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Ever since Donald Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign began to look like it was more than a promotional stunt for his reality show and began to take on the shape of a real run at the White House, there were voices on the Right condemning the whole idea of a Trump presidency. The Right’s most concerted effort took the form of National Review’s “Against Trump” issue, and most on the Right remain critical of the President’s failings even if they support him generally. (This is a marked difference from the last Democrat president, who received virtually no significant criticism from members of his party while in office.) But a sizable group of Republicans (excuse me, “former Republicans”) abandoned their party and became “Never Trumpers” – they were so exorcized by the idea of Donald Trump personally that they could no longer support their party. Some, like Max Boot and Jennifer Rubin, completely altered their beliefs and values because they hated Trump so much.
And from this sprang a whole new cottage industry of Republican-hating Conservatives. A niche craft that once belonged only to David Brooks and David Frum suddenly burst open with a whole field of carpetbaggers toting elephant guns: Charles Sykes, Mona Charen, Jonah Goldberg, George Will, Noah Rothman, Joe Scarborough, just to name a few. And with it has come two political websites to challenge the likes of NationalReview.com, CommentaryMagazine.com, and Ricochet.com: TheBulwark.com and TheDispatch.com.
The Bulwark clearly is staffed by people who have been marinating in the full-bore culture of the Coastal Left far too long. Even the graphics have that overprocessed, graphic design school sheen to them that looks like something off early 2000s Slate.com. As of this writing, there is a graphic of Trump with a crown that is clearly inspired by the works of 1980s neo-expressionist Jean-Michel Basquiat – an artist whose works were explicitly political in their examination of wealth, class, and colonialism. This is not something one would see in, say, The Weekly Standard, but it is something the Lefties who buy New York magazine would lap up. It instantly transmits the message, “Hey, we’re worldly Coastal Elites just like you. We go to the Whitney and the Guggenheim. We’re down with Bob Iger and Margaret Atwood and Oprah Winfrey. We’re one of you!” Honestly, it reeks of a desperation to be accepted by the cool kids.
That likely also explains why the columns go overboard in their criticism of Trump:
“The president of the United States, ladies and gentlemen, was in full Mad King mode, rambling, confused, disjointed, parading his grievances with barely a wave from afar at coherence.”
Of course, one could just go to the “trending” article, “100 Reasons Trump Is Unfit to Be President.” Written just on June 26, 2020, one would think this would have been the first article produced by the site. Finding any criticism of Democrats on TheBulwark.com is pretty much impossible: Currently, the home page of the site lionizes Alexander Vindman, an army officer who was insubordinate because his partisan beliefs ran counter to the Commander-in-Chief’s. But by in large, the majority of the articles just seem stale:
“Trump is not interested in the actual job of the presidency. He’s interested in the attention the presidency affords him.”
Really? This is a new insight? I seem to recall Never Trumpers harping on this in 2016. Why would anyone subscribe to The Bulwark if the contributors are so low on fresh material?
Just the article titles alone on The Bulwark are enough to make one’s eyes pop when one considers this site is supposed to cater to “Conservatives”:
Actually, Virtue Signaling Is Good
We could use less celebration of vice and more signaling of virtue.
Racial Injustice Remains the Great Weakness of American Democracy
If America is to lead the free world, first it must lead itself.
Crises and Competence (complete with a graphic of Ronald Reagan)
How the decades-long gutting of government—worsened by Trump’s failings—exacerbated the pandemic, the protests, and more.
America’s Underlying Injustice Won’t Just Disappear
We have all failed. Now we have to fix it.
Now is the Time to Stand with Dreamers
Evangelicals want Dreamers to be allowed to stay lawfully in the United States. The President should listen to them.
Come and witness the wisdom of The People.
(One usually has to tune into Last Week Tonight or The Daily Show to find the kind of snarling, sneering condescension and gleeful ridicule for non-elite types in which shamelessly Charles Sykes wallows in that last article.)
What’s most glaringly missing for the site? Any critique whatsoever for the behavior of any Democrat lawmaker. Andrew Cuomo’s killing thousands of people by ordering COVID patients into nursing homes? Not a peep. Gretchen Whitmer’s high-handed assaults on liberty in Michigan? Never heard of it. Anything Nancy Pelosi has done ever? Nancy who?
In short, almost the entire output of TheBulwark.com can be summed up in one line from the 1996 film Waiting for Guffman:
The Dispatch is somewhat better – in the way that being shot in the arm is better than being shot in the face. At least there is an acknowledgement that the real final boss at the end of the game is, in fact, the Democrats and not just more Bad, Nasty Republicans as The Bulwark now crew seems to believe. The problem with The Dispatch mostly seems to lie in the idea that the rules of political discourse have remained roughly the same as they were in 1985, where all politicians understood there was a balance of power and respected the fundamental layout of the system of checks and balances laid out in the Constitution. Anyone paying a lick of attention over the last decade will know that one party long ago abandoned anything like partisan comity when they rammed through ObamaCare with budget reconciliation and abandoned the filibuster in the Senate. And that party was not the Republicans. And yet Conservatives should still play by gentlemanly rules and the most prim and proper of etiquette and morality according to the thinker who most represents The Dispatch’s ethos, David French. French is the sort of man who would insist on fighting a duel with a flintlock pistol according to the rules, even when he clearly sees his opponent is carrying an AK-47. As the Democrats make loud noises about court packing and move to create an unconstitutional fifty-first state simply to consolidate a permanent hold on the Senate, French and The Dispatch gang seem less and less like standard bearers for old guard Conservatism than a gang of fusty old Don Quixotes tilting at windmills.
If TheDispatch.com folks were a Waiting for Guffman line, they would be this:
It’s difficult not to look at these sites – especially The Bulwark – and not think of the old phrase “useful idiots”: As defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, “useful idiot” is “a derogatory term for a person perceived as propagandizing for a cause without fully comprehending the cause’s goals, and who is cynically used by the cause’s leaders.” If there was ever a group of people spouting the propaganda of a group (the Democrats) whose goals they cannot fully comprehend, it must be the Never Trumpers. After all, the best recompense people like George Will and Steve Hayes could hope to get from the Left is (metaphorically) getting shot last.
So what if Trump is disposed of in this election? What do these groups do next? When Trump is gone, what is the purpose of the Never Trump brand? Are they just going to become Never Republican? There’s a name for that: Democrats. And there are plenty of those around: ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, BBC, PBS, NPR, HBO, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Vox, HuffPo, BuzzFeed, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Deutsche Welle, The Economist, etc. When there’s no longer a need for a supposed “inside” voice to undermine the Right, why would the Left continue to give these Useful Idiots succor? And why would the Right want to have anything to do with speakers who will be seen as having happily played a role in their downfall from power? Pundits like William Kristol, Mona Charen, and Charles Sykes are more likely to be viewed as treasonous Clytemnestras than tragic Cassandras.
So with that said, then, what will the Useful Idiots who have been bolstering the Democrat cause against Trump do if Joe Biden becomes president and the Democrats take control? Who will be their audience? If Trump is gone, can they sustain more than just a small echo chamber of Inside-the-Beltway types congratulating themselves on how smart they were while everything goes to hell?
For the future of their investments and careers, I suspect there are actually quite a few people working at both sites secretly praying Trump pulls out a win this November…Published in