Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Two Kinds of Principled Punditry

 

Jonah Goldberg of the Los Angeles Times.spade and skull Banner2For someone who has long since assumed Trump was an inevitable disaster, a silver lining of this awful year has been the ability to watch a presidential election without a dog in the fight. Doing so has made plain that there is substantial rot on our side that needs to be repaired, a fact noted by a great many people who have had a great many good ideas. This is my first post on Ricochet as a new member, which I decided to become because Ricochet seems like the ideal place to have and contribute to those arguments.

One argument that has been incredibly frustrating to witness between NeverTrump and Trump-supporting conservatives has been the fighting over the ethics of highlighting Trump’s awfulness as a commentator, or really anyone writing or speaking in public fora. What has made it frustrating is that the two sides seem to also have different assumptions about the nature of commentating, which has made the dispute a multidimensional one that few have acknowledged as such.

The two people who have been clearest about this second-axis dispute have been Jonah Goldberg and Ace of Spades, so I have chosen to name the two views of punditry after them. (Note: I commit in advance to apologizing to either or both if they object to my characterization of their views and renaming the schools of thought accordingly). Here they are, in their own words:

Jonah Goldberg, July 2nd:

In 2012, I wrote a column, “The Case for Mitt Romney.” In it, I tried to reassure conservatives who worried — understandably — that Romney wasn’t an authentic conservative. It is absolutely true that if you replace “Romney” with “Trump” it reads like a perfectly serviceable — even entertaining — argument for supporting the 2016 presumptive nominee. Some guy named Edmund Kozak at Laura Ingraham’s website read it and now shouts “Hypocrite!” in my direction. I get it. What Kozak doesn’t get is that I don’t see Trump the same way he does, or the way I saw Mitt Romney.

If John Kasich or any — and I mean any — of the other 16 candidates had won the nomination, I’d probably have written “The Case for John Kasich” by now. If I refused to do that, I would indeed be a hypocrite — or at least inconsistent (hypocrisy is a much misused word). Note: I can’t stand Kasich. But he meets my own minimal requirements for support. Trump, simply, doesn’t. [Lengthy list of reasons]

Kozak and many others either disagree with me on these points or they simply don’t care. If it’s the former, we have some substantial disagreements about what I think are obvious facts. If it’s the latter, then I take our disagreement as a badge of honor. If Roger Simon wants to describe that as “moral narcissism,” so be it. But, there’s a practical point here too. I plan on being in this line of work for a while longer. In the future, I want to be able to continue to say character and ideas matter without someone shouting, “Oh yeah, then why did you support Donald Trump?” […]

And that brings me back to Victor’s dilemma. He asks, “What is the rationale of trashing both [Clinton and Trump], other than a sort of detached depression that does not wear well in daily doses?” […] But the answer is staring him in the face: Because we’re supposed to tell the truth. I will say Hillary is corrupt, deceitful, and unqualified and I will say likewise about Trump — because that’s my job.

Ace, July 21st:

Sorry, I was on Twitter. I felt it was necessary to dispel the widely-held myth, adored by #NeverTrumpers, that somehow attacking Trump relentlessly does not aid Hillary Clinton, and that they are not choosing Hillary Clinton by choosing to be NeverTrump.

All choices have consequences. By supporting Trump, I am responsible for the consequences of a Trump victory — and those consequences could indeed be dire.

But a childish morally-unserious fantasy has infected the #NeverTrump not-so-intellgentsia, that they can agitate for Hillary Clinton — by relentlessly disparaging Trump — and somehow, they are not responsible for the consequences of the Hillary presidency they are bucking for. […]

I ask people: When you knocked Obama in 2012, and wrote posts and comments noting his flaws, did you think you were doing nothing to improve Mitt Romney’s chances of winning the presidency?

If so– why the [expletive] did you bother?

Of course, this is silly; everyone knows that when one buys ads attacking a candidate, one is helping that candidate’s opponent win.

The Ace School

“An Ambassador is as an honest man, sent to lie abroad for the good of his country,” is the famous quip by the otherwise obscure Sir Henry Wotton. The Ace conception of punditry is analogous, which we might define as a clever debater, sent to spin on TV for the good of his party. This view has the pundit as essentially engaged in a get-out-the-vote operation. There are a substantial number of voters who will stay home if they feel the situation is hopeless — *cough* Florida panhandle, 2000, *cough* — another group of voters who have misgivings about the character of “their” candidate, and yet another who will, for inexplicable reasons, vote for the candidate they feel is a winner. It is to these groups of voters that the Ace pundit is not so much speaking but, rather, marketing his message: “Our guy is a stand-up, straight-shooter! He’s winning, but still needs your vote! Come join the winning team!” The influence such a pundit does or does not have is a function of how well they make that sales pitch.

