Jon and Stephen didn’t agree with Tom Nichols’ strategy of voting D in the midterms to save the GOP — so we invited him on the show! Tom Nichols is a professor at the US Naval War College and the author of the best-selling book, The Death of Expertise: The Campaign against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters. We also discuss the midterms and what it means for both parties as they prepare for 2020.

The intro/outro song is “Ray Purchase” by Peeping Drexels. Stephen’s song of the week is “One Trick Ponies” by Kurt Vile and Jon’s is “Narcissus” by TVAM. To listen to all the music featured on The Conservatarians, subscribe to our Spotify playlist!

Subscribe to The Conservatarians in iTunes (and leave a 5-star review, please!), or by RSS feed. For all our podcasts in one place, subscribe to the Ricochet Audio Network Superfeed in iTunes or by RSS feed.

Please Support Our Sponsor!

Podcast listeners: Now become a Ricochet member for only $2.50 a month! Join and see what you’ve been missing.

There are 46 comments.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  1. Member

    Looking forward to this. I’ve only known Tom as the butt of jokes on Twitter but haven’t read anything by the expert.

    • #1
    • November 9, 2018 at 3:27 pm
    • 1 like
  2. Member

    Recognition of different interests than the elites of the party began growing around 2004-2006 and continued to grow through 2014.The Advent of Trump just put it in stark contrast.

    The immigration debate is a very huge example of this. The elite wanted open borders but couldn’t outright vote on it for fear of losing votes. Even they knew it was a losing issue. The Amnesty bill that Marco Rubio signed his name to cost him a lot of political capital. Not so much that we were ready to vote for a democrat, though (so thanks for that!). See, if we didn’t like someone, the most we would do is not show up to vote. The most you did was go and vote for the other party.

    Trump didn’t create an issue out of thin air. He cast a megaton baseball field light on it, throwing it in sharp relief with the views of the voters.

    Trump’s other issue applied mostly to the blue collar dems which is not a republican base, so is not really relevant to a discussion on republicans and their elites.

    • #2
    • November 9, 2018 at 4:19 pm
    • 5 likes
  3. Member

    Reading Tom’s comments on Twitter over the last several months gave me some very negative impressions of Tom. So I wanted to give him a fair hearing here.

    And I am now satisfied that my negative impressions of him are valid.

    Aside from his patently offensive comments calling Republicans “the southern and western White Party” (please refrain from such stupid slurs, okay?) there are a lot of problems I had here.

    First of all, obviously he is critical of President Trump. I mean, that’s the whole point for having him on. But Jon, Stephen . . . you totally let him off the hook. I listened very closely hoping he would actually explain his problems with the President, and he mentioned three:

    He said the president was “Out of Control”
    Had a “Cult of Personality”
    And was “Hostile to Basic Constitutional Principles”

    But not once did he explain what he meant by these lazy criticisms. They’re just empty, commonplace buzzwords that NeverTrumpers use, as if their meaning is self-evident. I wish you’d forced him to explain what he meant. But you let these things go unanswered.

    I found it interesting that he was so concerned about suddenly seeing “Trumpers” on talk shows instead of people like himself. And I was fairly miffed by his example of Mollie Hemingway, who he suggested takes a “Trumper” position mainly because she benefits personally from doing so. This is ridiculous. She’s always been fair, and criticizes the President when it’s called for. She is also an excellent media critic, and I’m sure that the way she calls out the unhinged media probably sounds like “Trumper” advocacy. But it’s not. It’s valid criticism of an absolutely crazed “news” media.

    But Tom’s complaint speaks directly to the feeling that he’s animated by the fact that his class is losing power and exposure and he doesn’t like it.

    • #3
    • November 9, 2018 at 5:08 pm
    • 20 likes
  4. Member

    He also accuses President Trump of blowing apart the Republican coalition, which I guess is how it might seem to a Bubble-dwelling Republican. But perhaps he forgets the Tea Party movement which helped usher Republicans back into power and for their thanks got treated like garbage by the beltway powerbrokers.

    “Thanks for giving us the House and Senate! Now get lost, wacko-birds!”

    But the Tea Party movement did not disappear. It showed up to vote for President Trump and brought along with it a bunch of Blue Collar Dems.

    Or to put it another way, those “real Americans” were busy delivering the Reagan-style “big tent” to the GOP power-brokers, and their response has been “We need to kick these people out of the GOP and shrink the tent.”

