On Conservatism as Masochism

 

“Here richly, with ridiculous display,
The politician’s corpse was laid away.
While all of his acquaintance sneered and slanged,
I wept; for I had longed to see him hanged.”
— Hilaire Belloc

Perhaps, I thought, the man described as, “One of the true lords of the English language,” and one of the preeminent minds of the mid-19th and 20th centuries was forecasting the attitude of a great many 21st-century voters with respect to those politicians and thinkers they once held in high esteem.

I’ve been close to despair of late as it appears, to me at least, that the divide on the right has widened considerably, nearly reaching the point of irreconcilable differences where both parties no longer talk to each other but instead face each other while talking mainly to themselves. For those who respect certain minds on both sides of the divide, the feeling is one of dismay at what is fast becoming the political equivalent of being caught between divorced parents who each insist that we take one side over the other notwithstanding the fact that they both screwed up.

Into the fray comes National Review’s Jay Cost, and the result is a refreshingly calm voice arising from the tumult of reductionist stereotyping which shatters reason and pierces good intent. His article, “Mend The GOP, Don’t Burn It Down,” coming as it does from a person who admits, “During the 2016 presidential campaign, I was right there with many of the Never-Trumpers,” and adds that he, “…remain[s] chagrined by the low tone Trump has brought to office, which needlessly alienates would-be political allies and coarsens our civic discourse,” is candid, well reasoned, and needed.

“I confess that I know who is a conservative less surely than I know who is a liberal,” Bill Buckley wrote in 1963, adding:

Blindfold me, spin me about like a top and I will walk up to the single liberal in the room without zig or zag and find him even if he is hiding behind the flowerpot. I am tempted to try and develop an equally sure nose for the conservative, but I am deterred by the knowledge that conservatives, under the stress of our times, have had to invite all kinds of people into their ranks to help with the job at hand, and the natural courtesy of the conservative causes him to treat such people not as janissaries, but as equals; and so, empirically, it becomes difficult to see behind the khaki, to know surely whether that is a conservative over there doing what needs to be done, or a radical, or merely a noisemaker, or pyrotechnician since our ragtag army sometimes moves together in surprising uniformity, and there are exhilarating moments when everyone’s eye is right.

So it is that 55 years later, with an administration arguably as conservative in its governance as any in a generation, various factions on the right simultaneously lament the rise of tribalism while exercising their apparent tribal prerogative to read other factions out of the conservative movement. The ragtag army now moves in every direction with fratricide being the order of the day. One is tempted to review how it all began, but then one is confronted both with the reality that each side has its own version of the schism’s genesis, and with the possibility that it no longer matters all that much who started it.

I posted Jay Cost’s article on Facebook a few days ago and then had to speed off to work. What then unfolded was a very instructive 60-plus comment exchange between people I value as colleagues and friends. A gentleman whose perspectives I value despite the fact that we disagree at times writes to say that he agrees with Cost and asks, “…what can be done to bridge what I see as a widening divide?” His own diagnosis: “[T]he problem as I see it is that the current victors, the populist wing, refuses to be gracious in victory. They want their former NeverTrump opponents to grovel and have a come to Trump moment. I read yahoos like Kurt Schlichter and I want to scream. This is of course my own biased viewpoint but it’s how things look from my end.”

It took a moment to get over my initial impulse to redirect the gentleman’s point toward others on the right who refuse to be gracious in defeat, preferring instead to disparage President Trump’s voter base, and the President himself at every conceivable opportunity. From William Kristol to George Will, Rick Wilson, Jennifer Ruben to our own Mona Charen and others, one gets the impression that they would be physically incapable of even ordering cream and sugar with their coffee without offering a fresh dollop of invective toward the President and/or his voters.

As I say, that was my first impulse and I stifled it in part because I was at work and couldn’t really engage, and in part because that’s precisely the sort of response that usually dispatches people to their rhetorical bunkers from which they launch heavy artillery against their own side. That’s when another friend for whom I have enormous respect weighed in and defended Schlicter in wholesale fashion. Which, as predictable as the setting sun and the inanities escaping from between Maxine Waters’ ears, resulted in a passionate barrage from the first gentleman complete with provocative citations from Schlichter and descriptions of him that are not suitable for framing in a Sunday School room.

After an interesting exchange on the topic of trade, someone brought up Jonah Goldberg’s recent G-File piece, “When The Tide Comes In,” in which he laments, with some justification in my mind, the level to which some right-leaning provocateurs have descended, while recalling National Review and Bill Buckley’s efforts to distance themselves from the distasteful elements of the right many years ago. Which, again, ignited a burst of rhetorical fireworks and comments in the Facebook conversation in which — and I don’t mean to oversimplify here but there isn’t space enough to reproduce every remark these fine folks made — people seemed compelled to defend this or that writer to the ends of the earth while denigrating the writer cited by the opposing party in the conversation.

