Thursday, June 13, 2019

The Bonfire of the Sanities



Warning:  This post is very long.  Much longer than anything else I have ever done on this blog, clocking in at just over 16,000 words.  It took me quite awhile to finish, but although I felt compelled to write it, you are not compelled to read it.  I'm also certain that if you do read it, you will find a typo or three that I missed since my Writer Brain has not yet had time too cool off and switch over to my Editor Brain.

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So the Republican Party has finally reached the place towards which they have been marching with single-minded fervor for forty long and awful years, and everywhere the smoke from their Bonfire of the Sanities makes the day into a choking twilight, while the flames make the night a lurid hellscape as Trump and his wingnut mob put one civic institution to the torch after another.

The Liberal fire-brigade is out there too, as we have always been, passing buckets from hand-to-hand, frankly pissed off and exhausted from forty years of warning this day was coming and being slandered and ignored for our trouble.  Saying "Fuck these fucking fuckers!" as the wingnut mob capers from building to building, spreading the conflagration, while we try to focus on the immediate crisis -- saving what we can from the ravenous, racist malignancy of the Right -- and at the same time not lose sight of the long-term need to rebuild our civic institutions once the Trumpfire is brought under control.

And from the United States Constitution to the cemetery at Normandy to the steps of the Lincoln memorial, the leader of the mob -- the Arsonist-in-Chief -- goes right on lobbing incendiaries in every direction to the delight of the Republican Party.

The Trumpfire is even licking at the walled enclave of the American punditocracy.  There is no personal danger to any of the pundits therein, of course -- the ivory tower atop which their offices are located may be a little scorched and smoke damaged around the base, but it's a mile high and has been continuously upgraded with the latest fire-suppression technology -- but there is no longer any doubt that there really is a fire and it really does run from horizon to horizon.

Which brings us to the matter of Mr. Michael Gerson:  former George W. Bush chief speechwriter, senior Republican policy adviser and reliable Beltway Republican stalactite who now exists in a perpetual state of shock that his Republican Party is full of Republicans.  


But since Mr. Gerson is a member of the Can-Never-Be-Fired-No-Matter-How-Fucking-Wrong-They-Are Pundit Guild, amid the voracious flames and suffocating smoke of the Republican's Bonfire of the Sanities, he still feels perfectly at ease writing the umpteenth banal variation of one of his favorite columns:  lecturing the Left and the Right, both alike, for their lack of civility (emphasis added.)
Civility doesn’t just make our system function — it also makes it noble

...
In Neuhaus’s account, the young man went on to paraphrase (with a smile) a quote attributed to Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels — “When I hear the word civility, I reach for my gun” — and to argue: “Their way of doing things means they continue to be in control. We mean to take over — nicely, if possible, but if that’s not possible, well, civility is not the highest of the virtues.”

This argument is evergreen on the left and right, because it is less of an argument than a temptation — the temptation to see politics only as a matter of achieving certain policy outcomes, rather than the expression of certain underlying moral commitments. Why value civility if it doesn’t immediately serve the cause of virtuous change? Why honor pluralism if it doesn’t result in the triumph of our version of good and true?

The debate on these questions has been recently renewed by bright, articulate and morally adolescent social conservatives who have adopted their own version of being “woke.”...

Which at this point bores me to tears.  Which, I tend believe, is the WaPo's point in continuing to syndicate his drivel.

Mr. Gerson has written this same stupid column many times before and has been roasted to a fare-thee-well by the internet every time, and nothing whatsoever has changed, and nothing whatsoever will change until Yahweh blows Fred Hiatt out of his saddle on the road to Damascus.

So really, why waste the pixels?

Instead, this time around, I found it much more personally interesting to use Mr. Gerson's saccharine droppings as a jumping off point to trace the Pecksniffian arc of his intellectual and moral bankruptcy.  Perhaps to get at the larger issue of why in the hell our media consistently fails our democracy so badly.

Our story begins with our nation struggling to dig out from the wreckage that the Dubya Administration left behind.  A failed and despicable administration -- the worst in American history until the rise of Donald Trump -- in which Michael Gerson, a deeply Conservative Catholic, served with unswerving loyalty, and to which he owes his position in the Can-Never-Be-Fired-No-Matter-How-Fucking-Wrong-They-Are Pundit Guild.

And from the very beginning, Mr. Gerson clearly loathed and resented Barack Obama and did not hesitate to use his Washington Post column to say so.  Which is no surprise.  Gerson is first, last, and always a Republican -- a Republican who, in 2008, stood in front of the dumpster fire that was the Dubya Administration doing what all Republicans were doing at the time: trying frantically to change the subject by lobbing anything they could at the Democrats who were running for the honor of cleaning up their fucking mess.

