The best nuggets from the Charlie Sykes book.

Charlie Sykes, the former czar of Wisconsin right wing media who now lives in a state of self-imposed exile, has finally released his long-promoted book on the rise of Trump – the commentator’s central reason for galloping out of the conservative pastures he helped to tend. While there’s a lot of dry grass in the book about William F. Buckley and the National Review and slow generational changes in the conservative movement, there are also a few prairie flowers (outlined below) worth enjoying.

Sykes now thinks that, had the type of conservative media he helped create existed during the Reagan era, it may have encumbered that administration. It “may be that the lack of a raucous Right media during the 1980s actually gave Reagan the space for maneuver and ideological flexibility that his successors would not enjoy.”

During the Republican National Convention in July 2016, Ann Coulter “bet me $100 that Trump would get a larger percentage of the African American vote than any GOP nominee since Richard Nixon. I never collected.”

According to an unnamed Republican government official, the fine institution of Politifact, the fact-checking series carried by the Journal Sentinel and other newspapers around the country, has “become a joke. Nobody gives a shit anymore.”

Leading up to the 2016 election, rhetoric coming from some Republican voters alarmed Sykes, including flirtations with the idea of a new Civil War. “It was, of course, one thing to oppose the implementation of Obamacare state exchanges and quite another thing to begin channeling your inner John C. Calhoun and embrace the rhetoric of the 1830s.”

The last election more or less ruined Sykes’ opinion of the provocative Coulter, whom he accused of “trafficking in the grossest of racial stereotypes, and I should have called her on it more forcefully.”

When one of Sykes’ loyal listeners (and email buddies) at WTMJ started down the path of conspiracy theories and alleging “fake news” in 2016, the popular host sent him a confrontational email: “You are better than this.”

The climax of the book is a list of prescriptions for his fellow conservatives, who need to “address the legitimate grievances that buoyed Trump with the white working class, but find a way to separate them from the toxic elements of Trumpism, including its authoritarianism, racism, misogyny and isolationism.”

And while looking to the future of the right wing, Sykes isn’t exactly optimistic. “The appeasement of Trump may have alienated Hispanics, Asian Americans, Muslim Americans, African Americans and women for a generation.”

‘Memorable Quotes’ appears in the February 2018 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find it on newsstands beginning January 29, or buy a copy at

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