Am I alone in seeing a growth in this “all or nothing” approach to political thought? Look, I have enormous respect for Jonah Goldberg and have admired his articles and books — even going so far as mailing a copy of Liberal Fascism to a progressive friend of mine who promptly deemed the book “over-sourced.” I think his early misgivings about Donald Trump were entirely understandable and I was dismayed and angered by the level of ad hominem idiocy that then-candidate Trump unleashed on him in response. For this reason alone, I can understand Jonah’s distaste for the man though I believe he has honestly tried to overcome personal animus and instead provide balanced analysis on matters of ideology, policy, and character.

One of the obvious advantages of such an approach is that it frees the observer to both criticize that which needs criticizing and praise that which is praiseworthy. If there is a compelling reason why such a liberating approach can be applied to presidents but not to pundits, I haven’t heard it. Because while there is much that I like and applaud in Jonah Goldberg’s analysis, there are one or two areas of difference. Similarly, I think parts of Kurt Schlichter’s critique are spot-on and need to be heard from every rooftop, but I can’t sign on to every single idea to which he gives voice.

At which point I look over at The Weekly Standard and read a piece called, “The Moral Ledger,” by Andy Smarick — and ponder the comparative enchantments of a monastery. From reading Mr. Smarick, it appears that anyone whose relationship with virtue is at least platonic must refrain from praising that which is praiseworthy in the Trump presidency and instead denounce the thing in toto:

Almost every leader in history has had some redeeming characteristic or some defensible initiative. Even profoundly objectionable figures and the profoundly objectionable systems they created were often able to persist because they provided some good to some number of people—the making-the-trains-run-on-time argument. But time judges unkindly those who cheered the timely trains. Some of history’s most ghastly arrangements have been defended by relentlessly pointing to some number of their benefits and turning a blind eye to their costs. This does more than debase debate, it does long-term harm: It serves as a conscience-protecting strategy exactly when our consciences shouldn’t be protected.

“If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons,” observed Winston Churchill as he formalized the Anglo-Soviet Agreement of 1941 which saw the Allies make common cause with Joseph Stalin in the war against Adolph Hitler. “Ah, but you’ve invoked Godwin’s Law,” you say, “which holds that anytime you resuscitate the specter of Hitler you’ve lost the debate.” I neither know Mr. Godwin nor care for his law. “Well then,” you might counter, “are you trying to equate the election of 2016 with the mortal danger which faced the free world in World War II?” Not quite, I reply, though I’ll get around to that point in a moment — after you explain where, in Andy Smarick’s calculus, there is room for Churchill to do anything other than abstain from an alliance with Stalin regardless of the existential threat from Hitler’s Germany.

Because if history looks with disfavor, as Mr. Smarick contends in his allusion to Italy’s Mussolini, upon, “…those who cheered the timely trains,” why should it judge less harshly those who made common cause with a mass murderer? The answer is that thankfully, time, if not Andy Smarick’s Moral Ledger, tends to adjudicate fairly those imperfect mortals who, while operating within the fixed parameters of an imperfect world riddled with still more imperfect mortals and few if any perfect choices, still manage to advance the cause of human freedom. I should think it better to risk the rebuke of Messrs Smarick, Kristol, Will and others, in the cause of such advancement than to consign my grandchildren to a future pinned beneath the heavy boot of the progressive, omnipotent state from which they will ask, “how did this happen?” only to be told reassuringly, “because our consciences shouldn’t be protected.”

Ah well, perhaps we’ve finally stumbled upon the reason former President Obama removed that bust of Churchill from the Oval Office. And while we’re taking swings at those who either founded or helped save the nation, someone should retroactively demote Generals Patton, Eisenhower, and MacArthur, while posthumously impeaching Presidents Jefferson, FDR, JFK, and others who are reputed to have had adulterous affairs. And that’s just the executive branch. Exact the same standards of character on the judicial branch, Congress, and members of the press and the Washington DC real estate market would collapse faster than George H. W. Bush’s lips when he promised, “No. New Taxes.”

Does this mean that character is irrelevant when selecting and/or deciding whether or not to support a chief executive or public official? Of course not. But the context within which those decisions are made — including the options available at the time of the decision — is imminently relevant as well.

So here, without wholesale deferment to any particular writer, personality, politician or intellectual on the right, is my assessment:

First, repudiations of those who either reluctantly (like me) or enthusiastically voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 general election carry absolutely no weight with me absent a discussion of the electoral alternative. Maintaining that the choice was not binary is interesting but ultimately meaningless in light of the fact that the outcome was in fact going to be either the Republican or Democratic nominee. You may debate all you wish about how many jackasses can dance on the head of a political pin, but on election day in 2016, we were left with only two jackasses that had a prayer of becoming President, requiring us to choose what my boss likes to call, “the best bad option.”