    President Trump didn’t blow it apart. It was already being blown apart by the way the Beltway Class was treating the flyover Republicans. President Trump is just a handy excuse for a class of people who still don’t see how their own behavior over the last decade has caused these divisions.

    As I neared the end of this podcast, my wife, who was in the room asked: “What are you listening to? I don’t know who this guy is, but I don’t care for him at all.” Neither do I, babe. Neither do I.

    Tom’s expressed idea for his “Vote D to save the Republicans” was “Let’s give you guys power and see how you do.”

    But we know what they do. We had a full decade of it. We are still recovering.

    The idea that we should just give them power again is either fatally naive, or just plain anti-Trump vindictiveness. Or, I guess, the words of a Democrat in disguise.

    • #4
    • November 9, 2018 at 5:10 pm
    • 16 likes
  5. Member

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):
    And I was fairly miffed by his example of Mollie Hemingway, who he suggested takes a “Trumper” position mainly because she benefits personally from doing so.

    He attacked Mollie??? Our Mollie of the very highest integrity???

    It’s an understatement to say he’s dead to me. He’s dead and rotting and repulsive. If I belong to a cult of personality, it’s the Cult of Mollie. This is just unacceptable. Outrageous.

    • #5
    • November 9, 2018 at 5:22 pm
    • 7 likes
  6. Coolidge

    This Tom guy seems to have some problems with his logic. He thinks that by voting against any Republican that is not super-Trump will make the party less Trumpy after it shrinks. That is idiotic. If the party is made up of all Trumpers, it can survive through all of Trump’s presidency. The only way to make the party less Trumpy is to elect a bunch of non-Trumpy Republicans to change the balance. However, in 2018 we had a *lot* of non-Trumpy Republicans leaders and they just shut up for the election season and choose not to lead. I don’t want to hear excuses about media. Paul Ryan, Kevin McCarthy, Jim Jordan where do you go??

    • #6
    • November 9, 2018 at 5:26 pm
    • 4 likes
  7. Member

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):
    If I belong to a cult of personality, it’s the Cult of Mollie.

    #metoo.

    • #7
    • November 9, 2018 at 5:39 pm
    • 2 likes
  8. Coolidge

    Ohhhhh. It looks like Tom is one of those Soviet era cold war thinkers. He actually thinks Russia is our biggest threat. Russia is a middling energy country with a declining life expectancy. The real foe is China that has about 10X the population and 100X the ambition with a national industrial policy of stealing everything our knowledge economy is built on.

    • #8
    • November 9, 2018 at 5:45 pm
    • 5 likes
  9. Member

    I think Lenin had a term for folks like Tom.

    • #9
    • November 9, 2018 at 8:43 pm
    • 2 likes
  10. Thatcher

    So, a member of the Brain Trust that brought us 2008 and 2012, who earnestly counselled us to lose in 2016, is once again pushing his Clauswitzian “win by losing” strategy?

    Who does anybody like for the Stanley Cup this season?

    • #10
    • November 9, 2018 at 9:01 pm
    • 7 likes
  11. Member

    You called it exactly, “Rockefeller Republican”.

    I read his book by mistake, thinking it would explain the collapse of institutional elitist rule by the baby boomers. Instead he laid out a puzzled description of the way an informed electorate rejected the failure of his chums.

    It never sunk in in his book that that he was explaining the problem very well…

    • #11
    • November 9, 2018 at 9:24 pm
    • 3 likes
  12. Member

    Hi John,

    Assuming you picked Peeping Drexels for the intro/outro music. As always, per your song picks, I looked them up as I liked “Ray Purchase”. Um, they’re … weird.

     

    • #12
    • November 10, 2018 at 7:21 am
    • Like
  13. Coolidge

    Here’s my disconnect. The statement is “we want a center-right party” and then complain that Trump’s not a conservative. I want to know what a center right party looks like if it’s not a party run by a big government Republican like Trump. They’re not complaining about his personality, they’re complaining about policy.

    I get a similar vein from those who go “if we could just get rid of those social conservatives, the kids would love us.”

    It seems a lot of this class is “I don’t want lower class white people who love Jesus a bit too much” and view 2016 like Caddy Day in Caddyshack. 

    The people who voted against Trump on character issues to me weren’t pragmatic but they were logical in that the long view is we nominate someone in 4 years and do it again. The Tom types think they’re going to steer a bunch of 20 and 30 something bourgeois socialists with B.A.’s from the right schools into tax hawks once those kids start making money. That “cultured class” is going hard the other way.