So Mr. Smoking Gun/Mushroom Cloud had no compunction about attacking the character of candidate Obama. According to Gerson,  Barack Obama was so "rootless, reactive and panicky" that he picked Joe Fucking Biden as his running mate.  I mean, how foolish was that, right?
Obama's Panic

Seldom has there been a larger contrast between the style of a candidate and the strategy of his campaign.

...
But Obama's campaign is rootless, reactive and panicky. At every stage since securing the nomination, it has seemed fearful of missteps and unsure of its own organizing principle. So it has invariably adopted the Democratic conventional wisdom of the moment.

Obama's first major decision was his running mate. He could have reinforced a message of change and moderation with a Democratic governor who wins in a Republican state, or reached for history by selecting Hillary Clinton. But his choice came soon after Russia invaded Georgia, and the conventional wisdom demanded an old hand who knew his way around Tbilisi. When the Georgia crisis faded, Obama was left with a partisan, undisciplined, congressional liberal at his side.
Obama was a lightweight who had destroying his sterling reputation by daring to run a campaign for political office:
...
Who is hurt most by this race to the bottom? McCain, by the evidence of his own convention, wants to be a viewed as a fighter -- which a fight does little to undermine. Obama was introduced to America as a different and better kind of politician -- an image now in tatters.

Even worse for Obama, all these shifts to catch the prevailing winds confirm the most serious concerns about his political character. As a senator, he has almost never opposed the ideological consensus of his party. (The ethics reform he often cites as his profile in courage eventually passed the Senate 96 to 2.) And now as a presidential candidate, Obama has run his campaign with all the constancy of a skittish sailboat on an erratic ocean...
And his "cool, aloof manner and his patronizing comments about the bitter and religious" would surely redound to the benefit of Sarah Palin, who was a lot like Jebus when you think about it!
Faith-Based Condescension
Deriding Palin's religion has been a poor strategy for the Democrats.

...
All this can only work to Barack Obama's disadvantage, given his cool, aloof manner and his patronizing comments about the bitter and religious. And it has brought an unintended benefit to the McCain-Palin ticket -- a populist, religious appeal that McCain alone did not possess.

Deriding Palin's religion has been a poor strategy -- and the mistake has been made before. During the first Pentecost -- the one recorded in Acts -- Christians spoke strange languages in public. Many observers dismissed them as drunk.

The critics of religion, as is often the case, did not get the last word.
In case you don't speak weasel-tongue, "cool, aloof manner and his patronizing" is Conservative pundit for "uppity".

Of course this all amounted to nothing because in the long and terrible shadow cast by the complete failure and collapse of the Dubya Administration, Republicans were pretty much doomed in 2008.  And so Mr. Gerson found another gear as a member of the grim, relentless opposition.  For the next eight years, there was virtually nothing President Obama could do (or refrain from doing) that Gerson would not deem to be either calculating or naive or feckless or hateful.

According to Mr. Gerson, many of us were either idiots or idolaters or both for supporting him.
Two Faces of Obamamania 
Some Obama supporters aren't the brightest of bulbs.
Less than two months into his term, Gerson was already declaring the Obama Presidency a hollow failure:
Obama's False Dawn

...
Following Obama during the New Hampshire primary, I saw a candidate who -- though I disagreed with him on many issues -- defended idealism and rhetoric against the supremely cynical Clinton machine, who brought a religious sensibility to matters of social justice, who took care to understand and accommodate the arguments of others, who provided a temperamental contrast to culture-war politics. 
After just weeks of governing, that image seems like a brittle, yellowed photograph, buried at the back of a drawer.
Less than three months into his term, Mr. Gerson had pronounced Barack Obama "the most polarizing new president in recent history."  If only he had reached out to those nice, reasonable, patriotic Republicans.  But noooooo!
The Most Polarizing President

Barack Obama is the most polarizing new president in recent history.

...But Obama's polarizing approach challenges and changes the core of his political identity. His moderate manner and message appealed to a country weary of division and ambition -- a nation now asked to endure another round of both. But Obama's domestic agenda is also resoundingly typical -- as though he were some conventionally liberal backbench senator suddenly thrust into immense influence. Which, of course, he is.

It would have been relatively easy for President Obama to divide the Republican coalition, peeling off less-partisan Republicans with genuine outreach. Many Republicans were prepared to accept short-term deficits to stimulate the economy in exchange for long-term fiscal responsibility. Obama could have focused more narrowly on resolving the financial crisis -- the key to all economic recovery -- and delayed his ambitions on other issues to a more realistic time. In the process, he might have gotten some Republicans to share his political risks instead of nursing grievances on the sidelines.

