The Other McCain

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

‘Smart Takes’ = Too Clever By Half

Posted on | October 9, 2021 | No Comments

The first thing to understand about Jonathan Chait is that he has never been anything but a pundit. He hired on at The New Republic fresh out of the University of Michigan, and has never done the kind of journalism that involves any actual reporting. He’s never worked at a newspaper, covering city council meetings or zoning boards, and instead has always aspired to be an intellectual, telling others what to think.

America is cursed with a vast surplus of such “journalists,” whose only interest is influencing politics on the grand scale — aspiring to be persons of world-historic importance, “public intellectuals” on the model of Arthur Schlesinger Jr. or Kenneth Galbraith. They exclusively focus on the Big Picture, and thus can never be bothered to write about any subject they deem less important than the Destiny of Humankind which, it turns out, always somehow involves U.S. electoral politics.

The second thing to understand about Jonathan Chait is that he is a partisan Democrat. There’s no need to bother with labels like “liberal” or “progressive,” really, because all Chait really cares about — the bottom line of his punditry — is helping Democrats win elections.

You could say the same not only of most pundits like Chait, but the entire class of “journalists” employed by such institutions as the Washington Post, the New York Times, NBC, ABC, CBS, etc., who never for a minute lose sight of their existential purpose — their raison d’être — which is to help Democrats win elections. This is why national “news” coverage has become an exercise in political propaganda, because the editors and producers involved in deciding what counts as “news” always evaluate stories on the basis of how they might influence elections, with an eye toward helping Democrats win. In many cases, the same exact story — e.g., a mass shooting — will either attract saturation coverage from the national media or be completely ignored, based upon the identity and motives of the shooter, and how this fits into the political narrative that Democrats want to advance. If the gunman is white, this is national news; if he had any sort of “right-wing” motive, he’ll make the front page of the New York Times. But nobody who watches MSNBC or CNN will ever hear the name of Timothy Simpkins, for some reason.

In general, “journalists” are oblivious to their own partisan bias. There is no one in the newsroom of the Washington Post or NBC who would ever call attention to the blatant dishonesty of what they are selling as “news.” The hiring process at such organizations ensures no one is ever employed who isn’t down for the agenda of helping Democrats win elections. And therefore, as I’ve said for years, journalists don’t notice liberal bias for the same reason fish don’t notice water — it surrounds them, and they are so deeply submerged in it that they could not imagine life without it.

And this brings us back to the kind of punditry practiced by Jonathan Chait, whose specialty is the “smart take” — discovering (or, if necessary, inventing) some angle on political current events that is so unusual as to astonish his peers by its audacious cleverness. This generally involves a deliberate contradiction of conventional wisdom, and is a sort of show-off game, wherein the liberal intellectual flaunts his skill by mounting an argument in favor of something he knows most of his readers are against, or vice-versa. Thus, in February 2016, as the GOP presidential primary campaign was underway in earnest, Chait published this:

Why Liberals Should Support a Trump Republican Nomination
The initial stupefaction and dismay with which liberals greeted Donald Trump’s candidacy have slowly given way to feelings of Schadenfreude— reveling in the suffering of others, in this case the apoplectic members of the Republican Establishment. Are such feelings morally wrong? Or can liberals enjoy the spectacle unleavened by guilt? As Republican voters start actually voting, is it okay to be sad — alarmed, even — by the prospect that the Trump hostile takeover of the GOP may fail?
There are three reasons, in descending order of obviousness, for a liberal to earnestly and patriotically support a Trump Republican nomination. The first, of course, is that he would almost certainly lose. . . .

Well, how’d that work out for ya, Mister Chait?

This particular “smart take” displayed many of the characteristic traits of the species. His first sentence, for example, includes three fancy words — stupefaction, schadenfreude, and apoplectic — which serve chiefly to signify that Chait’s SAT score was higher than yours. There are times, of course, when such words may be necessary and appropriate, but to cram all three of these words into the first sentence of your column?

However, Chait’s intellectual exhibitionist tendency is not confined to displaying a collegiate vocabulary. He also engages in ostentatious exhibition of advanced analytical skill:

The GOP is a machine that harnesses ethno-nationalistic fear — of communists, criminals, matrimonial gays, terrorists, snooty cultural elites — to win elections and then, once in office, caters to its wealthy donor base. . . . As its voting base has lost college-­educated voters and gained blue-collar whites, the fissure between the means by which Republicans attain power and the ends they pursue once they have it has widened.

You see that Chait was presuming to describe to his liberal readers, in February 2016, a fundamental conflict within the Republican Party which Trump would make worse. It apparently did not occur to Chait that one could say much the same about the Democratic Party, which has its own “wealthy donor base” whose interests are arguably at odds with the interests of the people on whom the party relies to win elections.

This paragraph-long putdown of the GOP was Chait’s attempt to supply the spoonful of sugar to make the “smart take” medicine go down. If you’re going to try to convince liberals that it’s really a good thing for Donald Trump to win the GOP nomination — the source of rampant panic among Democrats in 2016 and thereafter — you must signify tribal membership: “I’m on your side. I hate Republicans, too.”