Second, it is evidently now fashionable to disparage those who voted for Donald Trump on the ground that we are only concerned with “winning,” — with care taken to put the word in quotes as if this were some sort of sporting event in which people are driven solely by some idiotic devotion to a particular colored jersey.

When a gentleman of solid moral character who was faithful to his wife and devoted to his Christian faith set about “winning” in 1976, the result was 52 Americans held hostage in Iran as a country formerly on good terms with America sunk into the radical Islamic abyss; the Soviet Union was so emboldened by Carter’s weak and vacillating foreign policy that it sent the Red Army itself into Afghanistan; double-digit inflation and interest rates at home and a 7.5 percent unemployment rate helped introduce the term “malaise” into the American political lexicon; and something called the Misery Index grabbed the attention of a nation that was indeed miserable. But hey if you overlook Carter’s record of human misery at home and the enabling of evil abroad, you at least have a solid Moral Ledger … which is what happens when “winning,” for the right, gives way to “losing.”

It’s not merely “winning” to deny Iran the weapons it seeks to fulfill it’s professed maniacal goal of destroying both Israel and the US. It’s not merely “winning” to seriously address a nuclear-armed North Korea that was armed under a Democratic administration and then subject to bipartisan procrastination. It’s not merely “winning” to rein in an IRS that had been weaponized to target and abuse American citizens on the basis of their conservative political beliefs. It’s not merely “winning” to scale back (to the extent the GOP’s legislative spine permits) an attempt to turn the healthcare of a free people over to the tender mercies of faceless, unaccountable government bureaucrats. It’s not merely “winning” to return more of a worker’s wages to him or her on the assumption that the money belongs to them in the first place and not the government. It’s not merely “winning” when unemployment in the African American community drops to the lowest level in history. And it’s not merely “winning” when 26 circuit court judges are appointed and we stand an actual chance of breaking a judicial oligarchy in favor of jurists who view the Constitution as the law of the land rather than an obstacle to progressive social designs in which sovereign citizens become little more than lab rats at the hands of masterminds in black robes. Of course, not all of the above-listed items can be logged in the “success” category yet, but we know which way they would trend had we not started “winning.”

On the other hand, we certainly know what “losing” looks like. It looks like the exact opposite of the above-listed initiatives which many of us have been proposing for decades, along with the accompanying increase in — you guessed it — human misery. “Losing” would also look like the return of the political equivalent of the Gambino family to American politics, with a level of corruption not seen since — well, since the last time the Clintons resided in the White House. And make no mistake, “losing” would mean the American people “losing” more of their constitutional rights, more of their property, and more of their safety as the defense of citizens from both domestic and foreign mischief would take a back seat to emasculated police departments at home and an eviscerated military deterrent elsewhere, as Ambassador Chris Stevens might himself observe had he not died in 2012 when the American Left was busy “winning.”

Third, I remember hearing from various quarters that the 2016 election was not an existential event in America’s history. “One single election will not doom America,” said those who dismissed the concerns of many Americans that the nation had reached a tipping point. And it may very well be true that “one election” can’t undo the nation. But a series of elections and a series of capitulations can have a cumulative effect that turns a single election into a pivotal event, no? Otherwise, there is no such thing as a “point of no return,” and things can keep degenerating indefinitely with no serious repercussion. But that can’t be true either, because we keep hearing approving citations of Ronald Reagan’s warning that, “Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction.” Well, which is it, then?

Finally, I submit that from the standpoint of conservative governance, the victory of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton was a net positive and, frankly, I’m dismayed such a point should even be considered contentious on the right side of the political equation. Is the man a moral paragon? Nope. Was Hillary? Nope. When neither candidate meets the Moral Ledger test, what do you do? Go for the “best bad option,” or sit it out and throw spitballs at those who have the courage to at least try for the best possible outcome, given the circumstances, for future generations? Evidently, that last alternative has become a way of life for far too many people.

“What can be done to bridge what I see as a widening divide?” my friend asks. Perhaps accepting as a given that there are “pyrotechnicians” to use WFB’s term, on both sides of the divide who will use incendiary rhetoric for the fun of it, and then resisting the urge to give them the satisfaction they seek. Then, accepting that some of these differences are simply and honestly irreconcilable, perhaps we can move beyond the “all or nothing” advocacy of politicians and pundits to find common ground where it exists, offer encouragement where needed, alternative ideas where necessary, and praise when earned. Simple prescription, difficult to practice, but it doesn’t hurt to try. There’s no need for conservatism to be masochistic.

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There are 90 comments.

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  1. Thatcher

    Appreciated, Dave! 