This view of punditry implies a highly cynical view of politics (but one with an uncomfortable amount of accuracy). According to it, voters need to be tricked into acting in their own interests, all politicians are scumbags varying only in which circle of hell they will spend eternity, and the silly twits who want it to be otherwise need to be lied to so they can go vote with a clean conscience. As distasteful as this view is, it is important to note that it is not amoral. On the contrary, it assumes that there are meaningful differences in the degree of rottenness among politicians and that choosing the less-worse is a positive good. It is akin to the Kissinger view of foreign relations. Nonetheless, in this conception the actual job of a pundit remains an inherently shady and disreputable one; at best sophistry and at worst outright dishonesty.

The Goldberg School

The other view of punditry — espoused most clearly by Jonah Goldberg — is that the primary audience to which a pundit speaks is the Deep State of donors, consultants, staffers, local bigwigs, and activists that surrounds each party and makes most of the important decisions. The functional purpose of speaking to this group is coordination. Each party’s Deep State is informal, dispersed, and comprises many people for whom politics is not their day job. Yet in order to function properly, they need to coalesce around specific candidates, specific pieces of policy, and prioritize their goals. This function used to be accomplished within the formal party structure, but for reasons best left to Jay Cost to explain, that no longer happens. It is an especially difficult function when the party is out of power. A party out of power is an organization with a thousand consiglieres and no don, but that doesn’t mean the job of consigliere isn’t an important one.

To the extent such punditry speaks to the general public, or the small slice that pays close attention to national affairs, it is entertainment akin to sports analysis; i.e., by speaking to them as if they are party insiders, the audience gets the vicarious illusion of actually being so. The color announcer on a sports broadcast may provide all manner of analysis and advice ostensibly for the teams involved. Not a single word of it will affect anything that subsequently transpires on the field.

The Ugly Choice and its Consequences

Count this distinction as yet another split the candidacy of Donald Trump has wedged from a crack to a crevasse. In an ordinary candidacy the same person can engage in both sorts of punditry without psyche-rending cognitive dissonance. Making the “Good Guy / We’re Winning” pitch for Bush, McCain, or Romney wasn’t gaslighting, even if the “we’re winning” part wasn’t always quite true. The problem Trump has created is that the standard pitch of an Ace pundit is so transparently false that anyone who can make it with a straight face is either so deluded or such a good liar that it would be foolhardy to take their advice seriously in the future if one is invested in the success of either the Republican party or the conservative movement. This year, a pundit has to choose: Be a good soldier for the party to the detriment of his respectability, or risk eviction from the party while hoping that sometime in the future the party’s Deep State will come to its senses and listen to his counsel. Being a distinction newly forced into the open, almost no one seems to have openly dealt with all the logical consequences of this choice.

First, neither view of punditry is exclusive. Both versions exist, and both need to exist. Ace’s exasperation at NeverTrump pundits involves the assumption that all punditry is Ace punditry, and those refusing to make the pitch are in some way not doing their jobs — Know your place, corporal! It doesn’t matter if the LT gave you a stupid order that will get half the platoon killed; salute him and get on with it — without any obvious recognition that anyone who fancies himself a Goldberg pundit will take it as a deep personal insult. It’s an accusation of hackery. If one feels the insult is deserved, then fine (that is exactly why Twitter exists), but don’t go making it unintentionally.

On the flip side, a Goldberg pundit who assumes all punditry ought to be the high-minded type is displaying a naiveté incompatible with analyzing real-world politics. Parties need good-soldier, Ace-style pundits for the same reason companies need marketing departments. There’s too much TV airtime and too much Facebooking deadtime for all of it to be filled with cogency and subordinate clauses. Hillary knows what the score is. She employs a brigade-sized force of online hacks to fill people’s feeds with talking points. As long as some people respond to the hackishly inane, you can’t cede the space to the competition. It is entirely true that such people are not to be entrusted with officers’ commissions, but neither should they star in the post-Trump show trials. Those should be reserved only for those with private cabins on the Trump Train.

A second consequence is one which Ace repeatedly (and correctly) hammers and many Goldberg pundits are uncomfortable admitting openly: Any professional commentator who laid down the NeverTrump gauntlet and stuck to it has, until November 9th, an alignment of professional interest with Hillary Clinton and diametrically opposed professional interest to the Republican Party’s nominee for President of the United States. This is plain fact. Even if one’s opposition to Trump was purely tactical in the sense of being predicated on the prediction he would lose disastrously, then it is in one’s interest that said disastrous loss actually come to pass now that the die is cast. It is always in the interest of a pundit to be proven right. That’s how one acquires credibility, the coin of the pundit realm. What hurts one’s credibility is denying this reality.

A Goldberg pundit should furthermore realize that continuously rehashing the “Trump is a loser” prediction is saying the exact same thing their Ace pundit counterparts on the other side would say, and that one is, in finance-lingo, “talking your book.” If one is surprised at receiving hostile reactions to saying the exact same thing as the hack segment of Democratic punditry or of facing accusations of being “on her side,” then one has not digested the reality that, as far as interests are aligned, it’s true.