Polarization in American politics has its own disturbing momentum, aided by some strident Republican voices. But that does not require a president to make it worse. And it is a sad, unnecessary shame that Barack Obama, the candidate of unity, has so quickly become another source of division.
And as Republicans are wont to do, Gerson -- who had never said a mumbling word as his boss pissed away the Clinton budget surplus on gargantuan tax cuts for the rich, saddled the nation with the largest deficits in history, and slunk out of office having presided over the collapse of the global economy -- suddenly discovered his Inner Fiscal Conservative the minute the new Democratic president was inaugurated:
I am not generally a deficit hawk. A government can run a responsible deficit in a growing economy -- and may have to run one to counteract an economic downturn. But Obama's proposed level of debt is irresponsible. It makes broad tax increases nearly inevitable. It expands our dependence on China, America's loan officer. And it creates pressure for the government to purchase or monetize debt, leading to inflation. No Republican, even of the moderate variety, could accept a budget that spends America into unsustainable debt by completely avoiding the setting of realistic priorities. And none in Congress did.
This was Gerson less than three months after Barack Obama was sworn in.  And as the months passed, nothing changed.

Obama was a socialist monster determined to bleed the hapless, helpless wealthy dry.
A Week of Revelation
When Obama's tax overhaul is complete there won't be any wealthy people left to bleed.

...
And then came the budget -- ideologically ambitious, politically ruthless and radical to its core.

Obama chose a time of recession to propose a massive increase in progressivity -- a 10-year, trillion-dollar haul from the rich, already being punished by the stock market collapse and the housing market decline. This does not just involve undoing the Bush tax reductions but capping tax deductions to collect about $30 billion a year. Despite all the rhetoric of "responsibility" and shared sacrifice, the message of the Obama budget is clear: The wealthy are responsible for the economic mess and they will bear the entire sacrifice so that government can "invest" in the people.
And don't we all remember how terribly the 1% suffered under the Kenyan Usurper?

Frequently Gerson popped on his honorary cardinal's miter to lecture Obama on his failure as a Christian as he did here:
Sebelius's 'Choice' 
Asking Sebelius to implement pro-choice policies is like having a rabbi serve pork roast.
And here:
The Politics of Bitterness

Barack Obama, it turns out, has a knack for undermining his own political strengths.

He was supposed to be the post-racial candidate. But he has associated himself for decades with a tradition of black liberation that views all of American life through the prism of pigment. His response to criticism on this count has been, in essence: The bitterness of my church is historically understandable but misdirected. You know me. I'm better than that.

Obama was also supposed to be the Democrat who finally "gets" religion, after a series of Democratic presidential candidates who seemed to suffer from a theological disability. But now, in the suddenly indispensable Huffington Post, we learn of Obama's unguarded reflection on Middle American economic anxiety: "It's not surprising that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."
It's now 11 years later, and we are living under a Republican president who won the Republican nomination by explicitly running on a platform of bitterness, religion, guns, racism, anti-immigration and anti-trade.  And yet just 11 years ago, according to Gerson, daring to even whisper about the malignancy that had already eaten the heart out of GOP was heresy and slander of the blackest sort.

Eleven years ago, this was how completely delusional Mr. Gerson and the rest of the American political media were about a nightmare of their own making.

Instead we got lectures from Gerson on -- surprise! -- civility!
The Rhetoric of the Rant  
Wanda Sykes and Al Franken need to learn the importance of civility.
Also that the economic disaster Mr. Gerson's boss left in his wake was far too dire for Barack Obama to even consider making good on his #1 campaign promise:  trying to provide Americans with decent affordable health care.
Obama's Iceberg 
With the economy tanking, it doesn't make sense to pass his health care proposal now.

Around midnight on April 15, 1912, there were a few minutes when Capt. Edward Smith of the Titanic realized his ship was going down -- six watertight compartments breached, less than two hours to float -- yet his passengers slept in happy ignorance. A historical fate hardened while most of the participants dreamed on.

The jobs report last week opened a long gash beneath the waterline of President Obama's legislative agenda. Few realize it, but a scramble for lifeboats is about to begin...
Trying to kill Obamacare -- pronounce it doomed, pull the plug and bury it by any means necessary -- would become a theme of Gerson's for the next seven years.

Gerson would frequently castigate President Obama for abandoning the Sacred Center any time his policies whiffed even slightly of anything to the Left of David Brooks.  Surely this would ruin him and leave the GOP free to run and win as the Sober and Sensible Centrist Party for the foreseeable future. 
Obama cedes the center 
The GOP is not far from snatching the ideological middle for years to come.
And when he ran out of actual-if-trivial things to complain about, Gerson just made shit up.  Here, Gerson -- whose former boss had never met a sentence of the King's English he could wrestle to a draw -- expressed his mortification at Obama's calm and careful use of the spoken word.
From Obama, no drama. No inspiration, either 
We need passion in presidential rhetoric. We're not getting it.
Behind that comes another great, big whack with the "OMFG So Polarizing!!" hammer.
The flailing state of Obama's polarized union

One of the kinder explanations for President Obama's failed first year is that his agenda was just too darned ambitious.
...

