Yet American conservatives still adamantly supported the nation's traditional investigatory, intelligence, and military agencies â€“ especially when they came under budgetary or cultural attacks.
Not so much anymore.
For the first time in memory, conservatives now connect the FBI hierarchy with bureaucratic bloat, political bias, and even illegality.
In the last five years, the FBI was mostly in the news for the checkered careers of James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Robert Mueller, Lisa Page, and Peter Strzok. Add in the criminality of convicted FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith.
The colossal FBI-driven "Russian collusion" hoax was marked by the leaking of confidential FBI memos, forged documents, improper surveillance, and serial disinformation.
Prior heads of the CIA and FBI, as well as the director of national intelligence, have at times either not told the truth under oath or claimed amnesia, without legal repercussions.
Mention the military to conservative Americans these days, and they unfortunately associate its leadership with the disastrous flight from Afghanistan. Few, if any, high-ranking officers have yet taken responsibility â€“ much less resigned â€“ for the worst military fiasco of the last half-century.
Instead, President Joe Biden and the top generals traded charges that the other was responsible for the calamity. Or both insisted the abject flight was a logistical masterpiece.
Never in U.S. history have so many retired four-star admirals and generals disparaged their president with charges of being either a traitor, a liar, a fascist, or a virtual Nazi, as occurred during the last administration.
Never has the proper advisory role of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff been so brazenly usurped and contorted.
Never has the secretary of defense promised he would ferret out alleged "white supremacists," without providing any evidence whatsoever of their supposedly ubiquitous presence and dangerous conspiracies.
Conservatives have always been amused by the liberal biases of the old network news and big-city print media. But they grudgingly admitted that many liberal journalists of the last century were mostly professionals. News divisions mostly reported the news rather than simply made it up.
Not so now with Big Tech and 21stt-century "woke" journalism. Few reporters have yet offered apologies for helping hatch and spread the Russian collusion hoax that paralyzed the country for three years.
Few have admitted culpability for reporting as fact the various fantasies surrounding the Duke Lacrosse team's prosecution or the Covington Catholic kids deception.
Many in the media ran uncritically with the Jussie Smollett concoction and the "hands-up-don't shoot" Ferguson distortions. Journalists promulgated misinformation about the "white Hispanic" George Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin encounter, and doctored photos and edited tapes.
They invented the myth of the supposedly brilliant â€“ but now utterly disgraced former Governor Andrew Cuomo â€“ as well as the "Russian disinformation" yarn that allegedly accounted for the missing Hunter Biden laptop.
Most recently, reporters spread serial untruths surrounding the Kyle Rittenhouse trial.
For much of 2020 to even suggest that the Wuhan Institute of Virology may have played a role in the birth and spread of the COVID-19 earned media derision.
Few reporters suggested that federal health agencies such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases might be disseminating contradictory or even inaccurate information about the pandemic. To believe this was happening instead earned condemnation in the media as if one were some conspiracy theorist or nut.
Rarely have communication industries â€“ veritable utilities in the public domain â€“ so asymmetrically censored speech and applied such one-sided standards of suppressing free expression.
Conservatives used to oppose regulating larger corporations. Now, ironically, most are calling for regulating and breaking up multibillion-dollar social media monopolies and conglomerates that suppress as much as transmit private communications.
The American criminal justice system also used to earn the respect of conservatives. Prosecuting attorneys, police chiefs, and big-city mayors were seen as custodians of the public order. They were entrusted to keep the peace, to prevent and investigate crime, and to arrest and prosecute criminals.
Again, not so much now.
After 120 days of mostly unchecked riot, arson, looting, and violent protests during the summer of 2020, the public lost confidence in their public safety agencies.
District attorneys in several major cities â€“ Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and St. Louis â€“ have often predicated prosecuting crimes on the basis of ideology, race, and careerism.
In the current crime wave, brazen lawbreakers enjoy de facto immunity. Mass looting goes unpunished. Indictments are often aimed as much against those who defend themselves as against criminals who attack the innocent.
Conservatives now have lost their former traditional confidence in the administration of justice, in the intelligence and investigatory agencies, in the nation's military leadership, in the media, and the criminal justice system.
No one yet knows what the effect will be of half the country losing faith in the very pillars of American civilization.
( Hanson's latest book is "The Dying Citizen" from Basic Books. Buy it in hardcover at a 31% discount! by clicking here or order in KINDLE edition at a 40% discount by clicking here. Sales help fund JWR.)