The Other McCain

"One should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or else shut up." — Arthur Koestler

Jonah Goldberg, Professional Loser?

Posted on | January 17, 2013 | 115 Comments

“We lost. We are losers. . . . Our operatives are incompetent and we live in a dream world.”
Rob Long of National Review, in an interview with Joe Hagan of New York magazine during a Caribbean cruise in November

Has National Review, an institution founded in opposition to liberalism, become part of the problem it was intended to solve? This thought has occurred to me with increasing frequency in recent years.

Last January, immediately after Rick Santorum’s stunning upset victory in the Iowa caucuses, I attended a debate-night event in Manchester, New Hampshire hosted by National Review and was stunned at their cheerful acquiescence in The Inevitability of Mitt Romney. The primary campaign had just begun, and it took another three months for Romney to lock up the nomination, yet the NR crowd were ready and willing to applaud the coronation of the GOP Establishment choice.

This apparent unwillingness to fight tough battles against long odds disturbed me then, and at Christmas, I was further disturbed to read the New York magazine account of National Review‘s post-election Caribbean cruise, which I summarized thus:

[A]n article you should read in its entirety, if you want to be thoroughly depressed about the uselessness of our conservative elite: Wonks, pundits, pollsters and consultants on a free tropical vacation paid for by elderly magazine subscribers who, we presume, were grateful to be in the intellectual presence of the presumed heirs of Bill Buckley.

Unless you consider pre-emptive surrender to be a clever strategy, there is clearly something wrong when a political movement’s flagship institution shows such a willing acceptance of defeat.

The problem is not merely that National Review was aboard the Romney bandwagon early, nor that Romney was subsequently defeated, but rather that no one at National Review seems ashamed of themselves for their roles in helping to bring about this disaster. If they are leaders of the conservative movement, and if the conservative movement has failed — which it quite obviously has, or otherwise Obama would not be ruling by executive fiat — where is the accountability?

While I’m not saying that Rich Lowry must commit seppuku, why is there no admission by anyone at National Review that they have failed the movement they presumed to lead? A contemplation of these dark thoughts was inspired by Jonah Goldberg’s latest column:

[The conservative] movement has an unhealthy share of hucksters eager to make money from stirring rage, paranoia, and an ill-defined sense of betrayal with little concern for the real political success that can come only with persuading the unconverted.
A conservative journalist or activist can now make a decent living while never once bothering to persuade a liberal. Telling people only what they want to hear has become a vocation. Worse, it’s possible to be a rank-and-file conservative without once being exposed to a good liberal argument.

OK, a few questions immediately come to mind:

  • Who are these “hucksters”? If they are merely “stirring rage, paranoia, and an ill-defined sense of betrayal” for their own selfish purposes, they must be eliminated. Name names, please.
  • How much of this “bothering to persuade a liberal” has Jonah Goldberg done? Where is this legion of converts to conservatism — the Goldbergites, as it were — to whom he may point as evidence of his successful persuasion?
  • To which “good liberal argument” do we need to be exposed? Because the very fact that an argument is liberal would seem to me sufficient evidence that it is wrong, and so I’m having trouble with the concept of arguments that are both liberal and “good.”

Perhaps I’m misunderstanding Jonah’s argument. Maybe I’m just a huckster “stirring rage, paranoia, and an ill-defined sense of betrayal.” However, Goldberg seems to be on more solid ground here:

To listen to many grassroots conservatives, the GOP establishment is a cabal of weak-kneed sellouts who regularly light votive candles to a poster of liberal Republican icon Nelson Rockefeller.
This is not only not true, it’s a destructive myth. . . .
It’s not that the GOP isn’t conservative enough, it’s that it isn’t tactically smart or persuasive enough to move the rest of the nation in a more conservative direction.

Because Goldberg is insufficiently explicit — he won’t name the “hucksters” — it is only by inference that we may deduce that this is a reference to the embarrassingly ineffective “Dump Boehner” movement that sought to unseat the Republican Speaker of the House. And if that’s the case, I agree: Boehner and the House GOP aren’t the problem. The real problem is the gross ineptitude of Senate Republicans, whose warped political judgment was manifested in the May 2009 decision of NRSC Chairman John Cornyn to back Charlie Crist over Marco Rubio, and which has been further evidenced in their multiple blunders of the 2010 and 2012 campaigns. But I digress . . .

While Goldberg’s vague jab at “hucksters” is likely aimed at those who organized the “Dump Boehner” movement, perhaps it is also retroactive excuse-making for National Review‘s Romney bandwagon trip that so disturbed me last January in New Hampshire. The unwillingness of the NR crowd to consider Santorum as a viable alternative to Romney bugged me then, and it still bugs me now.

Look at the exit polls: In Ohio, Romney got only 81% of the conservative vote, while Obama got 88% of the liberal vote. Thirty-five percent of Ohio voters called themselves conservative, as compared to 22% who identified as liberal. If Romney had gotten a larger share of the conservative vote, he would have won Ohio. Now, here are the truly frightening numbers: Obama got 44% of the Catholic vote in Ohio, and 29% of the evangelical (or “born again”) Protestant vote.

Is Jonah Goldberg willing to admit what seems obvious to me, namely that nominating a moderate Mormon contributed to the weakening of GOP support among conservative Christians? Isn’t it possible that an adamantly pro-life Catholic would have done better?