As a candidate, Obama called for overturning Bushism. The practice of Obamaism has been to undo Clintonism. All those Clinton-era lessons -- showing fiscal responsibility, appealing to middle-class concerns, displaying symbolic respect for moral conservatism and law-and-order sentiments -- were discarded in the thrill of hope and change.

Some desperate Democrats want the president to regress even further -- past Clinton, all the way to Huey Long. Flog the fat cats; every man a king. But inauthentic populism in a politician is as painfully obvious as a child trying to muster fake tears. In his populist mode, Obama seems grumpy, offended and surprised by the views of his own country.
The solution to which was, inevitably...
...fewer regulations and lower taxes, especially on returns to investment. The formation of capital is jobs creation.
There was Obama the Betrayer:
President Obama betrays his community-organizer roots
Obama the Cynic who made that noble Paul Ryan cry manful tears:
No deficit of cynicism 
GOP Rep. Paul Ryan learned quickly that the president doesn't care about deficits.
Obama the Delusional Destroyer:
The Democrats' path to destruction 
President Obama's strategy is understandable -- and delusional.
Obama the Snob:
Obama the snob 
That he views himself as the neocortical leader of cognitive reasoning is bad for morale.

A year and a half into the Obama administration, and it's not hard to pick up the rhythm of the dreck the Right is hawking, largely because Michael Gerson has never had an original thought in his life.  He was merely aping and amplifying what, by 2010, had become Republican dreck boilerplate.  To wit, Obama was the most polarizing President in modern history!  And so forth!

Small wonder then that, under the cruel lash of his constant slandering of decent Republicans and his refusal to give up the crazy Commie schemes he ran on (health care, slightly raising taxes on the wealthy, dealing with climate change) and do what Republicans wanted him to do (gut entitlements) a group righteous patriots calling themselves "Tea Party" precipitated out of thin air.

And while certain of the elements of the Tea Party might be a little nutty, don't worry citizens.  By 2010 that wave had definitely crested!
A wave that's already crested

Obama still faces a big wave on Nov. 2, but the Tea Party tsunami that's helped candidates like Christine O'Donnell has crested.
By this point. something was definitely going on inside the Republican Party.  Something ugly and vicious and racist which had always been kept in the cellar of the Party of Personal Responsibility and fed on-the-sly was now hungry and raving and clawing its way out into the light.  Something for which the Can-Never-Be-Fired-No-Matter-How-Fucking-Wrong-They-Are Pundit Guild had no explanation that wasn't terrifying and wouldn't involve admitting the Left had been right about the Right all along.

So they just went right on pretending it wasn't there at all.

This was another alarm bell in the night. Close enough for anyone with ears to hear it, but as far as the Michael Gersons of the world were concerned, it might as well have been on the moon.

Instead, Mr. Gerson decided it would be profitable to lie about the coordinated program of sedition and obstruction the GOP launched the very day Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president of the United States.  To chalk it all up to the Failure of Liberalism:
None dare call it desperation 
Following two years of poor economic performance and electoral repudiation, liberalism is casting around for narratives to explain its failure - narratives that don't involve the admission of inadequacies in liberalism itself.
Why the very idea that leaders of Mr. Gerson's Republican Party would cynically and methodically sabotage Barack Obama for partisan gain was laughable I tell's ya!

Laughable!
Liberals resort to conspiracy theories to explain Obama's problems

An ideological movement at its most cynical.

This is an ideological movement at its most cynical, attempting to throw overboard its once-revered leader to avoid the taint of his problems.

But there is an alternative narrative, developed by those who can't shake their reverence for Obama. If a president of this quality and insight has failed, it must be because his opponents are uniquely evil, coordinated and effective. The problem is not Obama but the ruthless conspiracy against him...

It is difficult to overstate how offensive elected Republicans find the sabotage accusation, which Obama himself has come very close to making...
Now at this point, its six-to-five and pick 'em whether Mr. Gerson is merely a clueless dope who repeats as gospel whatever spittoon juice some Republican functionary whispers in his ear, or he is just lying through his teeth.

Either way, it's clearly time for another cavil lecture on the subject of ... civility!
Two good arguments for civility - and passion - in politics 
Why Americans with conflicting political views should be friends.
This column begins with a quote from Lincoln -- "We are not enemies, but friends." -- and then sorta skips over the entire Civil War, which is a habit among Conservative pundits who still love to lean hard on the idea of Abraham Lincoln as the Great Unifyer.

Which is true,. He did unify America...after reducing the Confederacy to ashes.