    • #1
    • August 20, 2018 at 12:09 pm
    • 4 likes
  2. Member

    Dave Carter: And while we’re taking swings at those who either founded or helped save the nation, someone should retroactively demote Generals Patton, Eisenhower, and MacArthur, while posthumously impeaching Presidents Jefferson, FDR, JFK, and others who are reputed to have had adulterous affairs.

    Oh, dear Lord, Dave. Don’t give them any ideas!!

    Where’s the dang “LoVe” this post button?

    • #2
    • August 20, 2018 at 12:33 pm
    • 6 likes
  3. Member

    Finally, I submit that from the standpoint of conservative governance, the victory of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton was a net positive and, frankly, I’m dismayed such a point should even be considered contentious on the right side of the political equation.

    The inclusion of the alternative choice (HRC) makes this hard to dispute. But the “contentious” part has two aspects: 1) We aren’t done with this Administration yet; there’s more to come with the possibility of good and bad, and 2) Omitting any consideration of Clinton, it’s at least possible that this Administration could poison the well (brand) of true conservatism by means of one or two “big” errors. I have my devil’s advocate hat on to an extent here, but I can understand those who see Trump as potentially a threat to conservatism’s long term brand. I do wish the arguments were made with a bit more substance, however.

    • #3
    • August 20, 2018 at 12:54 pm
    • 2 likes
  4. Thatcher

    Dave Carter:

    First, repudiations of those who either reluctantly (like me) or enthusiastically voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 general election carry absolutely no weight with me absent a discussion of the electoral alternative. Maintaining that the choice was not binary is interesting but ultimately meaningless in light of the fact that the outcome was in fact going to be either the Republican or Democratic nominee. You may debate all you wish about how many jackasses can dance on the head of a political pin, but on election day in 2016, we were left with only two jackasses that had a prayer of becoming President, requiring us to choose what my boss likes to call, “the best bad option.”

    Second, it is evidently now fashionable to disparage those who voted for Donald Trump on the ground that we are only concerned with “winning,” — with care taken to put the word in quotes as if this were some sort of sporting event in which people are driven solely by some idiotic devotion to a particular colored jersey.

    These two things stand out. I was middle of the road, but the absolute denial of the binary outcome drove me closer to the Trump side. People want to say that their vote both has great moral significance and that it meant nothing. 

    As far as the “winning” you are spot on. 

    Dave Carter: So it is that 55 years later, with an administration arguably as conservative in its governance as any in a generation, various factions on the right simultaneously lament the rise of tribalism while exercising their apparent tribal prerogative to read other factions out of the conservative movement

    Here I am also 100% with you. 

    I thought political parties were all about getting people elected. You know, winning elections. I thought movements were about effecting change. Here we have movement where a minority cannot stand the majority, and blame the majority for not liking them anymore. 

    • #4
    • August 20, 2018 at 12:58 pm
    • 11 likes
  5. Member

    I’m over 70. Don’t have time to wait for perfection. Every time I think about Hillary Clinton not being our President, it brings a smile to my face and warmth to my heart. From me that means Donald Trump gets a lot of slack for his imperfections.

    • #5
    • August 20, 2018 at 1:13 pm
    • 17 likes
  6. Member

    @cdor I’m 63 and I too take great pleasure in the fact that HRC is not our President. I’m a lawyer, and our courts would have been toast had she won.

    • #6
    • August 20, 2018 at 2:20 pm
    • 8 likes
  7. Member

    John Park (View Comment):

    @cdor I’m 63 and I too take great pleasure in the fact that HRC is not our President. I’m a lawyer, and our courts would have been toast had she won.

    For sure…and our military, our economy, our constitutional rights…all down the tubes.

    • #7
    • August 20, 2018 at 2:27 pm
    • 7 likes
  8. Thatcher

    Dave Carter: First, repudiations of those who either reluctantly (like me) or enthusiastically voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 general election carry absolutely no weight with me absent a discussion of the electoral alternative. Maintaining that the choice was not binary is interesting but ultimately meaningless in light of the fact that the outcome was in fact going to be either the Republican or Democratic nominee. You may debate all you wish about how many jackasses can dance on the head of a political pin, but on election day in 2016, we were left with only two jackasses that had a prayer of becoming President, requiring us to choose what my boss likes to call, “the best bad option.”

    • #8
    • August 20, 2018 at 2:38 pm
    • 5 likes
  9. Thatcher

    John Park (View Comment):

    @cdor I’m 63 and I too take great pleasure in the fact that HRC is not our President. I’m a lawyer, and our courts would have been toast had she won.

    The older men in, my life who are conservative all celebrated the Trump win.

    • #9
    • August 20, 2018 at 2:52 pm
    • 7 likes
  10. Member

    I don’t understand how we can give conservatism a bad name. Yes, we’ve not yet learned how to define and proclaim it fully, but Freedom, by any other name, would smell as sweet.

