Robert Draper’s terrific piece in the New York Times highlights some of the backlash that occurred when—in the wake of Trump’s comments about Fox News’ Megyn Kelly—Erick Erickson disinvited the casino magnate from the “Red State Gathering” last summer:
On Twitter, Trump called Erickson “a major sleaze and buffoon” and said that the “small crowds” at the gathering were due to his absence. Trump’s supporters soon piled on. This was to be expected, but what surprised Erickson were the attacks from people he regarded as his fellow bomb-throwers in the conservative revolution. On Twitter, the talk-radio host and Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham mocked “JebState.” The author and right-wing provocateur Ann Coulter brought up some of Erickson’s own crass utterances, like his characterization of the former Supreme Court justice David Souter in 2009 as a “goat-[expletive] child molester.” The next week, 30,000 readers of Erickson’s email newsletter canceled their subscriptions. [Emphasis mine.]
Now, I’m not going to make this out to be some grand sacrifice, but name for me a businessman or politician who would witness that kind of collapse of support — and not immediately backtrack. In a business where even the so-called “conviction” politicians have gotten in line (see Ted Cruz), Erickson didn’t take the path of least resistance, and that’s worth commending.
In political terms, what Erickson (and others cited in this article, including George Will) are doing is something of a profile in courage. The shrewd move (at least, in the short term) would have been for them to throw their principles out the window and get behind The Donald.
Despite this, a myth persists that “Never Trump” Republicans have ulterior motives—that opposing the Republican nominee is somehow a smart move for the ambitious conservative commentator.
I’m still waiting to hear anyone explain how my position has been good for my bottom line. https://t.co/4dAT8M43gX
— Jonah Goldberg (@JonahNRO) September 7, 2016
While there’s little doubt that a select few have parlayed their rebel status into a marketable niche, far more people have boosted their careers by hopping on the Trump train.
For the vast majority of us, refusing to back Trump is anything but a shrewd career move. That’s because the world wants to force us into a binary choice. Just as there’s an incentive to join a gang in prison (for protection), there’s a strong incentive for commentators to pick a side in politics. That’s where the ratings, clicks, and money live — along with most of today’s ambitious talk radio hosts and aspiring right-wing pundits.