This brings us to the 2012 presidential campaign, during which Gerson really pulled out all the stops to pimp the GOP as the solution to the problem of the shameless --
Obama's shamelessness
It's what makes him a unique historical figure.
-- polarizing Kenyan Usurper:
RIP, 'Yes we can'

Obama's policies feed the country's polarization.

...But far from halting or reversing these trends, Obama has worsened them — setting the stage for the most polarized election of recent history.

His failure has generally been not a matter of tone but of policy. The president’s early post-partisan rhetoric was never matched by innovative ideas that crossed ideological lines and created coalitions. Bill Clinton had welfare reform. George W. Bush had No Child Left Behind. Obama, in contrast, pursued a liberalism both bold and uncreative — a massive Keynesian stimulus, a brand-new health entitlement, the largest deficits in American history.

Congressional Republicans were obstructionists — but often because Obama’s aggressive, ideological power play made obstructionism identical with Republicanism. GOP members could not accept an ambitious expansion of the size and role of government without surrendering their identity. Some in the Republican Party have enjoyed their role in opposition too much. But they were given few incentives to temper it...
By the way, did I mention that Obama was polarizing?
Obama's lost cause

With ability to inspire gone, what is Obama's appeal?

 Obama is already one of the most consistently polarizing presidents in the last 60 years.
From June, 2012:
Obama's recipe for endless culture war 
Pluralism clashes with liberal values.
From July, 2012:
Obama can finesse his failure no longer 
President’s economic program focuses on shifting blame.
Again from July, 2012:
The politics of polarization 
Obama has helped make Washington more broken.
From August, 2012:
Obama's betrayal 
His vows to run a clean campaign ring hollow.
From October, 2012:
Where's Obama's vision? 
He has yet to explain why the next four years would be better than the last.
Again from October, 2012:
Obama lacks leadership in war on terror 
Obama lacks leadership in the war on terror.
Hell, even Jolly Uncle Joe wasn't civil enough for Cardinal Gerson:
Biden's toxic victory 
He damaged civility — and his boss.
All of this was interspersed with increasingly desperate (and hilarious) unsolicited (and unheeded) advice to Mittens von Romney about how he could better appear to be "human" as he spoke to groups of humans.

But despite the best efforts of Conservative pundits like Michael Gerson, on November 6, 2012, President Obama was decisively re-elected, beating Mitt Romney by five million votes.  And by this point it was clear to anyone paying any honest attention at all to what was going on inside the GOP that out-and-proud madness on the Right was reached pandemic proportions.  But because Conservative pundits like Michael Gerson had bullshitted their way into an impossible corner where all responsibility for every broken thing rested with Barack Obama, the Brain Caste of the GOP had to hastily erect a brand-new New Big Lie on top of the Old Big Lie.  

After all, if the base of the GOP was indeed losing its damn mind and Barack Obama was responsible for all broken things, does it not therefor follow that...

...it was Obama's fault that Mr. Gerson's Republican Party was losing its damn mind!

Yep.

From the week of President Obama's second inaugural:
Obama shoves idealism into its grave 
The president sees even the most commonplace disagreements as indicative of his opponents' bad faith.
This was so bizarre -- a theory so batshit, being floated in the respectable mainstream media by pundits to whom the Beltway had granted the status of Serious and Thoughtful -- that even Ezra Klein sat up and took notice:
Is the Republican Party Obama’s fault?

...We should be able to take it for granted that our legislators won't petulantly crash the economy or offend rape survivors. That the House GOP leadership had to mount an organized campaign to convince GOP members of those things is evidence that something has gone wrong in the Republican Party.

No one knows that better than Republicans themselves. But it's very difficult to be a Republican in a time of GOP dissolution. And so recent weeks have birthed the strangest strain of commentary I can remember: The Republican Party's crazy opinions are President Obama's fault.

My colleague Michael Gerson wrote one of the earliest versions of this column. As he put it, Obama "knows that Republicans are forced by the momentum of their ideology to take positions on spending that he can easily demagogue." So he has, in a bid to "break his opponents," decided to "force the GOP to surrender on the debt limit, with nothing in return" and to "require Republicans to accept new taxes in exchange for any real spending reductions."

So the White House's plan, then, is to force Republicans to be unreasonable by being reasonable and taking the positions Obama has espoused all along, including in the 2012 campaign. Gerson argues that this is a devious win-win for the president: "If [Republicans] agree, their caucus is fractured (again). And if they refuse (which they are likely to do), [Obama can] paint them as obstructionists and extremists who are willing to destroy the economy/the nation’s credit rating/the military for their own ideological purposes."
Ezra Klein also notes that -- surprise! -- the Extremely Serious and Moral and Humble David Brooks of The New York Times had immediately followed suit because wingnuts of a feather flock together.
Another version came today from New York Times columnist David Brooks. The column takes the form of Brooks imagining the internal monologue of a White House strategist who's developing a strategy to destroy the Republican Party. It's worth quoting at some length:
"The president should propose no new measures that might unite Republicans, the way health care did in the first term. Instead, he should raise a series of wedge issues meant to divide Southerners from Midwesterners, the Tea Party/Talk Radio base from the less ideological corporate and managerial class.

