Donald Trump has not been alone in his crusade to make a grotesque mockery of conservatism. He’s had a lot of help, and most of that help has come from the supposed “leaders” of the very movement he seeks to destroy.

A whole host of prominent figures made enormous amounts of money pretending to be spokesmen for the cause, only to sell it down the river when the sentient pile of driftwood known as Donald Trump came floating by. These past few months have been a horrific bloodbath, as many famous and once-respected conservatives have gutted their credibility for a chance to latch themselves to Trump like barnacles on the Titanic. Some of these ideological hustlers may have, at one point, truly believed in the principles of which they’ve so handsomely profited, but when the principles finally jeopardized the profits, they did not hesitate to choose the latter over the former.

Donald Trump was able to co-opt conservatism and slap his name across the front of it, like he’s done with so many hotels and casinos and dozens of other defunct companies, because those entrusted with defending and protecting it retreated at the first sign of resistance. They hid from the populist mob or grabbed their pitchforks and joined in. And when conservatism suffers the same fate as so many of Trump’s bankrupted ventures, we will have these cowards to blame.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump waves goodbye to supporters after a campaign stop, Thursday, March 3, 2016, in Portland, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump waves goodbye to supporters after a campaign stop, Thursday, March 3, 2016, in Portland, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)

As unpleasant a task as it may be, I think we need to identify the traitors and remember their names. We do this not out of spite, but in keeping with the Bible’s many warnings about false prophets. Scripture urges us to “expose the unfruitful works of darkness” (Ephesians 5:11) and avoid becoming partners with those “who deceive with empty words” (Ephesians 5:6). Colossians implores us not to be “taken captive by deceit.” We’re warned in 2 Timothy that the time will come when people will not want to hear the truth, so they will surround themselves with frauds who tell them what their “itching ears want to hear.” I believe we have arrived at that moment, and it is now urgent that we specifically identify these frauds and false teachers. This is not a fun or polite process, but it is necessary, so we must get on with it.

When the Trump phenomenon is over — whether that happens in the primary or the general, or after eight years of a totalitarian Trump rule — it’s crucial that we not allow these craven opportunists to pick right up where they left us. We may forgive them if they seek our forgiveness, but we cannot forget, and we cannot rely on their leadership again. These conservatives can be entrusted with the duties of leading the movement no more than a burglar can be entrusted with the duties of caring for your house when you’re away on vacation. It’s a matter of prudence, not revenge.

Unfortunately, the list of prominent conservative “leaders” who abandoned every hint of conservatism the moment Donald Trump came knocking is far too lengthy to list here in full. All I can do is acknowledge a few who’ve gone to considerable lengths to flaunt their lack of integrity and moral courage:

Sean Hannity

Although I’ve never found Hannity to be terribly interesting, now that his Fox show is nothing more than a ritual adoration ceremony for Donald Trump, it’s become intolerable. Hannity relentlessly fawns over Trump and refuses to challenge him on any of his myriad lies and inconsistencies. Trump has even used Hannity’s show as a platform to praise Planned Parenthood and repeat false, progressive claims that “abortion is a small part of what they do.” Hannity did not challenge him on those assertions. He does not challenge him on anything.

Meanwhile, as Trump receives no criticism from Hannity no matter how many times he mocks the disabled, brags about his adultery, smears his opponents, spews vulgarities, etc., Hannity has not held back in criticizing Trump’s Republican opponents for their “stunning” and “beyond the pale” critiques of Trump.

Ann Coulter

She released a book about immigration right around the time Trump came onto the scene and started calling Mexicans rapists. She decided to use the Trump phenomenon as the greatest book promotion vehicle in history, campaigning for him and claiming the reality TV character is a sign that “God hasn’t given up on us yet.”

Funny that Coulter mentioned God considering she’s become a social liberal in recent months, frequently lashing out at ”pathetic” “p*ssy” pro-lifers who fail to worship her new idol. Trump could perform abortions in the White House, she says. Trump can do whatever he wants. Speaking of God, I wonder if Coulter thinks God approves when she rants about the “f**king Jews” (anti-Semitism appears to be a prerequisite for admittance into the Trump fan club) and explicitly calls for violence against Trump protesters. To say Coulter has gone off the rails would be a monumental understatement. Indeed, one wonders if she was ever on them to begin with.