    • #10
    • August 20, 2018 at 3:06 pm
    • 7 likes
  11. Moderator

    Dave Carter: “What can be done to bridge what I see as a widening divide?” my friend asks. Perhaps accepting as a given that there are “pyrotechnicians” to use WFB’s term, on both sides of the divide who will use incendiary rhetoric for the fun of it, and then resisting the urge to give them the satisfaction they seek.

    I think this is a good point, and that there are roughly two types of satisfaction such a “pyrotechnician” can seek: one is trolling his opponents, the other is adulation from his fans who feast on the “red meat” he provides them. If the rule is to resist giving pyrotechnicians the satisfaction they seek, resistance to giving both types of satisfaction is possible.

    For example, it’s possible to be a massive fan of Salena Zito’s without being any fan of Kurt Schlicter’s, since Schlichter is a pyrotechnician and Zito isn’t. Zito goes out of her way to make her writing accessible to those who aren’t already convinced. Schlichter, not so much.

    Verbal pyrotechnics can be quite satisfying, but the price of piling ’em high often seems to be less room for breadth.

    • #11
    • August 20, 2018 at 3:16 pm
    • 5 likes
  12. Inactive

    Thank you, @davecarter for a thoughtful piece and an attempt at bridging the divide. I don’t have much of a comment to offer here, other than that I found the piece unsatisfying in answering the question at the root of it. The bulk being a rehash of arguments we have all done to death is part of that unsatisfying feeling I have – which is probably unhelpful on my part to any discussion on this issue going forward. 

    I think for me it boils down to this: While Buckley saw the need to accommodate the pyrotechnicians in any movement, I doubt he would be sanguine with elevating the pyrotechnicians to the forefront of a moment, to build one’s movement around pyrotechnics is to offer a lot of bang, heat and ephemeral light that dissipates quickly into the cold night air. This is the problem with the divide right now, the elevation of pyrotechnicians at the expense of thought leaders. That is a recipe for a movement that doesn’t get much done over the long term. Buckley was after all, at the forefront of defenestrating many of the more vile pyrotechnicians on the right in his day. 

    While I can sympathize with many of the reasons you lay out here in support of your side of the current conservative divide, I think that it betrays short-term thinking to simply ignore the excesses of the pyrotechnicians (after all explosives from time to time tend to blow up the guy deploying them). If as you indicate we are in an existential crisis then it is even more incumbent on us to build a movement that includes the very people the pyrotechnicians are currently trying to drive away. I fear that the movement may win this battle at the expense of the war: turning off large swaths of the electorate like suburban housewives and millennial/younger generations. The current insanity of the left works in our favor, but only to a point. A truly socialist president as a reaction to the excesses of conservative pyrotechnics could be truly disastrous.

    I guess I did have a comment to offer but I remain unsatisfied in both your answer and my own. I remain worried about the future of the movement and the country. 

    • #12
    • August 20, 2018 at 3:58 pm
    • 3 likes
  13. Contributor

    Dave Carter:

    I’ve been close to despair of late as it appears, to me at least, that the divide on the right has widened considerably, nearly reaching the point of irreconcilable differences where both parties no longer talk to each other but instead face each other while talking mainly to themselves. For those who respect certain minds on both sides of the divide, the feeling is one of dismay at what is fast becoming the political equivalent of being caught between divorced parents who each insist that we take one side over the other notwithstanding the fact that they both screwed up.

    Echoing Jamie, I also deeply appreciated this, @davecarter. We should all try to find common ground we can all fight on because it’s worth doing and we all have much to lose.

    • #13
    • August 20, 2018 at 4:47 pm
    • 4 likes
  14. Contributor

    Dave Carter:

    I posted Jay Cost’s article on Facebook a few days ago and then had to speed off to work. What then unfolded was a very instructive 60-plus comment exchange between people I value as colleagues and friends. A gentleman whose perspectives I value despite the fact that we disagree at times writes to say that he agrees with Cost and asks, “…what can be done to bridge what I see as a widening divide?” His own diagnosis: “[T]he problem as I see it is that the current victors, the populist wing, refuses to be gracious in victory. They want their former NeverTrump opponents to grovel and have a come to Trump moment. I read yahoos like Kurt Schlichter and I want to scream. This is of course my own biased viewpoint but it’s how things look from my end.”

    Probably the most obnoxious behavior on both sides of the Trump Wars have been the attempts to shame those we disagree with. It’s not enough to admit that you were wrong; You must confess and repent…. and it better be good.

    I’m pretty sure we’ve all encountered this from at least one side, and more a few of us have done it ourselves. It’s always dumb and counterproductive.

    • #14
    • August 20, 2018 at 5:00 pm
    • 2 likes
  15. Contributor

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):
    This is the problem with the divide right now, the elevation of pyrotechnicians at the expense of thought leaders.

