Once upon a time, two large hunting parties came to live in two gigantic, beautiful lodges high on a mountainside-- the red and the blue.
The red lodge was home to a wide variety of people. Upstairs in the luxury suites were the richest, most wealthy and powerful members of the party. A few floors below them were well-to-do members of the party who were only too happy to help the top floor party members out. Way down in the basement were the least well-off members, living in squallor and want.
For many years, all the red lodgers worked together to keep the giant building strong and clean and in good repair. Even the basement dwellers pitched in. "We don't want those crazy blue-lodgers to come in here and take over," they'd say.
Occasionally the basement dwellers in the red lodge would question the order of things. "Why do we live down here in the basement," they'd say. "Why can't the people on the top floor at least send down some lobster bisque and champagne?"
To help keep the peace, the penthouse dwellers would send word down, often through their assistants on the lower floor-- "We have to stay up here to keep you safe! We have a better view from these windows. We can keep an eye on the world, and we can watch out for danger-- you know there's a bear out there and we don't want him to surprise us. Trust us. We know best. Besides, if you work really hard, some day you may earn a spot up here on the top floor." And for many generations, that was good enough. Even though the penthouse dwellers chose new leaders from among their own ranks, many of those top floor dwellers were responsible and capable leaders, and those on the lower floors trusted their word.
But over the years, the top floor dwellers got sloppy and lazy. They rarely left their comfy rooms, simply luxuriating and eating all day. They and their helpers on the not-quite-floors discovered they could use the bear to get more. "What about new bedsheets for our rooms," someone on a lower floor would say, and the word would come down-- "We've seen the bear in the neighborhood; you'd better trust us so he doesn't attack." And when it came time to install new leaders, the penthouse crowd made poor choices, but kept the crowd in line by reminding them, "You don't want a bear attack, do you? You'd better support our guy because he can save you from the bear."
The more the penthouse crowd grasped for power, the more useful they found the bear. The stories grew wilder, more terrifying, more frequent. The bears are angrier and hungrier. There's a family of bears. The blue lodge has been training the bears to attack us. The bears have laser beans strapped to their heads and carry dynamite in their paws. So give us your money, your food, your furniture, your children to send out into the cold to fight the bear. A dozen bears. A thousand bears! And they're right outside our doors!!
Soon the red lodgers were in a frenzied state of panic and terror all day, every day. Occasionally a bear would actually show up at the window, angry and snarling, and that only fed the panic. At first the penthouse thought, "This is great. They will give us anything." True, the lodge was noisy and disorderly now with the constant noise of panic and despair, but it was a small price to pay.
But then the day came to install their new leader. They selected him and escorted him to the balcony where such men were traditionally introduced to the crowd, and they realized that the crowd below would not hear them, was not even paying attention. And for the first time in years, tey looked down and saw what was really going on in the red lodge.
The residents of the lodge were breaking up the furniture and setting fire to it. They were crudely nailing all the doors and windows shut. They were tearing up the floorboards and tearing down the ceilings, ripping the very cords and pipes out through huge gaping rents in the walls. Suddenly someone yelled, "He did it! He's helping the bears!!" and the crowd would suddenly turn like a roiling mob and fall upon the victim, rending him to shreds of flesh and flecks of blood.
"Good lord," said the penthouse crowd. "What in the name of God are you doing!!??"
"The bears!!" shouted the crowd. "The bears you said were coming to get us! We're just protecting ourselves from the danger you warned us about!"
"Stop!" pleaded the penthouse crowd. "Stop and listen. We have a new leader for you! He's wise and reasonable! Listen to him."
But the crowd was not listening. "No!" they roared. "We have our leader! He is strong! He is powerful! He's come down here to save us from the bear!!"
And the penthouse crowd found themselves staring down at one of their own who, when they had been busy counting money and eating caviar, had slipped downstairs amidst the havoc. "You are done," he called up to them. "You made these people so frightened and blind that they would listen to the first strong voice they heard, and you are lazy and sloppy and weak. What's more, your fear-mongering has made them unable to hear your most reasoned, intelligent arguments. But I'm strong, and I don't care what happens to the house you built. You readied them for me. When we are done, this lodge will be a pile of rubble, but I will be standing on top of it, and you will be buried beneath it. You did not understand the power of the fear and panic you stirred up, but I do, and I will reap what you have sown."
And that, boys and girls, is why an issue of National Review devoted to Anti-Trump essays will not change a damn thing, and why we're in such a mess for this election. Thanks a lot, conservatives.