The most common rejoinder from Goldberg pundits to this situation is that the alignment of interests is of no practical consequence. For those on the Ace side of the dispute, it is important to note that this is entirely consistent with the Goldberg theory of punditry. When the silent primary is long since past and the scrum of a general election is in full swing, the Goldberg pundit’s job is mostly over and done. All that remains for such a pundit is the evergreen meta-work of policing the honesty of news coverage. If one is calling out such a pundit for “betrayal,” then one is not granting them the assumption of good faith on an issue as central as what they think their job is. To assume bad faith in someone’s description of their own job is, again, a major personal insult. Don’t make those lightly, and don’t make them to people whom you consider friends.

Furthermore, it is wrong to insist that NeverTrumpers all “support Hillary” or are being mendacious by not “admitting” so. Some indeed do, and some might, in a gun-to-your-head-Trump-or-Clinton situation, vote Trump. However the election is not actually a gun-to-your-head binary choice. As a matter of good public choice theory, sitting out or voting third party (or advocating either) is entirely defensible as part of a long-term strategy. The great irony of voting coalitions is that the least reliable members have the most influence. This is part of the story of what has happened with evangelical voters and the GOP. Several million stayed home rather than vote for the DWI candidate in 2000. They were rewarded with major influence on Bush’s first term, in order to motivate them four years hence. As soon as the GOP pegged them as reliable voters, it immediately began treating them the way the Democratic Party treats African-Americans: as a hostage constituency that will settle for signals instead of substance. Influence can only be re-established with credibility, and credibility can only be re-established by action. An election where “your” candidate is openly contemptuous of you and is most likely a loser anyway is the ideal time to protest vote.

A third consequence of splitting punditry into Ace and Goldberg divisions is acknowledging that everyone in the Goldberg division is indeed a part of the GOP’s Deep State. No one wants to be “establishment” or “elite” in The Year of Populist Rage, and such terms have been warped and contorted to all manner of bizarre and silly meanings, but let’s not kid ourselves about the reality that there is such a thing and it needs a name. “Deep State” is better than “establishment” because “establishment” implies vastly more organization, structure, and formality than actually exists. It’s preferable to “elite” because it does not imply incomes, lifestyles, attitudes, or powers many Deep State members don’t actually have. Let’s propose an obnoxiously recursive definition of a party’s Deep State: If your words routinely reach the eyes or ears of multiple people you would deem members of the Deep State, then you yourself are a member as well. It doesn’t matter if you don’t ride the Acela. It doesn’t matter if your kids will have to take loans for college. If you have a literary agent and a speaking event agent, then you’re part of it, hands down. Self-effacing modesty is a virtue, insincere modesty is good manners, but in one way or another everyone who is part of the Deep State should be honest with themselves about that fact. “I’m not the Establishment!” has been the first, tenth, and last refuge of the irresponsible for the past twelve months, and responsibility is something of which the GOP’s Deep State will need much in the upcoming twelve.

For those on the Ace side grinning at the thought of NeverTrump pundits raising their hands to accept the dreaded establishment label, have some empathy for the truly awful situation they have within the Deep State. They have influence but not power, and they are currently stuck with responsibility for a course of action they advocated strongly against (not just Trump, but much of the situation that led to Trump as well). It is analogous to someone in corporate accounting who blows the whistle on shenanigans through the proper channels, is completely ignored, and whose reward for trying to do the right thing is getting his 401k stock match wiped out along with everyone else’s and then having to make the “No really! I blew the whistle!” claim when future employers give the stink eye to that line on his resume.

“Virtue signaling” is a much abused and misused term these days, but it is the absolutely correct response of a NeverTrump pundit this year. Those on the Ace side of the dispute (and Ace himself) love to use this phrase pejoratively, under the assumption that such behavior is inherently vain and useless. It is neither. Virtue signaling is indeed vain when the audience for the signal is oneself, or when the signal is made in lieu of tangible action that would actually be virtuous, but that does not apply to the situation here. The virtue signaling of a NeverTrump pundit has two distinct and important audiences: 1) The rest of the GOP Deep State that, come November 9th, will have to take account of how it is they lost the most winnable presidential race in a generation; and 2) independent and Latino voters with conservative instincts whom Donald Trump is currently alienating from the Republican party, yet whom the Republican party needs if is to have a governing coalition and thus to whom it will need credible messengers in the future. Having only influence rather than power, there’s nothing much for a NeverTrump pundit to do except to signal this is not my fault in Vegas-bright, flashing signage to those audiences.

If you’re on the Ace side of this dispute, do not hate them for this. Come November 9th, you’ll realize you need them.

There are 284 comments.