Credit: AP Photo/Cliff Owen

Credit: AP Photo/Cliff Owen

Bill O’Reilly

He pretends to be a tough and objective journalist, but his prostrations to Trump have been sickening to behold, never more than when he boasted about all the times he and Trump had milkshakes together or when he attempted to rationalize Trump’s plan to murder women and children.

Laura Ingraham

She is among the first to burn a “RINO” squish at the stake, yet she pounces like a mother lion protecting her cub whenever anyone whispers a word of criticism about Trump’s infinite departures from conservative principles. Suddenly, Ingraham the Conservative Purist is okay with an authoritarian liberal becoming the GOP nominee, because he “captures the imagination of the people.” This is the sort of nonsense Chris Matthews said about Barack Obama in 2008. It turns out conservatives have several Chris Matthews’ of their own, just as we now have an Obama of our own.

Sarah Palin

Palin is a carnival barker who used the Tea Party to stay relevant long past her expiration date, and then betrayed it when the spotlight drifted in Trump’s direction. Palin helped get Ted Cruz elected back when she was pretending to be a grassroots activist. But her activism was revealed to be as phony as her “middle-class hockey mom” shtick when she stabbed Cruz in the back and slandered her old friend at Trump’s behest.

Fox News

All the other dull, blathering Trump sycophants on Fox News, like Andrea Tantaros and Eric Bolling and Kimberly Guilfoyle and other various Trump shills who’ve now taken to declaring that “principles don’t matter.“ The Fox morning show team hands airtime to Trump whenever he demands it, and they sit in admiration listening to him blabber on like infatuated school boys pretending to be interested in what the pretty girl in class is saying. But they’re of course not as bad as Joe Scarborough over on MSNBC, who was recently caught on camera taking instructions from Trump about what questions he can ask.

Trump and his groupies complain that Fox is “unfair” to him, but those of us who haven’t had our brains cooked by Trump fever recognize that, with the exceptions of Megyn Kelly, Bret Baier, Greg Gutfeld and a few others, the entire network slobbers over him like a cheerleader fainting when the varsity quarterback asks her to the prom.

Chris Christie

A desperate tag-along disguised as a tough guy who went from hugging Obama to licking Trump’s boots, all for political gain.

Ben Carson

A man embraced by millions because he supposedly stood for Christian virtue, civility, moral courage, and the Constitution — until he endorsed the one guy who defies all of those principles more aggressively than probably any Republican presidential candidate in history. But at least Carson is honest. This week he admitted that before he endorsed Trump, he was promised a position in the administration.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump shakes hands with former presidential candidate Ben Carson as he receives his endorsement at the Mar-A-Lago Club on March 11, 2016 in Palm Beach, Florida. Presidential candidates continue to campaign before Florida's March 15th primary day.  (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump shakes hands with former presidential candidate Ben Carson as he receives his endorsement at the Mar-A-Lago Club on March 11, 2016 in Palm Beach, Florida. Presidential candidates continue to campaign before Florida’s March 15th primary day. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Jeff Sessions

He overlooked Trump’s enormous, terrific, gold-plated downside and endorsed him solely because of his pledges to build a wall, even though Trump himself has admitted his immigration plan is “flexible.”

The Drudge Report

Trump’s very own Pravda. Matt Drudge has explored every avenue to demean and degrade Trump’s opponents, even if it means repeatedly mocking Cruz’s Christian faith. As Coulter has become pro-choice for Trump, Matt Drudge has become anti-Christian.

Breitbart

No media company has been more disgraceful, dishonest, and utterly treacherous as Breitbart. There may be some people at Breitbart who’ve maintained their integrity – most of them are resigning in protest – but the company as a whole is such a consistent source of propaganda, slander, deceit, and disinformation that you’d think Joseph Goebbels was running the place.

Breitbart is so pathetic, so ethically vacuous, so outrageously abhorrent in its conduct that it took Trump’s side when Trump’s campaign manager manhandled one of its own female reporters. It doesn’t quite capture it to simply say Breitbart is a propaganda mechanism for Donald Trump. Breitbart is, more aptly, the disembodied conscience of Donald Trump himself. The entire site reads like Trump dictated it word-for-word. To click on Breitbart is to dive into the head of Donald Trump. It’s like walking through that little door in “Being John Malkovich” and into the mind of a demagogic madman.

Jerry Falwell Jr. and Robert Jeffress

Yet these betrayals pale in comparison to what we’ve seen from some Christian leaders. Most of the people I listed above are indeed “Christian leaders” because they wield enormous influence over wide swaths of the faithful in this country, but their apostasy is not as nefarious and loathsome as that of actual pastors, like Robert Jeffress, and presidents of Christian universities, like Jerry Falwell Jr.