    I would agree if those ‘pyrotechnicians’ were lacking substance to back up their bluster. Provocateurs doing provocative things simply for the sake of being provocative get’s old quickly.

    However, as per Dave’s thoughtful piece, I think it does a disservice to ignore a writer or pundit’s larger points because they exhibit abrasive prose that may offend some. We shouldn’t diminish the macro issues because they are made in a sometimes less-than-gentle prodding.

    As far as who is and isn’t considered a ‘thought leader’, that’s in the eye of the beholder. Conservatism is a high-end buffet, and I always enjoy a little side of pot-stirring with my intellectual steak.

    • #15
    • August 20, 2018 at 5:05 pm
    • 11 likes
  16. Contributor

    Relatedly, I think many of us have fallen into the trap of thinking we need to make a single, holistic judgement of the president. That is, we need to identify — always a bad idea — as a Trump-supporteror a Trump-opposer.

    That made some sense on Election Day 2016 and will again in late 2020 when we all head to our voting booths. No one has to make up their mind until then. In the meantime, it’s just a posture — either for an audience or (more likely) ourselves — of no importance in itself.

    • #16
    • August 20, 2018 at 5:23 pm
    • 4 likes
  17. Contributor

    We can all think of people who’s opinions about the president have no connection to reality. As one friend put it, Trump broke their brains.

    This doesn’t mean they all agree. What’s the one thing Bill Kristol and Kurt Schlicter have in common? They have nothing to tell anyone about the president that’s worth the effort to listen.

    I recommend we ignore these people, at least when they’re talking about the president. As @midge said, that goes both for those whose overall judgement is closer to our own, as well as those we disagree with.

    • #17
    • August 20, 2018 at 5:38 pm
    • 3 likes
  18. Moderator

    Dave Sussman (View Comment):

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):
    This is the problem with the divide right now, the elevation of pyrotechnicians at the expense of thought leaders.

    I would agree if those ‘pyrotechnicians’ were lacking substance to back up their bluster. Provocateurs doing provocative things simply for the sake of being provocative get’s old quickly.

    However, as per Dave’s thoughtful piece, I think it does a disservice to ignore a writer or pundit’s larger points because they exhibit abrasive prose that may offend some. We shouldn’t diminish the macro issues because they are made in a sometimes less-than-gentle prodding.

    At some point, though, the bluster-to-substance ration is no longer worth it. Where that point is may differ for different people, and I don’t think it should be considered a sin for conservatives to not all set their cutoff at the same ratio.

    What can be frustrating is when an attitude of “Oh, that pundit just isn’t for me” doesn’t fulfill apparent expectations that that particular pundit (and possibly also that pundit’s fans) be either denounced or embraced.

    • #18
    • August 20, 2018 at 5:55 pm
    • 2 likes
  19. Contributor
    Dave Carter Post author

    Folks I appreciate the comments. I’m working the late shift tonight but will have some responses in the morning. Thank you again! 

    • #19
    • August 20, 2018 at 6:28 pm
    • 7 likes
  20. Contributor

    Dave Sussman (View Comment):

    I think it does a disservice to ignore a writer or pundit’s larger points because they exhibit abrasive prose that may offend some. We shouldn’t diminish the macro issues because they are made in a sometimes less-than-gentle prodding.

    If a pundit wishes to communicate his ideas and change minds, he should figure out how to make his arguments in such a way that people who disagree will listen.

    In the end, that boils down to trust. There are pundits on both sides of the Trump Wars whose opinions I trust to be honest and informed, just as there are others who I find to be dishonest, ignorant, or both.

    To take one obvious example, I do not trust Bill Kristol* when it comes to the president: I simply do not think he can fairly or accurately appraise Trump’s actions, even if I agree with him on some points. Likewise, I do not read Kurt Schlicter because I find he’s similarly untrustworthy on this matter.

    * Jenn Rubin is even worse, but I never really paid attention to her before all this.

    • #20
    • August 20, 2018 at 6:56 pm
    • 2 likes
  21. Member

    Tom Meyer, Common Citizen (View Comment):

    Relatedly, I think many of us have fallen into the trap of thinking we need to make a single, holistic judgement of the president. That is, we need to identify — always a bad idea — as a Trump-supporteror a Trump-opposer.

    That made some sense on Election Day 2016 and will again in late 2020 when we all head to our voting booths. No one has to make up their mind until then. In the meantime, it’s just a posture — either for an audience or (more likely) ourselves — of no importance in itself.

    I think that the calls for impeachment since day one has caused this to be the election that never ends

    • #21
    • August 20, 2018 at 7:06 pm
    • 6 likes
  22. Inactive

    I wish to second all comments made @tommeyer in this thread. 

    • #22
    • August 20, 2018 at 7:53 pm
    • 1 like
  23. Inactive

    Dave Sussman (View Comment):

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):
    This is the problem with the divide right now, the elevation of pyrotechnicians at the expense of thought leaders.

