The Other McCain

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

Whither the ‘Ahoy’ Coalition?

Posted on | July 15, 2021 | No Comments

“Questions of policy — is Bill Kristol in favor of enforcing our immigration laws, or not? — were ultimately less important to the fate of the Weekly Standard than their intellectual pride. Neoconservatives decided in 2015 that Donald Trump should not be the Republican nominee and, when their advice was rejected by GOP primary voters, the neoconservatives doubled-down and decided that Hillary Clinton should be president. When that didn’t happen, they doubled down again, and declared Trump’s presidency illegitimate. At no point, apparently, did it ever occur to them to ask, ‘What if we’re wrong?’ The possibility of error was not something Bill Kristol (Harvard, Class of 1979) was willing to consider.”
Robert Stacy McCain, Dec. 6, 2018

Kurt Schlichter popularized, if he did not invent, the use of “ahoy” as a jab to make fun of the “cruise-ship conservatives” (e.g., the staff of the defunct Weekly Standard) whose #NeverTrump politics led them sailing off into irrelevant oblivion. That 2018 Weekly Standard cruise which they advertised as “coming soon” never happened, because anti-Trump “conservatism” represented only a disaffected handful of writers, and had no substantial following among GOP voters in general.

The appeal of “cruise-ship conservatism,” really, was to affluent old people who paid for a chance to get up-close-and-personal with political celebrities they recognized from watching Fox News. Probably 90% of Americans couldn’t pick Stephen Hayes out of a police lineup, but to habitual Fox News viewers, Hayes was once a superstar.

And then Trump broke their minds. He completely wrecked the Standard — or rather, they wrecked themselves, by their seething hatred of him — and once he beat Hillary, the handwriting was on the wall. So now Hayes is doing Jonah Goldberg’s Dispatch newsletter with David French (similarly mind-broken by Trump) and Kristol’s name is attached to The Bulwark, the title of which is said by some to be a pun alluding to the depraved sexual kink of its proprietors and staff. (“Bull Work,” get it?)

Earlier this week, The Bulwark published a genuinely obnoxious attack on the conservative Claremont Institute, and this prompted Steven Hayward to reflect on what happened to Kristol & Co.:

Trump is gone now, and his opponents can claim a large measure of vindication in the ignominious end of his term. Yet the Never Trumpers seem by degrees to have become Never Republicans. Bill and several of his colleagues at The Bulwark seem to have decided that throwing Trump over the side, and Trump-friendly Republicans with him, isn’t enough: they now seem to be throwing aside conservatism itself, suddenly attacking conservative views on climate change, health care, and many other issues. Is it now Never Conservative?

It’s not about ideology, just like it was never really about policy, as I explained in December 2018. No, it’s about ego, about the imagined entitlement of the Harvard-educated Kristol and his influential friends to act as the de facto Membership Committee of Conservatism, Inc.

In this context, think about Nicolle Wallace. How is it that this erstwhile Republican operative has gone so far Left that she’s ideologically indistinguishable from her MSNBC colleague Rachel Maddow? The answer, I would argue, is that Wallace — like Hayes, Kristol, et al. — is essentially a careerist, who was always more concerned with maintaining her membership in a certain socioeconomic class than with politics.

Such people will always be found scrambling to climb aboard whatever political bandwagon seems most likely to deliver them to the upper echelons of prestige and influence, where they can rub elbows with the rich and famous or, better yet, become rich and famous themselves. From the time Republicans took over Congress in 1994, until Hillary lost in 2016, Bill Kristol exercised an enormous amount of control over who was allowed to ride aboard the bandwagon of Conservatism Inc., and it was this extraordinary influence which was most important to him.

Far be it from me to speculate on what role, if any, psychosexual deviance may play in all this — I’ll leave that to Ace, who’s pretty sure that the third Mrs. Charlie Sykes is a “hot wife,” IYKWIMAITYD — when the real crux of the matter is how to prevent the “Ahoy” Coalition from regaining its former power over the conservative movement in the future.




 

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