“He’s already started with a perfectly designed gun control package, inviting a long battle with the N.R.A. over background checks and magazine clips. That will divide the gun lobby from suburbanites. Then he can re-introduce Bush’s comprehensive immigration reform. That will divide the anti-immigration groups from the business groups (conventional wisdom underestimates how hard it is going to be for Republicans to back comprehensive reforms).

“Then he could invite a series of confrontations with Republicans over things like the debt ceiling — make them look like wackos willing to endanger the entire global economy. Along the way, he could highlight women’s issues, social mobility issues (student loans, community college funding) and pick fights on compassion issues, (hurricane relief) — promoting any small, popular spending programs that Republicans will oppose.

“Twice a month, Democrats should force Republicans to cast an awful vote: either offend mainstream supporters or risk a primary challenge from the right.”

So White House officials' devious plan to destroy the Republican Party, in Brooks's view, is that they will propose more moderate, popular policies than they did in their first term, thus making Republicans look terrible when they vote against everything...
Crazy?  Hell yeah.  But remember kids, this was just 2013.  Two full years before Donald Trump arrived on the scene and the hysterical, flailing, denialism of the Can-Never-Be-Fired-No-Matter-How-Fucking-Wrong-They-Are Pundit Guild began doubling and re-doubling every few weeks.

By the end of 2013 there were clearly alarm bells ringing.  Somewhere.  Not on the moon, of course, but someplace far over the political horizon.  Something to be aware of, naturally.  To keep in mind as one might keep in mind the need get one's teeth cleaned regularly.  
A House divided cannot govern 
The Republican Party will not be able to stand if it does not embrace political reality.
But surely nothing to actually worry about.
The GOP's new reality 
The GOP has to respond to the damage done to the party.
Because surely the real Republican party led by real Conservatives would steer the mighty GOP vessel of governance -- the U.S.S. Bush Who? -- easily between the Scylla and Charybdis of Rush Limbaugh and the (by now obviously Fake) Tea Party.
How the tea party undermines conservativism 
Conservativism must be more than people saying no to government.
And anyway, victory was at-hand, right?  Specifically, the Right could finally kill the Commie hellbeast that was Obamacare once and for all and then dance on its grave if only they would shut up and do what Michael Gerson was telling them to do:
The GOP should speed Obamacare's demise. Right now, it's not.

Obamacare is doomed, and Republicans can speed its demise. Right now, they're not.
Besides, even when things started to go full bull goose loony on the Right, like every other member of the Can-Never-Be-Fired-No-Matter-How-Fucking-Wrong-They-Are Pundit Guild, Mr. Gerson always had the mighty shield of Both Siderism to cower behind.

Mark this down.  It'll be on the final exam.

From December, 2013:
A dismal year in politics, for Republicans and Democrats alike 
Republicans and Democrats both bear blame.
As it turned out, in the cold light of 2014, the GOP still had a little Tea Party problem.
Republicans deal with a tea party hangover

Republicans are trying to decide what kind of populists they want to be.
But no matter, because President Obama was still personally to blame for all broken things.
The divided states of Obama

The president has little to offer than school-yard taunts.
Yes, even as the alarm got louder and the torch-wielding mob on the Right drew closer, Gerson's non-stop firehose of contempt and condemnation for the Left generally and President Obama specifically never let up for a minute.

From August, 2014, Obama the Detached and Insufficient:
Is President Obama too detached to lead? 
The traits that aided Obama's rise are not sufficient to the moment.
From November, 2014, once again, Obama the Divider:
Obama's harmful 'gifts' to the nation and the Democrats

Obama will end up leaving Democrats in worse shape.

...
It is possible for progressives to admire Obama for his courage — in passing Obamacare on a party line, in insisting that Catholic institutions facilitate contraceptive coverage, now in promising an executive “amnesty” before the end of the year. He is a leader intent on shaping events, while almost entirely (on recent evidence) unshaped by them. Some will applaud.

But it is impossible to make the case that Obama has been an inclusive or unifying leader. He has left his party more ideologically and geographically uniform. He has left a riven society and political culture. And these should also be counted as Obama’s gifts.
Mr. Gerson had the presence of mind to see that there was a "gathering storm on immigration" but blamed the failure of the government of the United States to pass comprehensive immigration reform on -- I kid you not -- Barack Obama's "off-putting manner".  
Michael Gerson: A gathering storm on immigration

...
Some progressive commentators have argued that, since Republicans are hopeless on these issues anyway, they might as well be steamrolled. This implies a profound disdain for democratic procedures. It also involves a belief that Republican legislators will never be part of a broadly accepted legislative outcome on immigration; that they will never join a legitimate and respected democratic consensus. And just because Obama could not achieve this — with an off-putting manner and one of the weakest legislative operations of modern times — does not mean it is unachievable.

