July 8, 2018

NEVER. NEXT QUESTION? When Will the Left’s ‘Conservative Columnists’ Give up the Gimmick?

Newspapers like the New York Times and the Washington Post aren’t explicitly ideological publications. Even if in practice they lean heavily to the left, in theory they dedicate their opinion pages to debate, discussion, and diversity of opinion. So it makes sense that they’re expected to employ at least a handful of conservative columnists—but right now, that’s not the case. Rubin, Boot, Will and others alike may not be liberals, but they’re not even close to conservative anymore.

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If anything, these writers are passing up on an amazing opportunity to speak to a liberal audience. Instead of constantly bashing on Trump and the GOP, as their colleagues will surely do, they should search for rare areas of agreements, or topics where they can argue a conservative perspective to their liberal audience. Additionally, it’s fine if these columnists have changed their perspective, and now identify as moderate, or even liberals — but it’s time for the false advertising to stop.

As long as the New York Times and the Washington Post continue to pay false homage to intellectual diversity with their faux-conservative columnists, the American people will continue to view the left-wing media with skepticism — and frankly, who can blame them?

This has been going on since at least the Nixon era, if not longer. Back 2006, Jonah Goldberg explored who qualifies as “Respectable Conservatives” in the eyes of the media, in a post at the NRO Corner:

[Here’s] a short rule of thumb for how to tell who is a “respectable” conservative in the eyes of liberals: any conservative out of power or not seen as supportive of those in power. An even shorter rule of thumb would be: conservatives are respectable if they are useful to liberals. Pat Buchanan became respectable, even adorable, among a loose coalition of liberals leftists, from MSNBC’s Chris Matthews to Ralph Nader, when he turned on the GOP establishment. Kevin Phillips, David Gergen and John Dean have been “real” Republicans — though rarely conservatives — for decades because they are willing to confirm the assumptions of liberals. An even more telling example would be the “neocons.” Before the Iraq war, neocons were the nice conservatives, the good conservatives, the idealistic conservatives the un-racist conservatives, according to academics, The New York Times and others. This is not to say that they aren’t nice, good, idealistic and un-racist. Rather, it’s to point up the way in which conservatives become evil as they become influential, relevant, or otherwise inconvenient to liberals. John McCain was touted as a good choice for president by The New Republic and other liberal voices. Today, McCain is increasingly vilified by many of these same voices because, it turns out, he’s actually a Republican.

And now he’s back to being over-the-top praised, both because his plodding 2008 campaign made him Obama’s crash test dummy, and because even after he announced he had a likely fatal brain tumor, he was bashing Trump and even former running mate Sarah Palin. And speaking of Arizona Republicans, note the the update from a reader to Jonah’s post: “Don’t forget the greatest example of your point – Barry Goldwater.  A lunatic extremist in 1964, but when he strongly criticized Nixon, he became a conservative elder statesman.”