  1. Lazy_Millennial Member

    Welcome to Ricochet, excellent first post!

    matt.corbett: A second consequence is one which Ace repeatedly (and correctly) hammers and many Goldberg pundits are uncomfortable admitting openly: Any professional commentator who laid down the NeverTrump gauntlet and stuck to it has, until November 9th, an alignment of professional interest with Hillary Clinton and diametrically opposed professional interest to the Republican Party’s nominee for President of the United States. This is plain fact. Even if one’s opposition to Trump was purely tactical in the sense of being predicated on the prediction he would lose disastrously,

    I disagree here: if you’re NeverTrump because you think he’ll lose, then obviously you have a (small) professional interest in seeing Trump lose. If you’re NeverTrump because you think he’d be a terrible President, however, your small professional interest is with him being a terrible President if elected. Many of the NeverTrump pundits have also predicted Clinton will be a terrible President.

    • #1
    • September 1, 2016, at 2:07 PM PDT
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  2. TKC1101 Inactive

    Ace is right. Nice article. Welcome to Ricochet.

    You left out a group for your post loss 11/9 scenario.

    Trump supporters who will think the GOP screwed them over. Again.

    It fascinates me how the #Never crowd think all will revert to normal after the election. Welcome to #Neverland- sail on till morning.

    • #2
    • September 1, 2016, at 2:44 PM PDT
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  3. Man With the Axe Member

    I don’t disagree with your dichotomy. But I didn’t see a description of some important nevertrumpers.

    Ben Shapiro and Andrew Klavan have said they won’t vote for Trump (at this point in time). But what they do is they criticize Trump when he deserves to be criticized and they praise him when he deserves praise. Shapiro goes so far as to have a “Good Trump, Bad Trump” segment of his podcast.

    When I watch certain pundits, such as Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and their ilk, I don’t believe anything they have to say. They are not in business to point out the truth. (Same for pretty much every commentator on ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, or MSNBC for the same reason but in the opposite direction.) But I think Jonah Goldberg, Krauthammer, Shapiro, and Klavan are going to speak the truth whichever way it points. They will criticize Hillary all day long. I can’t remember the last time any of them gave her credit for anything, though maybe they did and I missed it.

    For a long time the truth (as I see it) was that Trump deserved about 90% criticism and 10% praise. Others will disagree. Now, “New Trump” is doing much better, maybe 30% C to 70% P. Maybe even better than that. And that’s what I’m seeing from the Jonah Goldberg pundits. The truth as they see it.

    • #3
    • September 1, 2016, at 3:19 PM PDT
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  4. TKC1101 Inactive

    Man With the Axe:But I think Jonah Goldberg, Krauthammer, Shapiro, and Klavan are going to speak the truth whichever way it points. They will criticize Hillary all day long. I can’t remember the last time any of them gave her credit for anything, though maybe they did and I missed it.

    For a long time the truth (as I see it) was that Trump deserved about 90% criticism and 10% praise. Others will disagree. Now, “New Trump” is doing much better, maybe 30% C to 70% P. Maybe even better than that. And that’s what I’m seeing from the Jonah Goldberg pundits. The truth as they see it.

    When the GOP nominated a man of terrible personal character on his domestic relations, involved in scandals while in office, with a hot temper and short fuse who trashed his own party on a regular basis to chase media and almost zero private sector experience other than marrying money, I did not see any of those esteemed pundits write day after day how awful he was once he became the GOP nominee. They lined up and either shut up or eked out what praise they could during the campaign.

    We had to throw up on our way to the polls, hold our nose and vote.

    He lost to a beatable candidate by an ego move during the financial crisis.

    We lined up and took it.

    Tell your principled pundits they held their fire on McCain, they used up their Moral Principle card last time. Now they are just in the tank for Hillary.

    • #4
    • September 1, 2016, at 3:57 PM PDT
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  5. Dave Sussman Contributor

    matt.corbett: Doing so has made plain that there is substantial rot on our side that needs to be repaired, a fact noted by a great many people who have had a great many good ideas.

    Matt, I second others here, great first post. There’s enough red meat here for several posts and countless comments. Get out your umbrella.

    Without getting into the weeds on this, I do agree that punditry on the right, both in publications and news programs will need a structural shift and hopefully a complete overhaul. Reading and watching cheerleaders, against or for, has become boring and only added to the decline of civility in our culture.

    Welcome aboard!

    • #5
    • September 1, 2016, at 3:58 PM PDT
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  6. Man With the Axe Member

    TKC1101:…I did not see any of those esteemed pundits write day after day how awful he [John McCain] was once he became the GOP nominee. They lined up and either shut up or eked out what praise they could during the campaign.

    If you are claiming that support (or lack thereof) by these pundits for McCain after he was nominated in 2008 is analogous to the same for Trump in 2016, I have to disagree. The analogy does not hold based on the situation that existed at that time compared to today.