Describing the Republican Party as “a machine that harnesses ethno-nationalistic fear” was also a sort of Godwin’s Law dog whistle, a way of smearing them as Nazis without saying so directly. And this brings us to a third important point about Jonathan Chait: He’s a Jew.

This is a fact that I would prefer not to mention, as I don’t wish to attract any Stormfront readership, or to encourage anti-Semitism. But there are times — and this is certainly one of them — when the fact that a liberal intellectual is Jewish cannot be ignored. When Chait described the GOP as a “machine” based on “ethno-nationalistic fear,” he knew damned well what he was implying, and so did his intended readership. Every four years, the liberal media gin up a propaganda campaign to smear the Republican presidential nominee as The Next Hitler, and they do this in large measure because they want to mobilize Jews into an all-out effort on behalf of whichever Gentile gets the Democratic nomination.

It perhaps did not escape Jonathan Chait’s notice how, in the 2016 Democratic primaries, Team Hillary leveraged the party apparatus to cheat Bernie Sanders out of the nomination, and why? Because it would not do — the “optics” would not be optimal — for Democrats to nominate an actual socialist Jew for president, as this would more or less confirm what anti-Semites have said about liberalism all along. Nightmarish fears that the various components of the Democratic Party coalition might go flying asunder with Sanders as the nominee were part of the calculus that helped Team Hillary fend off the left-wing populist challenge of Sanders in 2016, as it was for Joe Biden in 2020. While Democrats regularly attract 75% of the Jewish vote (to say nothing of Jewish campaign contributions), they are at the same time eager to avoid the appearance of being an instrument of what anti-Semites would call the Worldwide Jewish Conspiracy because many black voters are anti-Semites.

And Democrats can never win elections without 90% of the black vote.

“Gonna put y’all back in chains,” remember? Please remind me — I’ve forgotten — which party is harnessing “ethno-nationalistic fear”?

No, I could not avoid mentioning that Jonathan Chait is Jewish, because this is highly relevant not only to the style of “smart take” punditry he practices, but also to the habitual way Democrats accuse Republicans of being crypto-Nazis. Why do Democrats always get 75% of the Jewish vote, anyway? Books have been written on the subject — e.g., Why Are Jews Liberal? by Norman Podhoretz — and an undeniable part of this syndrome is that Jews have been taught to believe that “the right” in America is contiguous with “the right” in Germany circa 1932.

It is not necessary here to explain everything that’s wrong with that analogy, and I’m already past the 1,400-word mark, so I won’t bother to examine this in any detail. My only point is that, when Jonathan Chait accused the GOP of being an “ethno-nationalist fear” machine, he knew exactly how that would be understood among his Jewish readers, and so the fact that Chait is Jewish becomes the elephant in the room — and I can’t help but notice this “Republicans Are Actually Nazis” theme being endlessly reiterated by other liberal Jewish pundits.

Oh, but the “smart take” pundit who argued in 2016 that liberals should be in favor of Donald Trump as the GOP nominee — because Trump “would almost certainly lose” — has a new “smart take”:

Anybody Fighting Joe Biden
Is Helping Trump’s Next Coup

All Republican politics is now
functionally authoritarian.

The words “coup” and “authoritarian” here have special meanings to Democrats because (a) Trump never staged an actual “coup,” but merely acted on his belief that the 2020 election was stolen, in attempting to prevent Biden (whom he regarded as the beneficiary of fraud) from being installed as president, and (b) Chait never accused Democrats of being “authoritarian” when they were protesting what they regarded as illegitimate election results (e.g., Stacey Abrams in 2018). Part of the magical function of the liberal media echo chamber is that it enables them to change the definitions of words without ever being called to account for this dishonest semantic abracadabra.

Exactly how are Trump and his supporters “authoritarian” in a way that Biden and his supporters are not? Well, never mind that. Chait takes it for granted that all his liberal readers know exactly what is intended by this smear — TRUMP IS HITLER! REPUBLICANS ARE NAZIS! — and he expects that no one whose opinion actually matters will find fault with such an accusation. Furthermore, Chait does not expect anyone to point out that the essence of his argument is mere partisan cheerleading: Biden’s poll numbers are in the tank, so every loyal Democrat has a sacred duty to rally ’round the embattled leader — or else!

The bogeyman threat of another Trump “coup” (whatever that’s supposed to mean) is brandished as an alternative to partisan solidarity: “Unless we all stick together now, in Biden’s darkest hour, there will be a return of the ‘authoritarian’ ORANGE MAN BAD!”

What Chait is saying here is really crude and simplistic, and yet he dresses it up in the costume of intellectualism. The “smart take” is actually so stupid that any partisan hack could do it, provided he keeps a thesaurus handy to supply himself with some fancy high-SAT words.

We’re not laughing with you, Mister Chait, we’re laughing at you.




 

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