In Defense of Jonah Goldberg OR Busting Four Myths about NeverTrump
I thought I was through being surprised at the nonsense otherwise smart people will support in this era of Trump.
Not so, apparently.
I saw a tweet earlier today that expressed one of the most ridiculous thoughts I’ve seen in some time. That didn’t surprise me; It’s Twitter, ridiculous thoughts are par for the course. What surprised me is how many otherwise non-ridiculous people seemed to buy in to it.
I’m not going to single out the author of the tweet because 1) I’m not looking for a debate and 2) the tweet was not in any way unique. There is an epidemic of bad thinking on the right lately. Attributing it to one person would make it seem less of a problem than it truly is. In this particular case, the ridiculous claim in question was that principles are only a means to an end.
Anyone who could say this and believe it — while actually understanding all the words they were using — is at best, the king (or queen) of cynics, and at worst, a complete sociopath.
Principles are not a means to an end. Principles are those things you believe to be fundamentally true. If you can easily set them aside in order to attain a goal, they weren’t principles so much as they were postures. If your moral compass is only something you use to gauge what you can probably get away with, it’s not really a moral compass. It’s more like your shady lawyer and you are someone completely unworthy of trust.
This latest parade of social media numbskullery seemed to flow from people fed up with National Review’s Jonah Goldberg for continuing to think like Jonah Goldberg, write like Jonah Goldberg, and basically continuing to be Jonah Goldberg. As someone whose thinking usually aligns with Goldberg’s, I view attacks on him as attacks on me. The only reason I don’t get the same sort of thing leveled directly at me is that nobody knows who I am, which I find preferable (in all but the financial sense).
It’s a pet peeve of mine when people cite Orwell’s 1984 as a political critique of anything but socialism, but I’ll break my own rule here because I really believe the Trump-publican Tribe honestly expects those of us in Camp Goldberg to each experience this kind of epiphany:
O cruel, needless misunderstanding! O stubborn, self-willed exile from the loving breast! Two gin-scented tears trickled down the sides of his nose. But it was all right, everything was all right, the struggle was finished. He had won the victory over himself. He loved
Big BrotherDonald Trump
Sorry. Not gonna happen.
Let’s look at some of the bad thinking and myths invented by the revisionists of the Trump-publican Tribe.
Myth 1: Trump shouldn’t be criticized from the right because Democrats are worse.
Sometimes this one takes the form of “But Gorsuch!” The myth being created is that those who haven’t overcome our “stubborn, self willed exile from the loving breast” of Trump are critical of EVERYTHING he does while completely accepting anything done or said by Democrats and their media accomplices. It is simply untrue. The people who are outraged that Trump isn’t universally loved on the right must only pay attention to the things that feed their outrage. If you are associated with NeverTrump, you don’t get any credit for criticizing the left. The tribe demands 100% loyalty. The thought never dawns on the Trump-publicans that maybe President Trump only remains politically palatable to them because he has critics on the right.
Myth 2: Trump’s critics on the right are sore losers.
This one gets thrown out a lot by people who have boiled the whole issue down to simply a rivalry between Trump fans and Cruz fans (or maybe Rubio fans). Lately some are even saying NeverTrump is the equivalent of AlwaysJeb. That is complete rubbish. No one whom I count among my NeverTrump brethren is by any stretch of the imagination a Jeb supporter. Neither are any of them particularly sore about anything. To be honest, they are people who are generally rather good humored and fun to be around. It’s liberating to no longer feel compelled to reflexively defend every bad deed of a politician or party simply because someone else is worse.
Myth 3: We are AT WAR! Trump is our general.
From big name talk radio hosts all the way down to lowly tweeters with few followers, the Trump-publicans insist that they are fighting a war and Trump is our general. (Presumably this is a way of telling us we must obey Trump’s orders or be shot as deserters.)
This sort of thing is (or should be) insulting to anyone who has actually fought in a war. This may shock some people but in reality, getting paid to sit in front of a camera or behind a microphone or keyboard is wholly unlike fighting a war, as is tweeting your frustrations about others’ opinions to your 67 followers while reclining in your La-Z-Boy binge watching House of Cards. The war analogy makes those who use it look like self-important blowhards. That look may be in fashion in Republican circles these days but it’s not a good look.
Myth 4: NeverTrumpers think they are morally superior.
This one often manifests as accusations of “virtue signaling” which is a silly term people use to trivialize an opinion they don’t like. It’s really just a variation on the ad hominem logical fallacy. The personal attack in this case is dismissing someone’s idea by falsely characterizing their motive for expressing it. The same fallacy could easily (and just as falsely) be turned around to accuse the Trump-publicans of only attacking NeverTrumpers in order to signal their superior loyalty to the “team.”
One thing for which Jonah Goldberg often gets criticized is the idea that if you defend or rationalize Trump’s bad moral behavior you have abandoned any right to be critical of anyone on the left for similar behavior.
That’s not “moral preening.” It’s just an objective fact.
It is no different than when a politician says he will cut taxes but then raises them once elected. He has henceforth lost the high ground in any debate about the benefits of cutting taxes. Inconsistency is like acid to credibility.
I don’t write or say anything to appear morally superior. That’s a fool’s errand. However, I do think that for people who once claimed to be outraged by the immoral antics and low character of certain Democrats, the morally superior choice is to apply the same standard to your own party.
It’s the only rational choice, unless you’re someone who really doesn’t know the difference between postures and principles or who thinks political expedience is more important than telling the truth.
I could probably identify more of these myths. Maybe I’ll add to the list in the future. The great irony of it all is that two-faced Republicans made people mad enough to elect Donald Trump, but now the same people attack those who refuse to become two-faced in defense of Trump.
That’s just insanity.
Keep up the good work, Jonah.