The Trump administration is having abnormal effects on Washington social life too, especially among Republicans. During the campaign Trump was almost unanimously opposed by the conservative elites in Congress, media, and think tanks. But since his nomination and — especially — election, most have made one form or another of individual peace with the new regime. Some reserve some kind of private interior space for dissent from this or that corruption or abuse. Others not only drink the Kool-Aid, but positively bathe in it. For those few who remain utterly unreconciled, it is painful to watch formerly independent-minded friends submit one by one. Some of this can be explained cynically: people’s livelihoods here depend not just on access, but on the perception of access. Conservative journalists who criticise Trump can expect to forfeit their Fox News appearances and the lucrative speaking engagements that follow. But that explains only so much. Conservatism has ceased to be a coherent or compelling set of ideas — it has evolved instead into an identity defined by its animosities and oppositions. People defined that way cannot long sustain isolation from the group. They fear they will have nowhere to go. They risk not merely careers, but friendships, family relationships, their very self-definition. So they rationalise: maybe Trump isn’t that bad? Surely the Democrats — sorry, one is supposed to say ‘the left’ — are worse? And even if none of that is true, isn’t it easier and safer and more comfortable to think so?
This is an extract from David Frum’s Diary, which appears in this week’s Spectator