    The pundits you decry did not oppose McCain tooth and nail until he was nominated and then suddenly find acceptance for him, as you put it “eke out what praise they could.” They admired him in various degrees before he was nominated. They did not see him as awful, as you did. So, just because your view of McCain is that he was awful because of the personal failings you list, doesn’t mean that these pundits agreed with you and, thus, they are not being inconsistent. Rather, they pretty much all saw McCain as a serious candidate with positive and negative attributes and views, and then, when he was nominated, saw him as clearly preferable to Obama.

    They see Trump differently.

    The case with Trump is completely different. None of these pundits saw Trump as a serious candidate at the outset, and Trump has given them many reasons since to think even less of him.

    • #6
    • September 1, 2016, at 5:21 PM PDT
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  7. tigerlily Member

    Welcome Matt. Excellent (and brave topic for a) first post. Pundits who are either unwilling or unable to acknowledge flaws in candidates they support lose credibility in my eyes.

    • #7
    • September 1, 2016, at 5:30 PM PDT
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  8. TKC1101 Inactive

    Man With the Axe: They did not see him as awful, as you did

    I guess they did not mean it every time he trashed the GOP on the media, end runned the leadership to side with the dems and so forth. We seem to remember this era differently.

    • #8
    • September 1, 2016, at 6:02 PM PDT
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  9. Midget Faded Rattlesnake Contributor

    matt.corbett: As a matter of good public choice theory, sitting out or voting third party (or advocating either) is entirely defensible as part of a long-term strategy. The great paradox of voting coalitions is that the least reliable members have the most influence… Influence can only be re-established with credibility, and credibility can only be re-established by action. An election where “your” candidate is openly contemptuous of you and is most likely a loser anyway is the ideal time to protest vote.

    Ah, public choice! I like you already, matt.

    matt.corbett: This view has the pundit as essentially engaged in a get-out-the-vote operation… marketing the message, “Our guy is a stand-up, straight-shooter! He’s winning, but still needs your vote! Come join the winning team!”

    I particularly enjoyed this description.

    • #9
    • September 1, 2016, at 7:35 PM PDT
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  10. Z in MT Inactive

    TKC1101:

    Man With the Axe: They did not see him as awful, as you did

    I guess they did not mean it every time he trashed the GOP on the media, end runned the leadership to side with the dems and so forth. We seem to remember this era differently.

    TKC,

    As others have said. It’s a threshold question. Did I like McCain? No. Did I disagree with many of his policy preferences like McCain-Feingold? Yes. Did his heroism in the Hanoi Hilton earn him lots of Mulligans for his divorces later in life? Probably. Did he clear the threshold of being a president? Yes.

    • #10
    • September 1, 2016, at 10:08 PM PDT
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  11. TKC1101 Inactive

    Z in MT: Did he clear the threshold of being a president? Yes.

    We will not ever agree on that, and yet, I voted for him as the lesser of two evils.

    I feel distinctly welched on for being a good soldier on that one.

    • #11
    • September 1, 2016, at 10:25 PM PDT
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  12. Lance Member
    Lance Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    matt.corbett:Jonah Goldberg of the Los Angeles Times.spade and skull Banner2The Goldberg School

    The other view of punditry — espoused most clearly by Jonah Goldberg — is that the primary audience to which a pundit speaks is the Deep State of donors, consultants, staffers, local bigwigs, and activists that surrounds each party and makes most of the important decisions. The functional purpose of speaking to this group is coordination. Each party’s Deep State is informal, dispersed, and comprises many people for whom politics is not their day job. Yet in order to function properly, they need to coalesce around specific candidates, specific pieces of policy, and prioritize their goals.

    I wonder what Jonah would think of such a characterization? Does he actually espouse it, or is it your impression of how and by whom his commentary is consumed?

    • #12
    • September 2, 2016, at 7:41 AM PDT
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  13. Richard Fulmer Member

    It seems to me that there are three takes on Trump that honest, principled people can take:

    1. He’s awful, but less awful than Hillary, so I’ll reluctantly pull the lever for Trump
    2. He’s even more awful than Hillary, so I’ll reluctantly pull the lever for Hillary
    3. Both he and Hillary are awful and it’s impossible to decide which is worse, so I can’t pull the lever for either

    I’m either a 1 or a 3. Trump has had a couple of good weeks, so it’s looking more and more possible that he’s less awful than Hillary. It appears that he’s actually listening to his advisors and acting on their advice. Let’s see if he can keep it up until election day. Granted, a couple of months of self-discipline hardly outweighs 70 years of self-indulgence and doesn’t prove that he can retain his self-control for a full four-year term, but at this point, we’re clutching at straws.

