Conservative in the Wilderness
Then-candidate Donald Trump makes a speech at a campaign rally on March 5, 2016, in Wichita, Kansas.
J Pat Carter/Getty Images
Charlie Sykes was a right-wing radio star. Then Trump won.
For more than two decades, Charlie Sykes was one of the leading conservative voices on Wisconsin talk radio. But in 2016, he became alarmed by the rise of Donald Trump, and even more alarmed when his audience seemed to be much more Trumpian than he ever thought possible. Now, after leaving the world of right-wing talk, he has written a new book, How The Right Lost Its Mind, in which he seeks to explain how nativism and racism took over the Republican Party. (It’s quite a departure from one of his previous books, A Nation of Moochers: America’s Addiction to Getting Something for Nothing; he also once referred to Michelle Obama as a “mooch.”)
While harshly critical of many aspects of the GOP’s post-Reagan existence, Sykes—now a contributor at MSNBC—nevertheless remains a staunch conservative. I spoke by phone with him several times last week. During the course of our conversations, which have been edited and condensed for clarity, we discussed how the GOP has used racism in the past, why Trump is nonetheless different than other Republicans, and why Sykes said what he did about Michelle Obama.