One of the side effects of the Trumpening is that a lot of people (like me) are finally coming to terms with just how awful the conservative establishment media really is.
But first, a digression…
Some years ago I knew a fellow who I thought was remarkably smart and talented. He absolutely looked the part, knew all the jargon and kept up with the latest developments in the field. It seemed to me that his success was assured.
And yet, time and again, his efforts were thwarted, often on the very brink of breakthrough success. He would work for months to achieve some goal and appear to have things sewn up, and then the bottom would fall out.
He claimed these events were almost always beyond his control, and if they weren’t (that is to say if he made a bad call), he always claimed that he had been given bad information. It was never his fault.
At first, I thought he was just having a bad run of luck, but as his losing streak stretched into its second decade, I had to question my assumptions about his competence and talent. Maybe he wasn’t all that smart. Maybe it wasn’t bad luck. Maybe he failed because he deserved to fail. Basically, he was a loser.
This brings me to National Review and the conservative establishment.
For many years we on the right assumed that the writers at various rightist magazines (which includes Reason and The Weekly Standard) were people like us – people with principles, a unique insight into economics and filled with the conviction to write about what was Right and Just.
And yet, despite their impeccable credentials and sparkling wit, conservatism itself suffered defeat after defeat. Government is bigger, more expensive, less responsive, less effective, less lawful, and the culture has been utterly debased.
There have been some conservative victories, but they came about entirely independently of magazines like National Review. The Pro-life movement is gaining strength thanks to ultrasounds and the Roe Effect. Gun rights were boosted by grassroots efforts in state legislatures and a series of brilliantly conceived and flawlessly executed strategic lawsuits.
The beltway bunch really don’t like either issue, regarding them as divisive. Oh, they may take on a token true believer, but their support for those causes is perfunctory, merely checking the box. They cover the stories and hype the wins, but had nothing to do with it.
Major inroads have been made in tearing down the liberal media, but once again, that was done entirely outside the Washington/New York conservative corridor. Bomb-throwers like Andrew Breitbart and James O’Keefe took the fight to liberal media and won while the establishment clucked about how coarse the debate had gotten – and who let these roughnecks into the movement, anyway?
A watershed was reached when NR began to purge its staff of everyone who challenged orthodoxy – Coulter, Derbyshire and finally Steyn.
Mark Steyn is perhaps the most important of the three because his case (the Climategate defamation suit) involved the core of what conservative media stands for: free speech. And yet, given an opportunity to fight in open court, they crawled under their desks and hid, hoping white-shoe lawyers would get them sprung on a technicality.
Oh, they still use the legal case for their annual fund-raisers, but only Steyn has made an attempt to fight back. In fact, one might surmise that they want the case to keep going indefinitely for that very reason. Can’t milk a case for donations once it’s dismissed.
Conservative journalists have always been somewhat of a paradox. In a profession that is overwhelmingly liberal, why would people come out and advertise themselves as a member of a hated minority that can only limit their options for success?
The answer was long assumed that these were rebels, men and women of rare courage who were willing to put conviction before profit.
There was of course another possibility. That was that these people figured the job market would be easier (less competition) and the standards of success less demanding (because conservative has been on a long losing streak).
As an extra bonus, from these secure perches, they were free to take potshots at the dimmest of the left, and thereby make themselves seem great wits.
Reading the back and forth between these people and the gifted amateurs (some of them from this strange “alt-right” thing I never heard of before), it’s clear that the “pros” are utterly out of their depth.
I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: These people are supposed to be the greatest communicators the conservative movement can produce. As Trump rose in the polls, they summoned all of their powers, gathered their best and greatest and failed.
They failed to even convince their own side.
This should have made them humble, but instead they’re busy saying that everyone who doesn’t agree with them is stupid. For years they took our money and told us how bright, and insightful we were because we paid for their futile efforts and dutifully followed their lead. Now that we question it, they claim we’re idiots.
If I were Jonah Goldberg, I’d be deeply embarrassed by this. I’d put up a disclaimer that I was drunk or high or both – or that it was written by a parallel bearded me from the “Mirror, Mirror” National Review. (That’s a Star Trek reference. He’s all about them.)
The campaign is really only beginning and much of what passes now will be forgotten by November, but it's still an interesting window into what happened and also provides insight into why Trump isn't trying to win them over. He knows they're useless. For someone widely derieded as an ignorant blowhard, I'd say that's a pretty astute observation.