    • #13
    • September 2, 2016, at 7:50 AM PDT
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  14. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    Man With the Axe:When I watch certain pundits, such as Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and their ilk, I don’t believe anything they have to say. They are not in business to point out the truth. (Same for pretty much every commentator on ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, or MSNBC for the same reason but in the opposite direction.) But I think Jonah Goldberg, Krauthammer, Shapiro, and Klavan are going to speak the truth whichever way it points. They will criticize Hillary all day long. I can’t remember the last time any of them gave her credit for anything, though maybe they did and I missed it.

    In fairness, there are plenty of voices on the pro-Trump side who are also quite honest and open about their positions. Dennis Prager and Peter are both quite open about Trump’s shortcomings and errors, but (rightly) praise him where they see fit. Their conclusions are different than mine, but no matter.

    • #14
    • September 2, 2016, at 7:52 AM PDT
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  15. Glenn Inactive

    The problem with Trump is the Hoover factor. Those who believe in Free Enterprise and limited government had to put up with the Hoover Factor from the left and their favorite historians. Both use Hoover as an example of the failure of a limited government response of economic downturns. As we now know from books like Amity Shlaes “The Forgotten Man” or Burt Folsom’s “New Deal or Raw Deal”, we see that Hoover response was more like FDR and Calvin Coolidge . It does not matter, the Meme is set. Those who believe in limited government will be saddled with Trump for the next 30-40 years.

    • #15
    • September 2, 2016, at 7:52 AM PDT
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  16. Kevin Creighton Contributor

    I look at everything written in favor of Never Trump as an attempt to justify behavior that would be unacceptable if attempted by Trump and Trump supporters.

    Remember at the very first debate, when every single candidate except Trump raised their hand and vowed to support the eventual Republican nominee?

    Trump is now the Republican nominee. Were the candidates who now don’t support the nominee lying back then (using the same words that Lileks used this week to describe Trump’s actions) when they raised their hands?

    Dennis Prager once said that the primary difference between the right and the left is that the right holds themselves to a higher standard, and the left believes “what is, is right”. Either we hold ourselves to the same standards we expect from others, or we lose what it means to be conservatives.

    • #16
    • September 2, 2016, at 7:54 AM PDT
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  17. Joseph Stanko Member
    Joseph Stanko Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Great post, and welcome!

    I agree entirely with Jonah on this one, and for me the crucial distinction comes down to:

    that they can agitate for Hillary Clinton — by relentlessly disparaging Trump

    vs:

    Because we’re supposed to tell the truth.

    If a pundit consistently spreads lies, rumors, and innuendo “disparaging” Trump then he is effectively agitating for Hillary, I agree. If the pundit writes negative things about Trump that are true, he is merely doing his job as an objective journalist and/or commentator.

    • #17
    • September 2, 2016, at 7:54 AM PDT
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  18. Ontheleftcoast Member

    matt.corbett: This year, a pundit has to choose: Be a good soldier for the party to the detriment of his respectability, or risk eviction from the party while hoping that sometime in the future the party’s Deep State will come to its senses and listen to his counsel. Being a distinction newly forced into the open, almost no one seems to have openly dealt with all the logical consequences of this choice.

    This is a false choice. The situation was correctly articulated by Bob Owens at Bearing Arms in a column on the false issue of “gun violence:”

    We have a simple choice ahead of us in November, my fellow Americans.

    We can stay home and not vote at all.

    We can make a third-party protest vote for candidates from the Libertarian Party or Green Party who seem to be a few cards short of a deck, and who don’t even espouse the views of the parties they claim to represent.

    We can hold our noses and vote for an erratic candidate whom the majority of Americans don’t like, but whom the media and Congress will keep in check once he’s elected President because they think he’s a clown, and then we can do better in 2020.

    [continued below]

    • #18
    • September 2, 2016, at 7:54 AM PDT
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  19. Ontheleftcoast Member

    [continued from #18]

    Or we can vote for the unindicted criminal Hillary Clinton, who sides with criminals, who will see a core constitutional right destroyed by proxy by driving the gun and ammunition industries out of business, and who exacerbate conditions causing gang violence to continue to surge—as generations of Chicago Democrats have done—as she lies about the real problem in order to seize power from the citizenry.

    I’m not asking for lifelong Democrats to become Republicans.

    I’m not asking liberals, moderates, independents, libertarians, or conservatives to vote for a candidate they despise.

    I am, however, convinced that Hillary Clinton is dangerously corrupt, and that her own repeated lies about the PLCAA, her targeting of the gun industry, and her calling America’s gun owners her “enemy” prove that she’s a threat to the future of the United States.

    I am asking each and every one of you to vote against Hillary Clinton like your very freedom depends upon it, because it does.

    Owens had previously laid out the reasons why this is not hyperbole. Yes, he is focusing on one issue that he knows something about. But that is how non-pundits often make their decisions about who to vote for. It’s not being a single issue voter, though for me the Second Amendment is a legitimate single issue.

    • #19
    • September 2, 2016, at 8:03 AM PDT
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  20. Jamie Lockett Inactive

    TKC1101:

    Z in MT: Did he clear the threshold of being a president? Yes.

