This was the column that made the balloons drop as the millionth time some wingnut said liberalism was like 1984 Farm. I haven't written about Stephens too much here, but in the late campaign he took a Trump-is-the-new-Obama tack beloved of idiots, which probably convinced the Times that he was one of those sensible conservatives like Brooks and Douthat whom, after the Trumpian deluge, they can use like sourdough starter to create a new neoliberalconservatism.
UPDATE. Maybe this is one of those whatchamacallits, "inflection points" I think they call them, where the wingnuts suddenly want to be recognized as anti-Trump, just like in the old days. There was Jonah Goldberg's pathetic effort yesterday, and today, perhaps recognizing what a botch their legacy pledge made of it, National Review has gotten "a politics writer for MTV" to pitch in "What If There Is No Such Thing as ‘Trumpism’?" The article suggests that because Trump "at once could claim a purported allegiance to Evangelical Christianity and wave a rainbow flag at a rally," and other such conundrums, he's not a Real Conservative. The author misses, or pretends not to notice (who knows? Like I could divine the motivations of a "politics writer for MTV" who thinks publishing at National Review is a good move!), that 1.) the Republicans at the Cleveland convention, who were not significantly different from those at previous GOP quadrennials, cheered these alleged contradictions lustily, and 2.) they and 95% of conservatives cheered because they knew Trump would deliver the things they really want: tax breaks for the rich and Muslim-bashing.
Anyway, as the speed with which they all ran to heel when Trumpy dropped a bomb shows, these cowboys will fall back in line as soon as he shovels big money to the fat cats. That's why he's making them wait for it -- it's his storied showmanship: he knows it'll come off better if he builds up some tension first. (They still know it's coming, but if there's one thing these guys are good at, it's the willing suspension of disbelief.)