    This is the center right party, it’s just not the “center” for which they hoped. They wanted the cool kids and got the poor kids. 

    For snark’s sake, I look forward to his editorial on student loan debt forgiveness being good because he doesn’t lecture at public schools.

    • #13
    • November 10, 2018 at 9:11 am
    • 7 likes
  14. Coolidge

    So Trump is “Hostile to Basic Constitutional Principles” so we should vote for Democrats who are even more hostile to basic Constitutional principles? No thanks.

    • #14
    • November 10, 2018 at 9:45 am
    • 13 likes
  15. Member

    JuliaBlaschke (View Comment):

    So Trump is “Hostile to Basic Constitutional Principles” so we should vote for Democrats who are even more hostile to basic Constitutional principles? No thanks.

    Yeah, it’s such a silly argument with many facts to refute it. Pathetic.

    • #15
    • November 10, 2018 at 10:43 am
    • 6 likes
  16. Chief

    ScottE (View Comment):

    Hi John,

    Assuming you picked Peeping Drexels for the intro/outro music. As always, per your song picks, I looked them up as I liked “Ray Purchase”. Um, they’re … weird.

     

    Guilty as charged. And, yes, very weird :)

    • #16
    • November 10, 2018 at 11:59 am
    • 3 likes
  17. Member

    Saying “i’m going to delegate this power to you [Democrats] for a while and see how you do” seems really naive. We know how they’ll do. Especially if it means electing people who are only in their 40s/50s. Seems to be a lot of wishful thinking here. 

    • #17
    • November 10, 2018 at 12:02 pm
    • 6 likes
  18. Member

    JuliaBlaschke (View Comment):

    So Trump is “Hostile to Basic Constitutional Principles” so we should vote for Democrats who are even more hostile to basic Constitutional principles? No thanks.

    It’s as if Obama never happened. 

    • #18
    • November 10, 2018 at 12:03 pm
    • 11 likes
  19. Member

    Why were “the evangelicals” so upset with Reagan in ’84?

    • #19
    • November 10, 2018 at 12:07 pm
    • 2 likes
  20. Member

    Probably my favorite song this year:

    • #20
    • November 10, 2018 at 3:36 pm
    • 1 like
  21. Member

    The argument:

    1. If the leader of a political party undermines rule of law and the Constitution, vote against his party at all levels.

    2. Trump, the leader of the GOP, undermines rule of law and the Constitution.

    3. So vote against the GOP at all levels.

    The premises support the conclusion perfectly, and the first premise is reasonable enough.

    The problem is that the second premise is false. The only thing in favor of it is Trump’s rhetoric and the occasional flirtation with a policy or executive order of dubious legality.

    Against the premise: reduction of unlawful regulations and promotion of the rule of law rather than the rule of judges in the federal Courts.

    Meanwhile, the Democratic Party’s policies are against the Constitution and rule of law when it comes to judges and regulations, and under Obama they have a notable history of lawless executive action.

    • #21
    • November 11, 2018 at 3:24 am
    • 8 likes
  22. Member

    kylez (View Comment):

    JuliaBlaschke (View Comment):

    So Trump is “Hostile to Basic Constitutional Principles” so we should vote for Democrats who are even more hostile to basic Constitutional principles? No thanks.

    It’s as if Obama never happened.

    (Assuming the Democrats don’t screw the pooch again) I think the Obama era will be remembered as America’s “Lost Decade.” Or the years the locusts ate.

    But clearly not everyone felt the effects, and for them “Let’s put the Democrats in charge again” doesn’t conjure up images of those sky-darkening swarms.

    • #22
    • November 11, 2018 at 6:17 am
    • 6 likes
  23. Member

    I think the prevailing belief on display from the guest re voting for Dems was, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” I know where that places me. 

    • #23
    • November 11, 2018 at 11:00 am
    • 8 likes
  24. Reagan

    It was a good interview. You didn’t ask gotcha questions, and you let him explain himself. It is pretty clear to me that Tom Nichols had nuance, and a level of discomfort about feeling forced to vote for Dems. Me too.

    • #24
    • November 11, 2018 at 6:06 pm
    • 2 likes
  25. Member

    Gary Robbins (View Comment):

    It was a good interview. You didn’t ask gotcha questions, and you let him explain himself. It is pretty clear to me that Tom Nichols had nuance, and a level of discomfort about feeling forced to vote for Dems. Me too.