    We will not ever agree on that, and yet, I voted for him as the lesser of two evils.

    I feel distinctly welched on for being a good soldier on that one.

    It is not the responsibility of others to make you feel better about your choices by violating their own consciences.

    • #20
    • September 2, 2016, at 8:04 AM PDT
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  21. Profile Photo Member

    Lance:

    matt.corbett:Jonah Goldberg of the Los Angeles Times.spade and skull Banner2The Goldberg School

    The other view of punditry — espoused most clearly by Jonah Goldberg — is that the primary audience to which a pundit speaks is the Deep State of donors, consultants, staffers, local bigwigs, and activists that surrounds each party and makes most of the important decisions. The functional purpose of speaking to this group is coordination. Each party’s Deep State is informal, dispersed, and comprises many people for whom politics is not their day job. Yet in order to function properly, they need to coalesce around specific candidates, specific pieces of policy, and prioritize their goals.

    I wonder what Jonah would think of such a characterization? Does he actually espouse it, or is it your impression of how and by whom his commentary is consumed?

    I’m not sure I understand this definition of “Deep State”. These are people who take an active interest in politics? As if people who don’t care about such things are reading Ace?

    • #21
    • September 2, 2016, at 8:06 AM PDT
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  22. Jamie Lockett Inactive

    A wonderful first post and I can’t wait for the next one. Any man that brings public choice theory into his political writing deserves to be heard!

    There is much that I agree with here, and some where I disagree – most NeverTrump pundits have put out reams of anti-Hillary stuff for years (ask @jameslileks about that), so I find it a problematic claim that they are defacto Hillary supporters. How would you classify NeverTrumpers who aren’t pundits? They have no connection to the “Deep State” but yet come to many of the same conclusions as Goldberg and in their on way try to influence those around them.

    • #22
    • September 2, 2016, at 8:08 AM PDT
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  23. Kevin Creighton Contributor

    Ontheleftcoast:

    matt.corbett: This year, a pundit has to choose: Be a good soldier for the party to the detriment of his respectability, or risk eviction from the party while hoping that sometime in the future the party’s Deep State will come to its senses and listen to his counsel. Being a distinction newly forced into the open, almost no one seems to have openly dealt with all the logical consequences of this choice.

    This is a false choice. The situation was correctly articulated by Bob Owens at Bearing Arms in a column on the false issue of “gun violence:”

    We have a simple choice ahead of us in November, my fellow Americans.

    We can stay home and not vote at all.

    We can make a third-party protest vote for candidates from the Libertarian Party or Green Party who seem to be a few cards short of a deck, and who don’t even espouse the views of the parties they claim to represent.

    We can hold our noses and vote for an erratic candidate whom the majority of Americans don’t like, but whom the media and Congress will keep in check once he’s elected President because they think he’s a clown, and then we can do better in 2020.

    [continued below]

    Bob is a good, dear friend. Believe me when I say that he had to be dragged, kicking and screaming and throwing things, on to the Trump bandwagon. He realized, as did I, that while I was/am profoundly disappointed in the fact that no one else could earn the nomination, there is no sitting this one out. Someone is going to be President, and saying “I will have no part in putting either one into the White House!” does not free you from the consequences of a Hillary Presidency. It rains on the just and the unjust, and it will be equally crappy for Trump supporters and Never Trumpers alike for the next 4-8 years if she wins.

    To those who say, ‘Yes, but Goldwater begat Reagan!’, might I remind you what happened in those intervening 16 years?

    Medicaid. Title IX. The EPA. The Department of Education. The 1974 Budget Act. 90% of what conservatives current oppose came into being between Goldwater and Reagan.

    Are we really that eager to double the causes we seek to oppose?

    • #23
    • September 2, 2016, at 8:09 AM PDT
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  24. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    An excellent post and a very hearty welcome to Matt for making me cheer, squirm, and then question some of my cheering. For example:

    matt.corbett:The great irony of voting coalitions is that the least reliable members have the most influence. This is part of the story of what has happened with evangelical voters and the GOP. Several million stayed home rather than vote for the DWI candidate in 2000. They were rewarded with major influence on Bush’s first term, in order to motivate them four years hence. As soon as the GOP pegged them as reliable voters, it immediately began treating them the way the Democratic Party treats African-Americans: as a hostage constituency that will settle for signals instead of substance. Influence can only be re-established with credibility, and credibility can only be re-established by action. An election where “your” candidate is openly contemptuous of you and is most likely a loser anyway is the ideal time to protest vote.

    A thousand times yes: once you signal that your vote for a candidate or party is locked-in, you’re asking to have your preferences (and self) taken for granted. This is, generally speaking, foolish and counterproductive. Donald Trump indeed could shoot someone on 5th avenue without losing lots of support.

