox News network ― a revolutionary media organization that has built a large audience by granting a platform to credible, conservative voices in an industry otherwise dominated by liberal group-think.
That’s never meant that those voices have been bound to a specific political agenda. Many critics argue that Fox News is a propaganda arm of the Republican Party, but that simply isn’t true. FNC has featured (and continues to feature) a plethora of viewpoints and critical analysis from both sides of the political spectrum. What Fox has done is offer an alternative perspective and reporting style to that of the traditional, mainstream news media.
The appeal to right-leaning thinkers like myself has been hearing the insight of honest, principled people who share my frame of reference. I’m not looking for voices who necessarily agree with me or validate my preconceived notions. I’m looking for solid judgement and integrity.
What I’ve witnessed with the rise of Donald Trump as a serious presidential contender is a number of commentators (not just on Fox, but across the conservative media spectrum) suddenly shelving their long-stated principles, in order to campaign for a candidate who outright rejects those principles. They’ve coddled Trump. They’ve apologized for him. They’ve made unbelievable allowances for him that they have made for no one else, and it has been the height of hypocrisy.
In many ways, the exodus mirrors the frustrations felt by the conservative movement as a whole. As more and more Republican voters throw in with Trump, based almost entirely on his persona, conservatives are losing their voice. We’re somehow being lumped in with “the establishment”, and are being called upon to suck it up and pledge our allegiance to Trump if he wins the Republican nomination…as if it’s somehow our patriotic duty to so.
But it isn’t our duty. Conservatives like me, who look at Donald Trump and see an unprincipled charlatan who doesn’t even minimally share our belief system, aren’t part of any “establishment.” To insist that we are, and that we must somehow now atone for our sins by jumping aboard the “Trump Train,” is ludicrous. It’s insulting.
Up until yesterday, I felt as though that viewpoint had been almost entirely ignored by the television media, but a couple of Fox News hosts, who haven’t compromised their principles in the era of Trump, explained why we conservatives don’t necessarily owe Trump our allegiance.
In a panel discussion on The Five, co-host Eric Bolling brought up the recent comments from Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, who pledged not to vote for Donald Trump, should Trump win the nomination. Bolling was perplexed by the stance, and declared that he (himself) would vote for whomever the Republican nominee was. He attributed Sasse’s viewpoint to that of an “establishment type.”
Greg Gutfeld set him straight.
“If you feel that as a conservative, it is violating your principles, then you have to follow your principles.” said Gutfeld. “I think the problem is…it’s not about ‘then’ in the future. It’s about ‘now.’ It’s like…the whole process of the primary is supposed to allow you to figure out who you like and who you don’t like. What worries me is when people demand or expect you to get behind somebody when you don’t have to yet. We were seeing people talk about Trump being number one before there were primaries. Just ‘get on board.’ I think the cult of personality is the thing that people find a real problem with. It’s hard to unify behind something that is unknown. I know more about black holes than I do about Donald Trump’s ever-changing moods. So I don’t blame conservatives for going like , ‘Hey, this isn’t something that I believe in.’ I don’t know what he believes, but that could change. It could change in four months.”
Dana Perino examined the point further:
“You can’t urge disruption of a party, and then not expect some disruption. What some have been asking for is a wholesale destruction of the Republican Party, because they hate it so much. And now, they want the people that they hate so much to just swallow the medicine and cast the vote. And I think it’s unreasonable to expect that without some sort of like, ‘Hold on a second. Let me think for a minute. Is this big tent big enough for all us? Let me think for a second.’ I mean, it’s not that it hasn’t been coming for a while, but I do think Ben Sasse speaks for a lot of people. Don’t forget: Before there would be a #NeverTrump hashtag, there would have been a #NeverJeb hashtag. And a lot of people would have been on that, and they would have said they would have stuck with it…”
She’s exactly right. The case that Trump supporters have been making for their candidate is that he is “anti-establishment.” It has become quite clear that policies don’t really matter to a lot of these people. Even Trump’s signature issue ― immigration ― is registering low in the polls as a topic of concern among his faithful. This makes it hard to understand, then, how conservatives can be expected to remain with “the establishment” for the sole purpose of supporting a nominee that has no regard for them.
Personally, I can’t think of anything more “pro-establishment” than rubber-stamping someone’s candidacy simply because they have your party’s initial next to their name.
At the end of The Five, when asked about Trump’s dominance in the Super Tuesday polls, Gutfeld laid it all out on the table:
“For me, it’s not about being proven right. It’s about being right. Polls don’t interest me. If Donald Trump gets the nomination and loses the election, we will have four years to examine how many people on the right abandoned their principles for personality, and why did they do that?”
I agree, and I’m thankful that conservatives still have some strong, principled voices on Fox.