    I would agree if those ‘pyrotechnicians’ were lacking substance to back up their bluster. Provocateurs doing provocative things simply for the sake of being provocative get’s old quickly.

    However, as per Dave’s thoughtful piece, I think it does a disservice to ignore a writer or pundit’s larger points because they exhibit abrasive prose that may offend some. We shouldn’t diminish the macro issues because they are made in a sometimes less-than-gentle prodding.

    As far as who is and isn’t considered a ‘thought leader’, that’s in the eye of the beholder. Conservatism is a high-end buffet, and I always enjoy a little side of pot-stirring with my intellectual steak.

    We just have different estimations of the substance behind the bluster. That’s okay, it’s just we need to know this when having discussions and avoid trying to find common ground using incidiary pundits. 

    Ill stop quoting Bill Kristol and you save Kurt Schlichter for your MAGA buddies. Deal?

    • #23
    • August 20, 2018 at 8:02 pm
    • 2 likes
  24. Member

    Dave, you nailed it. Well said, sir.

    When we finally actually meet, Ima kiss you right on the lips.

    Inna totally non-gay way, of course.

    Keep doing what you’re doing, brother. 

    • #24
    • August 20, 2018 at 8:10 pm
    • 11 likes
  25. Contributor

    Tom Meyer, Common Citizen (View Comment):

    Dave Sussman (View Comment):

    I think it does a disservice to ignore a writer or pundit’s larger points because they exhibit abrasive prose that may offend some. We shouldn’t diminish the macro issues because they are made in a sometimes less-than-gentle prodding.

    If a pundit wishes to communicate his ideas and change minds, he should figure out how to make his arguments in such a way that people who disagree will listen.

    Not sure that’s possible or desirable. Writers each have their own styles. I wouldn’t read my favorites if I felt they were placating those who disliked them. Lose/Lose.

    In the end, that boils down to trust. There are pundits on both sides of the Trump Wars whose opinions I trust to be honest and informed, just as there are others who I find to be dishonest, ignorant, or both.

    Agreed.

    To take one obvious example, I do not trust Bill Kristol* when it comes to the president: I simply do not think he can fairly or accurately appraise Trump’s actions, even if I agree with him on some points. Likewise, I do not read Kurt Schlicter because I find he’s similarly untrustworthy on this matter.

    * Jenn Rubin is even worse, but I never really paid attention to her before all this.

    Tom, that’s exactly the point. We are (still) free to choose who we like and respect. I’ve said this before, how someone writes or ‘tweets’ doesn’t necessarily take away from them as a person. I personally find BK’s tweets against this conservative administration abhorrent and shudder to think if he had gotten his way in 2016, but would still probably find something interesting to talk with him about.

    Kurt’s snarky hit pieces against the DC elitists may not speak to you, but he writes his truth and that of many conservatives who feel GOPe have been feckless for 40 years, feathering their own nest while selling America off piece-by-piece to the cultural Marxists. He hits them hard, but I wouldn’t suggest that makes him untrustworthy. In fact, he writes how he talks and for many, it’s just a light-hearted way to deal with tragedy.

    Neither of these authors readership is evil, dumb, or always right or wrong. As long as we read, watch and listen to a wide variety of voices instead of just our own echo chamber then we can continue having these productive discussions. End of the day, we may not like them any more, but we can understand them.

    • #25
    • August 20, 2018 at 8:57 pm
    • 9 likes
  26. Inactive

    Boss Mongo (View Comment):

    Dave, you nailed it. Well said, sir.

    When we finally actually meet, Ima kiss you right on the lips.

    Inna totally non-gay way, of course.

    Keep doing what you’re doing, brother.

    It’s differences of opinion with men like Daves Carter and Sussman and Assorted Mongos that really bothers me about the current right of center divide. I don’t like being in disagreement with people I respect and it bothers me that common ground is becoming so hard to find. 

    • #26
    • August 20, 2018 at 8:59 pm
    • 2 likes
  27. Contributor

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    Dave Sussman (View Comment):

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):
    This is the problem with the divide right now, the elevation of pyrotechnicians at the expense of thought leaders.

    I would agree if those ‘pyrotechnicians’ were lacking substance to back up their bluster. Provocateurs doing provocative things simply for the sake of being provocative get’s old quickly.

    However, as per Dave’s thoughtful piece, I think it does a disservice to ignore a writer or pundit’s larger points because they exhibit abrasive prose that may offend some. We shouldn’t diminish the macro issues because they are made in a sometimes less-than-gentle prodding.

    As far as who is and isn’t considered a ‘thought leader’, that’s in the eye of the beholder. Conservatism is a high-end buffet, and I always enjoy a little side of pot-stirring with my intellectual steak.