    The uncomfortable flip-side to this is that signaling that one will never, under any circumstances vote for a candidate — as, indeed, I have done — also means that the rational decision for them is to write you off entirely. Donald Tump has no incentive to even try to court my vote as I’ve said (and meant) that it’s not up for the offering.

    In contrast, someone who (plausibly, if not truthfully) indicates that they are persuadable-but-not-committed has a much better chance of moving a candidate in his direction. This thought has been percolating through my mind for a while, but Paul Ryan likely played his hand here better than most during his “I’m just not ready” days, in which he forced Trump (even if just a little) to move toward him.

    • #24
    • September 2, 2016, at 8:10 AM PDT
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  25. HVTs Inactive

    It’s just not as complicated as some would have it. Goldberg-schmoldberg; Ace-smace. They don’t matter one wit to our actual political choice this year. That’s not being disrespectful to either. Both are enormously important to the topic, just not to your vote. That’s assuming, however, that like me you prioritize conservative political outcomes over non-conservative political outcomes.

    If you do, you will do everything in your power to get Trump elected over Clinton.

    It’s. That. Simple.

    Political reality is about probabilities. Trump is more likely to give conservatives something they are happy about then Clinton is. Notice I didn’t say Trump will give conservatives something to be happy about. He’s just more likely to.

    FWIW, I think it’s about a 40%-50% proposition that Trump will do something to tickle my conservative erogenous zone. Clinton is 100% certain to never, ever, not-even-once do anything that even remotely promotes a conservative outcome. But even if you disagree with my probability assessment, unless you think Clinton is more likely than Trump to do something helpful to conservatism, you have to help Trump defeat her.

    Again, this assumes you prioritize conservatism over other goals—specifically, over a goal like “help the GOP.” Personally, I don’t give a damn about the GOP except to the extent it’s useful in defeating anti-conservatives like Clinton.

    • #25
    • September 2, 2016, at 8:10 AM PDT
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  26. Jamie Lockett Inactive

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:

    Man With the Axe:When I watch certain pundits, such as Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and their ilk, I don’t believe anything they have to say. They are not in business to point out the truth. (Same for pretty much every commentator on ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, or MSNBC for the same reason but in the opposite direction.) But I think Jonah Goldberg, Krauthammer, Shapiro, and Klavan are going to speak the truth whichever way it points. They will criticize Hillary all day long. I can’t remember the last time any of them gave her credit for anything, though maybe they did and I missed it.

    In fairness, there are plenty of voices on the pro-Trump side who are also quite honest and open about their positions. Dennis Prager and Peter are both quite open about Trump’s shortcomings and errors, but (rightly) praise him where they see fit. Their conclusions are different than mine, but no matter.

    Likewise there are many NeverTrumpers who are also quite open about Trump’s praise worthiness such as Shapiro, Klavan and ahem

    • #26
    • September 2, 2016, at 8:10 AM PDT
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  27. Profile Photo Member

    Kevin Creighton:I look at everything written in favor of Never Trump as an attempt to justify behavior that would be unacceptable if attempted by Trump and Trump supporters.

    Remember at the very first debate, when every single candidate except Trump raised their hand and vowed to support the eventual Republican nominee?

    Trump is now the Republican nominee. Were the candidates who now don’t support the nominee lying back then (using the same words that Lileks used this week to describe Trump’s actions) when they raised their hands?

    Their biggest mistake was having faith in a primary system where a Liberal Democrat can become the Republican nominee for President.

    • #27
    • September 2, 2016, at 8:11 AM PDT
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  28. Jamie Lockett Inactive

    Kevin Creighton: Trump is now the Republican nominee. Were the candidates who now don’t support the nominee lying back then (using the same words that Lileks used this week to describe Trump’s actions) when they raised their hands?

    Can you name one of those candidates that is not supporting Trump?

    • #28
    • September 2, 2016, at 8:12 AM PDT
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  29. Jamie Lockett Inactive

    Kevin Creighton: Dennis Prager once said that the primary difference between the right and the left is that the right holds themselves to a higher standard, and the left believes “what is, is right”. Either we hold ourselves to the same standards we expect from others, or we lose what it means to be conservatives.

    That kind of went out the window when he decided to back Donald Trump.

    • #29
    • September 2, 2016, at 8:13 AM PDT
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  30. Kevin Creighton Contributor

    Jamie Lockett:

    Kevin Creighton: Trump is now the Republican nominee. Were the candidates who now don’t support the nominee lying back then (using the same words that Lileks used this week to describe Trump’s actions) when they raised their hands?

    Can you name one of those candidates that is not supporting Trump?

    Just one? No. There are three.

    Jeb Bush.
    John Kasich.
    Ted Cruz.

    If the standard that we hold Trump to is that he “lies” every time he changes a position, how is this not lying?

    • #30
    • September 2, 2016, at 8:24 AM PDT
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