Monday, September 04, 2017


[NB: If you're looking for the weekly Voice column, I think it will be out Tuesday -- though, given the flux state, I can't guarantee anything.]

The full-throated lunacy of many of my subjects can be entertaining, but these days the people who bother me most are the apparatchiks who portray themselves as reasonable difference-splitters. In punditry as in real life, there's always something up with these guys. Take Ross Douthat (well, this week anyway -- he's shown himself as capable of lunacy as any of the rest of them).

In his recent column Douthat tells us about two conservative authors of whom he disapproves. One of these is Jeff Flake, whose NeverTrumpism would of course embarrass a conservative establishment figure like Douthat who cannot bring himself to go so far as to anathematize the man who may yet turn the Supreme Court into a religious tribal council (though Douthat does occasionally hit Trump with some zingers, just to show that he's an intellectual). Flake's approach Douthat dismisses as a loser "because purist libertarianism plus supply-side economics is not a winner in the current crisis."

But Douthat also treats Dinesh D'Souza, and at first you might be surprised by how he slams the former wingnut boy wonder -- calling his new The Big Lie book about how liberals are HitlerStalin “demagogy” and D’Souza’s "latest plea for attention.” But this is all a bluff, and the first hint comes when Douthat says "D’Souza has become a hack." When was he not a hack? When he was doing stupid look-how-unPC stunts at Dartmouth? When was blaming 9/11 on liberals for provoking Al Qaeda? D'Souza has always been a piece of shit.

This turns out to be a squirt of lube to grease the way for Douthat's real D'Souza howler, which comes in the form of a rhetorical concession:
Because D’Souza has a debater’s gifts, his wild argument is piled atop a legitimate foundation. The historical relationship between progressive politics and various evils — racism, anti-Semitism, imperialism, eugenics, authoritarianism — that liberals prefer to pin exclusively on the right is complicated and sometimes damning, and that ideological history shapes progressivism still.
So tendentious readings of Margaret Sanger are something liberals should engage instead of trying to keep the Jesus Zombies from stealing women's rights. Also, "that ideological history shapes progressivism still"? What the fuck does that mean? That if Bernie Sanders becomes president, he'll institute new Palmer Raids because people like him just can't help themselves? Douthat's basically saying D'Souza's "demagogy" is right -- at least when you say it New York Times style.

Also, while Douthat thinks Flake's sober theme is a loser, he says if conservatives "follow D’Souza’s lead (and Trump’s, now that his populist agenda seems all-but-dead) and wrap unpopular economic policies in wild attacks on liberalism," they hit the jackpot:
With this combination, the Republican Party can win elections, at least for now — not because most Americans can be persuaded that liberals are literally Nazis, but because liberalism’s intolerant and utopian tendencies make people fear the prospect of granting progressives political power to match their cultural hegemony.
I'm sure even Douthat's better-manicured readers will have stopped listening closely after "can win elections" -- because that is all conservatism is about anymore: cheerfully watching Trump use conservative policy (the only kind he has actually tried to effect, remember) to wreck the social structure of America, and going "oh dear dear dear" afterwards to show how much nicer than him they are. Oh, and Douthat adds this:
Winning this way is a purely negative achievement for the right, a recipe for failed governance extending years ahead.
If he'd ever shown signs of a sense of humor, I say this was a joke. Trump's goon squads don't care about the years ahead. After him, the Even More Savage God! As for Douthat, I'm sure he expects to have been raptured into the arms of the Lord by the time this all goes down.

So, to recap, both the NeverTrump idealist and the sensationalist grifter are wrong, but Douthat has money on the half that eats.

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