This is not the Civil War. Obama’s recourse to an executive order would be a form of confession that he could not make the legislative process work on one of the most important policy matters facing our nation. But another president might.
Once again, for those of you not up on your pundit weasel-tongue, this means "uppity".

Also did you know that by 2014 Barack Obama has destroyed all of Bill Clinton's good works?

Sad!
Are Democrats stuck in 1979?

President Obama has effectively undone Bill Clinton's New Democratic overhaul of liberalism.
And don't worry kids!  Whatever weirdness or incipient fascism you might notice creeping in around the edges of the GOP, it's all gonna get cleaned up and made shiny by those lovable Reform Conservatives!
Enter the reform conservatives 
Conservatives who see the need to update, not dismantle, institutional policies are on to something.
Now before we plunge onward towards our conclusion (which, I swear to you gentle reader, is out there somewhere) let us pause for a moment to consider how just far down the up-is-down-night-is-day-Republicans-are-compromisers-and-Obama-is-a-bullheaded-demagogue rabbit hole the entire Can-Never-Be-Fired-No-Matter-How-Fucking-Wrong-They-Are Pundit Guild has already fallen.

Consider that, because being forced to admit that we on the Left have been right about the Right all along would annihilate their careers, the CNBFNMHFWTA Pundit Guild had by this time collectively concocted an alternate Pundit Reality which bore no resemblance to real reality at all.

In the alternate Pundit Reality, maybe the GOP has a couple of screws loose here and there, but what of it?  In the alternate Pundit Reality, the question of how things came to be the way they are is eternally mysterious and unknowable.   In the alternate Pundit Reality, dwelling on unanswerable questions like "Who was right?" or "Who has been lying to the American people for decades" is a waste of valuable drinking and sucking-up-to-Mitch-McConnell time and very bad for your career.

In the alternate Pundit Reality, whatever might or might not be going wrong with a few goofs on the fringe, it was certainly not the fault of anyone in the leadership of the Party, or Fox News, or Hate Radio. 

In the alternate Pundit Reality the real culprit is Barack Obama who, six years into his term as president, was still refusing to use his Magic Green Lantern Powers to fix everything that was fucked-in-the-head inside the GOP.

Rather than face a very grim reality that was getting grimmer by the day, the CNBFNMHFWTA Pundit Guild used their privileged positions throughout the media to crawl up their own asses and hocus-pocus this consensual mass delusion into being. And millions of Americans desperate to hide from the menacing future they sensed was bearing down on them, happily took up residence in that consensual mass delusion.  In fact those millions of Americans remain there, with the doors barred and the windows shuttered, to this very day.  And keeping that media-manufactured consensual mass delusion propped up and operating for the paying customers has become a central pillar of the corporate media's business plan.

Mark this down too.  It'll also be on the final exam.

Meanwhile, back in 2015, another campaign season was beginning and, ever the reliable Republican stooge, Mr. Gerson waded into it exactly as you would expect him to:
In just five weeks, Hillary has had a lifetime quota of scandals
All the machineries of presidential horse-race punditry were humming back to life.  The air was thick with empty speculations.  Meaningless early polling numbers were read aloud on teevee with great solemnity.  And down the Escalator of Doom, flanked by actors being paid $50 apiece to cheer for him, came Donald John Trump -- racist con man, bankrupter of casinos and King of the Birthers -- to declare himself for the office of president.

Because I am not a member of the CNBFNMHFWTA Pundit Guild and I do not live in their upholstered political opium den, here is what I wrote a day and a half after the arrival of Donald Trump on the scene:
In case you missed it, Squint and the Meat Puppet handed the MSNBC camera over to Donald Trump this morning for a relaxing, 30-minute handjob. While Trump rambled lazily from one pinnacle of bullshit and narcissism to the next, Morning Joe crack house regulars Mark Halperin (Glenn Beck's favorite mainstream media enabler) and the pickled remains of Mike Barnacle looked on, smirking and giggling. All that it lacked to complete the creepy, peep-show effect were trench-coats and bad lighting.

But of course, the story of the Trump candidacy has very little to do with Donald Trump. 

As I wrote a few years ago,the brain-caste of the GOP spent a 40 years and billions of dollars carefully breeding an army of reliably angry, paranoid, racists chumps. And they have been so successful at completely re-engineering the Right's ideological digestive system that they can no longer process any information which does not come to them in the form of Fox-approved Benghaaaazi goo.  

