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Over at National Review, Jonah Goldberg has a new column titled
“Does a NeverTrumper Need to be Forgiven?”
Now I know that everyone at Ricochet will boo me for bringing up the subject again, but this column from J. Goldberg is so obtuse that it needs to be addressed. It gets at tensions that are still reverberating here at Ricochet.
I saw Ricochet member Rodin had already posted about the column, but I thought most of the conversation there missed the main point, and I had too much to say to squeeze it into a comment, and multiple comments would be hijacking Rodin’s worthy post. So I will bore you with my own take on J. Goldberg’s cluelessness as revealed in today’s column.
Goldberg says “I don’t feel repentant.” But the essay misses the point of the people who have offered him forgiveness. He speaks at length about missing the call on Trump’s potential to win the election, and he speaks about misjudging how conservatively Trump may be expected to govern, based on the new revelations about Trump’s nominees for senior management positions in the incoming Trump Administration.
He never addresses the single issue that caused so much distress in the conservative ranks, and which led to the strong push-back that he and all NeverTrump pundits have received for the past six months.
Punditry on the “Center-Right”
The fact is that punditry may be considered as a guide to inform how we think. Conservative pundits won their positions by clearly articulating conservative principles and by cogently applying informed conservative principles to the issues of the day. They are called “thought leaders” for a reason. Many conservatives have come to rely of the body of work by the conservative pundits as useful to inform their opinions and to supply them with good arguments when they engage with the Left.
Then conservative pundits took a path that we could clearly see was very wrong.
But, not wrong in the way that J. Goldberg discusses in his column.
The reason for the distress in the push-back against NeverTrump is easy to see, but evidently J. Goldberg missed it. You would have thought that a professional pundit would actually listen to his critics enough to understand the reason for their discontent.
Conservatives focus on results
If pundits are thought-leaders, then their readers, the customers, should be able to act on the choices that they recommend. In the case of pro-Trump or anti-Trump, I don’t mind if you want to criticize Trump with fair criticism. But I consider the possible outcomes.
If I had followed the recommendation of the NeverTrump crowd, I would have been voting for Evan McMullin (after their attempt to promote David French failed). Many of their followers did, in fact, vote for E. McMullin. If enough of their followers had actually acted on their recommendation, E. McMullin would have ended up with enough votes to throw the race to Hillary Clinton.
Yes, there were potential outcomes in which the race would have been tossed into the House of Representatives, but that was always a long shot; it was a very low-probability potential outcome. The most likely outcome of many followers of the NeverTrump pundits acting on their recommendation would have been to elect H.R. Clinton.
President Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Let that sink in, again.
They were recommending a vote that would have left us with President-elect Hillary instead of President-elect Trump.
Goldberg only mentioned Hillary once in his column, up near the top:
My position as a committed “Never Trump” (and “Never Hillary”) conservative in the primaries and general election earned the disappointment and wrath of a great many folks on the right, from longtime readers to longtime friends. Although I still feel in my bones that I have nothing to apologize for, it does seem to me that forgiveness, solicited or otherwise, should elicit some introspection.
Then he talks about things he got wrong, but he never mentioned H.R. Clinton again.
Goldberg reveals just how clueless he is about his critics.
When people who meet him offer him forgiveness, it is not for blowing the call on the election. Regarding Trump’s character, he is mostly right and only a little bit wrong. Regarding the missed call on Trump’s senior management picks, many of us who fought against NeverTrump were also wrong.
The reason forgiveness is offered is because J. Goldberg turned out to be less influential than many of his former fans had feared. In fact the whole NeverTrump punditry cottage industry turned out to be less influential than we had feared. We can relax now, and, since Trump won, we can forgive.
If H.R. Clinton had won, then forgiveness would not have been so easily forthcoming from many former fans of the NeverTrump pundits.
Our distress was never motivated by agitation because NeverTrump missed the call on the ground. Our distress was firmly rooted in fear. We feared an H.R. Clinton Administration. Fear of Hillary was our primary motivation. J. Goldberg and his NeverTrump associates never did seem to fear Hillary the way ordinary conservative voters did.
Goldberg did miss the call about the polls and the votes. He may or may not have missed the call about Trump. We could have overlooked all of that.
The problem was that he missed the call regarding H.R. Clinton.
To Jonah Goldberg:
Jonah Goldberg, if introspection is in order, then return to your meditations, and think on the likely senior management nominees we would have been discussing for an H.R. Clinton Administration. If you still do not understand our fears, then perhaps you need to spend some time away from the East Coast. It would do you good. You might learn how Washington really does impair our lives. When you reach your retreat, you could relax with a good book that would help you understand why we fear the Leftist race to Utopian totalitarianism: Liberal Fascism.