    He didn’t explain himself. See my comment above. There was no nuance. There was just meaningless anti-Trump boilerplate.

    and a level of discomfort about feeling forced to vote for Dems

    Nobody forced him — or you — to vote for Dems. Blame nobody but yourself for that silly decision.

    • #25
    • November 11, 2018 at 7:03 pm
    • 8 likes
  26. Lincoln

    So, I get that Trump has said some things that are outright or borderline racist. I get that many on the right have views on trade that are basically laissez-faire (Take whatever you can get, doesn’t matter how one sided the deal is, because it is still better than not getting cheap crap from other countries. I’m not here, but that’s how I boil down that argument.) I agree with most of the criticism with respect to Trump about crassness, over defensiveness, and so on. However, I agree with many who are basically good with everything that Donald Trump has done with respect to what has actually been done in the executive branch, and can sort of ignore the noise.

    Even after listening to this, I am totally at a loss as to why any actual Republican would not vote for Trump in 2020 in the general election. Which policy is governing this decision. I gather it’s the fear over nationalism. My guess is most self-proclaimed nationalist who also identify as Republican are fairly pro-constitution. The only ‘nationalistic’ things that ‘nationalist’ Republicans want that I can see are fairer trade deals (not isolationist, just deals that make it possible for Americans laborers to compete – we can sell to you if you can sell to us – sounds like free trade to me, just not one sided trade), and the desire to have some form of border control, so that it’s not just a free for all. We vary widely on what we would ultimately like to see done regarding immigration, but it sure does not seem unreasonable that we should control who can immigrate to our country. Part of that is a wall – where people are entering illegally through a porous border. That’s it.

    I think we have a long way to go before the Republican ‘nationalists’ turn the party into the 3rd Reich (and much further to go than the Democrats, too).

    • #26
    • November 12, 2018 at 1:56 pm
    • 5 likes
  27. Member

    DrewInWisconsin (View Comment):

    I listened very closely hoping he would actually explain his problems with the President, and he mentioned three:

    He said the president was “Out of Control”
    Had a “Cult of Personality”
    And was “Hostile to Basic Constitutional Principles”

    But not once did he explain what he meant by these lazy criticisms. They’re just empty, commonplace buzzwords that NeverTrumpers use, as if their meaning is self-evident.

    I listened this weekend and had a similar impression as Drew. I wanted him to explain why Trump was bad and how electing Democrats would keep him in check. What is Trump doing that having Democrats in control of Congress would be stopped?

    He said that it felt wrong to vote for Hillary. Well yeah, that’s because it was wrong. Never vote to give the Clintons power (maybe Rush’s Operation Chaos had some validity). Even as a protest vote in a state sure to go Democrat. Just leave that section blank or vote for the “bake the cake” “libertarian”.

    Nice also to know that I’m a rube for simply wanting the border defended and illegal immigration stopped. He lived down to the reputation that proceeded him.

    • #27
    • November 14, 2018 at 2:31 pm
    • 5 likes
  28. Member

    I have to echo Drews questions. Can *someone* please give me *specific* examples of Trumps alleged “lawlessness” and “Authoritarian tendencies”?

    I’ve been hearing about this for years, and I just don’t see it.

    Help a guy out here -you might even convince me if your examples are clear enough. But I’ve never gotten any specifics.

    (And don’t say “Executive Orders”).

     

     

    • #28
    • November 14, 2018 at 3:46 pm
    • 3 likes
  29. Member

    Miffed White Male (View Comment):

    I have to echo Drews questions. Can *someone* please give me *specific* examples of Trumps alleged “lawlessness” and “Authoritarian tendencies”?

    I’ve been hearing about this for years, and I just don’t see it.

    Help a guy out here -you might even convince me if your examples are clear enough. But I’ve never gotten any specifics.

    (And don’t say “Executive Orders”).

    Can we say “flirtations with executive orders”? He did talk about changing birthright citizenship by executive order. That would be unlawful.

    But I would also prefer to call that a flirtation with lawlessness, not an instance of actual lawlessness. I, like you, am a bit unclear on the alleged specifics.

    • #29
    • November 14, 2018 at 3:48 pm
    • Like
  30. Member

    Saint Augustine (View Comment):
    Can we say “flirtations with executive orders”? He did talk about changing birthright citizenship by executive order. That would be unlawful.

    And it would (probably) get struck down by the courts, and he would abide by the court order.

    So what’s the problem?

     

    • #30
    • November 14, 2018 at 3:57 pm
    • 1 like
  1. 1
  2. 2