David Frum: Dinesh D’Souza Embodies Conservatism’s Decline Into Trumpism

Dinesh D'Souza speaking at the 2016 FreedomFest at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Flickr/Gage Skidmore)

Conservative writer David Frum slams right-wing propagandist Dinesh D’Souza in The Atlantic, portraying D’Souza as emblematic of the decline of conservatism into outrage and aggrieved polemics. Frum says he finds himself watching people he has previously known and admired who now “subordinate their talents and their integrity to Trumpism” and ponders, “How has my political generation of conservatives and Republicans laid itself so intellectually and morally low?”

Here’s how it starts:

Few have enjoyed quite so spectacular a comeback under President Donald Trump as the conservative polemicist and filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza. In 2012, D’Souza resigned as president of a Christian college amid charges of adultery and deception. In 2014, D’Souza pleaded guilty to violating federal campaign-finance laws. He was sentenced to eight months of confinement followed by 52 months probation.

Now, as the saying goes, D’Souza is back—and bigger than ever. He has reinvented himself as something like the court intellectual of the age of Trump. Trump pardoned D’Souza on May 31, 2018. At the beginning of August, Donald Trump Jr. co-hosted the premiere of D’Souza’s latest movie, Death of a Nation. The movie compares Donald Trump to Abraham Lincoln, and his Democratic opponents to Nazis. Afterward, Trump Jr. delivered a memorable summation of what he had learned from the film. “You see the Nazi platform in the early 1930s and what was actually put out there … and you look at it compared to, like, the DNC platform of today, and you’re saying, man, those things are awfully similar, to a point where it’s actually scary.”

Frum’s piece is worth reading. Frum writes that resentment has become a central theme in D’Souza’s work, noting, “The desire to wipe the smirk off the condescending face of some resented critics—to expose them, diminish them, hurt them—is that not the mainspring for so much of the pro-Trump political movement?”

Frum does make clear that D’Souza’s decline into rabid right-wing punditry started long before Trump arrived on the political scene, citing D’Souza’s 2007 book “The Enemy at Home,” which said that People For the American Way and other groups on the “cultural left” were “responsible for causing 9/11.” More recently, writes Frum, even as D’Souza “published books attributing all American racism to ‘the Democrats,’ his own writing seemed gripped by an ever less controlled and concealed racial animus”—an animus that Frum says “shines even more brightly through the pages of ‘Death of a Nation,’” D’Souza’s most recent book.

That “racial animus” was also evident in “America,” the D’Souza book that was turned into a movie. As RWW has noted:

In the book version of “America,” D’Souza said it was “unwise and unnecessary” for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to outlaw discrimination by private businesses. While promoting the movie, he charged that teaching students about things like the founding fathers owning slaves was “teaching our young people to hate America.” D’Souza said in the book that racism isn’t holding people back in America.  “The reason blacks remain so far behind whites, however, has very little to do with racism,” he wrote. “It has to do with African American cultural backwardness.”

Right Wing Watch has extensively covered D’Souza’s propagandizing over the years. His over-the-top attacks on President Barack Obama and his promotion of the most divisive and inflammatory rhetoric—like the “common thread” between ISIS and Ferguson protesters—have earned him millions and made him plenty of fans on the far right. After President Trump pardoned D’Souza for his campaign finance conviction, we noted that “well before Trump entered the presidential race, D’Souza helped dig and fill the deep well of paranoia and resentment that Trump tapped as a candidate and continues to wallow in as president.”