    We just have different estimations of the substance behind the bluster. That’s okay, it’s just we need to know this when having discussions and avoid trying to find common ground using incidiary pundits.

    Ill stop quoting Bill Kristol and you save Kurt Schlichter for your MAGA buddies. Deal?

    Does that mean I have to get a hat?

    • #27
    • August 20, 2018 at 9:02 pm
    • 5 likes
  28. Inactive

    Dave Sussman (View Comment):

    Tom Meyer, Common Citizen (View Comment):

    Dave Sussman (View Comment):

    I think it does a disservice to ignore a writer or pundit’s larger points because they exhibit abrasive prose that may offend some. We shouldn’t diminish the macro issues because they are made in a sometimes less-than-gentle prodding.

    If a pundit wishes to communicate his ideas and change minds, he should figure out how to make his arguments in such a way that people who disagree will listen.

    Not sure that’s possible or desirable. Writers each have their own styles. I wouldn’t read my favorites if I felt they were placating those who disliked them. Lose/Lose.

    In the end, that boils down to trust. There are pundits on both sides of the Trump Wars whose opinions I trust to be honest and informed, just as there are others who I find to be dishonest, ignorant, or both.

    Agreed.

    To take one obvious example, I do not trust Bill Kristol* when it comes to the president: I simply do not think he can fairly or accurately appraise Trump’s actions, even if I agree with him on some points. Likewise, I do not read Kurt Schlicter because I find he’s similarly untrustworthy on this matter.

    * Jenn Rubin is even worse, but I never really paid attention to her before all this.

    Tom, that’s exactly the point. We are (still) free to choose who we like and respect. I’ve said this before, how someone writes or ‘tweets’ doesn’t necessarily take away from them as a person. I personally find BK’s tweets against this conservative administration abhorrent and shudder to think if he had gotten his way in 2016, but would still probably find something interesting to talk with him about.

    Kurt’s snarky hit pieces against the DC elitists may not speak to you, but he writes his truth and that of many conservatives who feel GOPe have been feckless for 40 years, feathering their own nest while selling America off piece-by-piece to the cultural Marxists. He hits them hard, but I wouldn’t suggest that makes him untrustworthy. In fact, he writes how he talks and for many, it’s just a light-hearted way to deal with tragedy.

    Neither of these authors readership is evil, dumb, or always right or wrong. As long as we read, watch and listen to a wide variety of voices instead of just our own echo chamber then we can continue having these productive discussions. End of the day, we may not like them anymore, but we can understand them.

    Dave please realize that when you use such pundits as exemplars of you beliefs that it drives the wedge deeper. If you you’re interested in bridging this divide then I suggest you rethink your reliance on pundits who hit first and think second. 

    • #28
    • August 20, 2018 at 9:04 pm
    • 1 like
  29. Inactive

    Dave Sussman (View Comment):

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    Dave Sussman (View Comment):

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):
    This is the problem with the divide right now, the elevation of pyrotechnicians at the expense of thought leaders.

    I would agree if those ‘pyrotechnicians’ were lacking substance to back up their bluster. Provocateurs doing provocative things simply for the sake of being provocative get’s old quickly.

    However, as per Dave’s thoughtful piece, I think it does a disservice to ignore a writer or pundit’s larger points because they exhibit abrasive prose that may offend some. We shouldn’t diminish the macro issues because they are made in a sometimes less-than-gentle prodding.

    As far as who is and isn’t considered a ‘thought leader’, that’s in the eye of the beholder. Conservatism is a high-end buffet, and I always enjoy a little side of pot-stirring with my intellectual steak.

    We just have different estimations of the substance behind the bluster. That’s okay, it’s just we need to know this when having discussions and avoid trying to find common ground using incidiary pundits.

    Ill stop quoting Bill Kristol and you save Kurt Schlichter for your MAGA buddies. Deal?

    Does that mean I have to get a hat?

    I’ll send you one. 

    • #29
    • August 20, 2018 at 9:05 pm
    • Like
  30. Moderator

    Dave Sussman (View Comment):
    Neither of these authors’ readership is evil, dumb, or always right or wrong.

    I agree about the readership.

    As long as we read, watch and listen to a wide variety of voices instead of just our own echo chamber then we can continue having these productive discussions. End of the day, we may not like them any more, but we can understand them.

    Any one of us could still have a wide variety of voices in our media diet while ignoring some of the pyrotechnicians, though. For example, if skipping Schlichter gives me more time for Zito, that seems a reasonable trade off to me. Not everyone’s diet has to be the same, of course. I don’t mind that others are immensely amused by writing I find tediously tendentious — not everyone shares my sense of humor, either. But especially with writing that’s meant to be humorous, readers can walk away with vastly different impressions of whether it’s persuasive or not. Our funnybones are fickle things to tickle.

    • #30
    • August 20, 2018 at 9:16 pm
    • 3 likes
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