Both men — along with plenty of other prominent Christian figures — dumped their faith on the side of the road and hitched a ride on the Trump Bandwagon. They now promote Trump in direct defiance of Scripture, which clearly stipulates that anyone who desires to be a leader must be noble, respectable, temperate, and dignified (and probably not someone who brags about his adultery and thinks the nation’s largest abortion provider is “wonderful). To claim Trump belongs in any of these categories is blasphemy.

The capitulation that many conservative and Christian leaders have shown towards Trump goes well beyond what the liberal media shows towards Obama. I’ve never in my life seen anything like this, and I suspect I’d have to take a flight to North Korea to witness an equal level of unthinking deference. But at least Kim Jong Un’s subjects submit under the threat of death and imprisonment. Our “leaders” have subjugated themselves to the American Kim Jong Un simply for the publicity and the ratings and the chance to be friends with a billionaire celebrity.

Many people have endeavored to explain how Trump rose to these political heights and managed to grab a stranglehold on an ideology that supposedly abhors everything he represents, but I think the diagnosis of this national mental health crisis must start with these turncoats. They could have put a stop to Trump, but they didn’t even try. They didn’t even try.

Remember, these charlatans have mercilessly exiled many “moderate” Republicans into the wilderness for the mildest of heresies. They’ve hung the deadly “RINO” label around conservatives for the slightest offenses. They’ve conducted Salem-style witch trials to expose and execute any conservative accused of committing the most harmless misdemeanors against the cause.

Yet with Donald Trump they overlook the very sins that have earned a thousand others immediate excommunication. Two men commit the same crime, and the self-appointed judges on the Conservative Tribunal hang one and hand a lifetime achievement award to the other. And we are supposed to trust these people? They have adjusted conservatism itself to meld with Trumpism. They altered their whole outlook on life at his behest. Marco Rubio isn’t sufficiently conservatism on a few issues and they lambaste him; Donald Trump isn’t conservative on any issue and they change conservatism to accommodate him.

If they’d given Donald Trump the same treatment they gave, say, John Boenher, we would not be in this situation. And don’t take this as a defense of ”the establishment.” I’ve been as disgusted by the moderate compromisers in our ranks as anyone, but are the milquetoasts really a greater threat to conservatism than Donald Trump? Are they more progressive? Do they flip flop more often? Are they bigger liars and swindlers? Do they calibrate their own positions according to poll numbers more blatantly than Trump? Are they as vindictive, narcissistic, cruel, and lacking in integrity as Trump? Please. Stop it.

Yet Sean Hannity and his cohorts attack “the establishment” and write Valentines to Donald Trump simply because “the establishment” is safe to criticize. You risk no backlash. You will hear nothing in reply but the sound of uproarious applause. Donald Trump is far worse in every respect, but attacking him might cost you something. He’s famous. He’s popular. He has a legion of rabid fans — whereas even “the establishment” isn’t a fan of “the establishment.”

You could besmirch “the establishment” in front of Mitch McConnell and he’ll probably high-five you just to prove he’s down. But criticize Donald Trump and get ready for an avalanche of profanity, defamation, and threats. Worse, get ready to lose traffic, lose viewers, lose readers. Get ready to pay for your beliefs. And what we’ve discovered is that many of our conservative “leaders” only stick to their beliefs when they won’t be made to pay for them. They’d rather get paid for them.

From a marketing perspective, this is understandable. And I admit that, back in the summer, the first time I wrote an anti-Trump piece and saw a mass exodus of readers and Facebook fans, I was troubled. I’m not famous and rich like Bill O’Reilly or Matt Drudge, but I’m basically in the same business, and like them I don’t want to lose my audience and be forced to get a real job.

I don’t care about the routine angry emails from liberals and feminists and gay advocacy groups, but when I hear from hundreds of self-described “longtime fans” who’ve supposedly sworn me off for good, it can be a little worrying. My family’s livelihood is at stake here, after all. Even so, we all have to decide if we’re in this to advance a certain cause and defend certain principles, or if we’re in it because we like the attention and the money. The time inevitably comes when you must choose between the two.

That time arrived and many conservatives chose the second option. We ought to make note of that fact.

They’ve shown their true faces.

They’ve revealed their priorities.

They’ve made their choice. And now they  must live with it, because we will not forget.

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