If you want to know why our politics has reached its current unusual (though by no means unprecedented) state of bitterness and hysteria, take a long look at an often neglected factor in our electoral campaigns: laziness.
In 2016, I gave a talk to some conservative activists in California in which I presented a portfolio of concerns about the state of the Republican Party, in particular its presidential nominee. (Retrospective judgment: I was dire, but not dire enough.) Donald Trump, I explained, was not the only problem on the scene: Republicans had abandoned the high ground on spending and fiscal responsibility; state party organizations in effectively single-party GOP states such as Texas had in many cases grown complacent and in other cases had become positively corrupt; and the party had come to be dominated by its “entertainment wing,” meaning Fox News and talk radio and a few social-media entrepreneurs. The problem wasn’t Donald Trump or Sean Hannity but the fact that Donald Trump and Sean Hannity were so obviously made for one another.
As you might imagine, the conservative activists weren’t having it and quickly grew restive. One older gentleman, red-faced with rage and zinfandel, demanded: “What I want to know is: What are you doing to make sure Republican candidates get elected in November?”
I thought about it for a second and gave him what he didn’t want—an honest answer.