Understand that this isn’t an argument about “purity.” It’s an argument about competence: How do you win in politics?

The fact that the Romney campaign failed to win a sufficient share of conservative voters cannot be blamed on “hucksters.”

Scapegoating and blame-shifting are not attributes of responsible leadership, and if National Review claims to be leading a movement, shouldn’t the recent electoral catastrophe cause them to reflect on their own role in this defeat?

Losing makes me angry. It enrages me. Defeat is a humiliation that insults my sense of personal honor. And what I’m hearing from Jonah Goldberg and his National Review colleagues does not convey a similar feeling of outrage. They have been beaten, embarrassed and publicly shamed, and yet they don’t seem even slightly bothered by their current status as ineffectual laughingstocks, objects of scorn and ridicule.

Show me a good loser, and I’ll show you . . . a loser.

The National Review Institute Summit will convene Jan. 25 at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, Washington, DC., and while I deny any intention to stir up rage, paranoia and so forth, I sure hope some pissed-off conservatives will show up and ask tough questions of those who claim to be the rightful heirs of Buckley, Goldwater and Reagan.

Oh — did I mention Joe Scarborough will be there?

 


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Comments

  • Hesperado

    “You don’t have war crime tribunals in the Hague to prop up Bill Clinton. Not in the nineties.”

    The Hague wasn’t doing it to “prop up Bill Clinton”. That doesn’t mean they weren’t pursuing the standard Islamophiliac policy that has characterized the Left (particularly in Europe) for decades. Clinton just happened to be in synch with Eurabia, ideologically (and financially).

  • J. P. Maher

    K-bob, You saw it all on CNN, right.? A picture on CNN is worth a thousand lies.

  • http://boogieforward.us/ K-Bob

    More like every information outlet on the planet.

    Look, I don’t trust “the media” any farther than I do Fred Phelps and Barbara Boxer, but at some point, you have to bow to the inevitable.

    This isn’t some “Pallywood” thing, either. THe only “debunking” of it has been base denial. Debunking requires evidence, like we saw with Pallywood.

  • http://boogieforward.us/ K-Bob

    I’ll have to start checking it out more.

    As to Stacy’s former employer, I quit following links there or reading copies of anything there once Rev. Moon had a “crowning ceremony” for himself in a Federal building, attended by officeholders.

  • http://boogieforward.us/ K-Bob

    Nah. Stay at homes are not conservative, they are simply fed up. Not the same thing at all. Most were Ron Paul supporters. Look, I’m more libertarian, myself. But even I voted, and I hated the entire concept of having Romney in the race. But this last election was different, and anyone with connecting neurons knows it. If you didn’t get out there and push Romney’s weak ass across the line, you cannot claim in any way, except when lying to yourself, to be some sort of conservative. End of story.

  • bricko

    Uh, no. Santorum is a lunatic and should be shunned.

  • Rochelle

    There are just so many times we can be jabbed with a pin before we smack back. Hitler was not stopped with a hug and if you need to look at photos, look at Munich after the allies were finished bombing.

    I STAND WITH THOSE WHO MUST DEFEND THEMSELVES AGAINST evil … Evil ideologies, ie… islam… communism… fascism

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  • rightactions

    Is Jonah Goldberg willing to admit what seems obvious to me, namely that nominating a moderate Mormon contributed to the weakening of GOP support among conservative Christians?
    –Unbylined Huckster

    Hey Huck, nominating a Massachusetts politician contributed most to the weakening of GOP support among conservatives of all kinds. And then there was Romneycare, a second millstone around the nominee’s neck.

    If conservative Christians could support a Quaker (Nixon) yet Massachusetts voters backed McGovern, what makes you think the Mormonism had anything to do with Romney’s defeat?

  • rightactions

    Romney was a terrible candidate. …
    The worst candidate in generations.

    CPAguy

    McCain was worse.

    Arguably Bush I was also worse. His percentage win of the 1992 vote total was lower. And despite being the incumbent, he couldn’t beat a kook and a womanizing failed governor from a small state.

  • Joe

    So you say that Romney got only 81% of the conservative vote in Ohio. Ok, so whose fault is that? Because if I’m assigning blame, I’m thinking that a good place to start is with the idiot so-called conservatives who somehow couldn’t bring themselves to vote against the most liberall politician whose ever held the office. Oh, and you say that the failure of conservative Christians to support a mormon can’t be blamed on hucksters ? But the thing is, that seems to be the charitable explanation. But hey, if you wanna blame Goldberg and NR, well go with God. As for myself, I have no problem blaming liberals for any number of thing – it isn’t too much of a stetch to think my side might have some problems of its own.

  • TexasJew

    Jaynie, you hit that out of the park!

  • TexasJew

    I agree
    Compared to McCain, Romney was Reagan on steroids
    I liked Romney more, before he went into the witness protection program and flipped his tens of millions of voters and financial supporters the bird

  • Jaynie59

    They’ll never learn, though, will they? Look at all the conservative blogs singing Kirsten Powers praises because she admitted that liberals are intolerant and stupid? She’s all over them today.
    I’ll never understand why conservatives eat their own and propr the other side in some lame attempt to be liked. Never.

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