Perhaps no commentator or pundit working today is more terminally puerile than Sean Hannity, and his latest outburst on Twitter (though it is invariably the same outburst) was directed at National Review’s Jonah Goldberg: “If you choose to sabotage [Donald Trump],” he tweeted at Goldberg, “and [Hillary Clinton] wins, then u will OWN the damage!”
This is, in fact, Hannity’s favorite insult to hurl at conservatives (actual conservatives, not the ersatz Trump-worshiping kind): that any principled stand against the colossal monstrosity of Trump’s candidacy will be an albatross around the neck of every dissident conservative pundit moving forward. “If [Clinton] does win,” Hannity scolded Goldberg, “I will hold you responsible. Own it!!!!”
Here is a modest counterpoint: if Hillary Clinton does win the presidency, it will be, in no small part, Sean Hannity’s fault.
There are, of course, a multitude of reasons Trump is the Republican presidential nominee: voters’ dissatisfaction with the GOP, their profoundly misguided assumption that Trump is trustworthy in any sense of the word, the billions of free media Trump received during the primaries, the overlarge and divided Republican primary field.
But the one consistent political factor that has worked in Trump’s favor since he announced his candidacy more than a year ago has been Hannity’s unflagging support. Trump has appeared on “Hannity” nearly once a week since last June, so much so that one writer characterized Hannity’s Trump coverage as “a serialized infomercial spanning nearly an entire year.”
In Hannity’s defense, he has grilled Trump pretty hard during these appearances. In March, for instance, he asked Trump the one thing that’s been on everyone’s minds: “Is there any state you don’t have property in?”
It’s About Lack of Judgment
To be fair, Hannity is unabashed about where his loyalties lie: “I’m not hiding the fact that I want Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States,” he said last month. “I never claimed to be a journalist.” But this is missing the point. The problem is not so much that Hannity has a particular political preference—everyone does, and at least he is being honest about it. The problem is that he wasted his political preference on Trump.
The 2016 GOP lineup was an embarrassment of riches: Hannity could have picked from ten other candidates 50 times more qualified than Trump. It is something of a marvel that he went instead with an incompetent faux-conservative jackass and one of the few candidates on the planet capable of losing to Hillary Clinton.
Since Hannity is a man of some influence, it is perfectly reasonable to assume that his fawning coverage of Trump has played a not-insignificant role in Trump’s meteoric rise to the forefront of the GOP. If you want to find someone to blame for conservatism’s predicament in 2016—in which we eschewed a generational field of talent for a blustering con artist who will almost certainly lose to Hillary Clinton in November—you could do much worse than point a finger at Sean Hannity.
Come what may in November, conservatism will survive—battered, bruised, and limping, but still viable. We will have to ask ourselves afterwards: what is our movement going to look like? Will it be good, strong, practical, ideologically coherent, and politically attractive? Or will it be populated by men like Hannity, who throw themselves in line with repulsive demagogues, destroy their own reputations and those of the movement they claim to represent, then point fingers at the nearest target and scream “IT’S YOUR FAULT?”
I pray we choose the former. If that means Hannity loses his time slot, so be it.