In other words, in order to win elections and rake in vast fortunes, the Conservative brain caste has painstakingly created the perfect feeding-ground for con men and demagogues like Trump, the louder and more bombastic the better. And from David Brooks and the Wall Street Journal and "Meet the Press", to Ann Coulter and the Washington Free Beacon and the Breitbart Collective, in one way or another, virtually everyone in the media makes bank by flattering Conservative meatheads and pandering to their delusions.

They are the GOP's premium leads, but however abundant and renewable a resource the Conservative meatheads may be, come Presidential election time, there is never enough room at the trough for every rapacious Republican hog.  This is why every few years we have these Little Red State Fundy moments; that delicate time when the knives come out and the various species of Conservative con men start cutting each other's balls over who gets to pluck the wingnut pigeons...

...while trying desperately not to call attention to the fact that their entire political system depends on pandering to the army of reliably angry, paranoid, racists chumps which the GOP has worked so long and hard to cultivate.

Fortunately for the Right, now that the "respectable" media has as much to lose by cracking out of turn as Hate Radio and Fox News, we can all look forward to another campaign season of the American mainstream media looking stoically the other way.
On the same day I wrote that and posted it on my little blog out here in the middle of Middle America for literally dozens of people to read, here is what Mr. Gerson wrote for the Washington Post to be read by millions of people here and around the world:
Donald Trump’s politics by hammer

Donald Trump has already succeeded by provoking this column. Any form of public communication that puts “Donald Trump” within five words of “president” — which, darn, I just did — is a victory for the reality TV star turned presidential aspirant.

But Trump, it is now clear, will not go away by being ignored. If polling support — really, at this point, vague impressions and name recognition — is the selection criterion for participation in Republican debates, Trump is likely to be part of them. This would not only foster a circus-like atmosphere but also would, by definition, exclude a more serious candidate. Imagine losing Ohio Gov. John Kasich, for example, to make a seat for Trump. It would seriously undermine the deliberations of the Republican Party in choosing its most visible leader.

But doesn’t Trump deserve a chance to make his rambling, egomaniacal case? Some fraction of Republicans might be attracted to a populist, anti-establishment businessman, who, in private settings, is more serious than his cartoonish public image (it would be hard not to be). I have talked to Republican officials in early primary states who have enjoyed perfectly polite and rational calls and notes from Trump.

Yet the whole process of applying political scrutiny to Trump is difficult, given his aversion to systematic political thought. He communicates in a series of eruptions, gestures and tweets that generally assert the need for his own leadership while dismissing rivals as fools and worse...

...He has described a “GLOBAL WARMING” hoax of an extent so vast that it could only be revealed by capital letters. He famously asserted that public officials were engaged in a conspiracy to conceal the circumstances of Obama’s birth. And when one official tragically died, he pressed the claim to her grave. “How amazing,” Trump tweeted, “the State Health Director who verified copies of Obama’s ‘birth certificate’ died in plane crash today. All others lived.”

...
Trump’s policy agenda is too skeletal or absurd to analyze. He will pick better generals to defeat the Islamic State. He will slap a 25 percent tariff on Chinese goods. He will build a wall across the continent and make Mexico pay for it.

There is little chance that Trump will have much influence when votes are tallied — even the most celebrity-blinded Republican is unlikely to forget Trump’s political contributions to Harry Reid — but there is plenty of time for mischief between now and then. And the largest risk, in the end, is not to Republicanism but to populism.
Shorter Michael Gerson:  Trump is obviously not a serious candidate or a threat to the GOP, but a troubling irritant that reveals the lunacy of a tiny, tiny fraction of the electorate.

It was July 2015 and while Mr. Gerson remained as deaf to the tiny, distant alarm bells (which by now were clearly neither tiny nor distant) as ever, he did begin to offer his party a little advice here and there by way of who they should and should not be listening to:
Rust-belt revivalists can’t save the GOP

Attempting to analyze political statements by Donald Trump is often a high dive into a shallow pool. But a number of conservative commentators are making the jump, discerning hidden virtues in his depiction of marauding immigrants intent on crime and rape.

Some of this is surely an attempt to make the best of a bad situation, the equivalent of: “My, that gangrene is such a pleasing shade of green.” But the varied reactions to Trump — Sen. Marco Rubio found his words “offensive and inaccurate” — also indicate a serious debate between reform camps within the Republican Party.
...

Finally, a political appeal that encourages division would worsen the GOP’s main political problem: a durable impression that it does not care for the country as a whole. As the old Southern strategy fades, it would be a terrible mistake to replace it with a different form of fear and exclusion. Republicans have an opportunity to craft an agenda of economic mobility — to reward work (through wage subsidies), strengthen families (with a larger child credit) and encourage skills (with education reform) — that could appeal to both the white working class and rising minority groups, instead of pitting them against each other.

It is the way that Republicans can win, and deserve to win
I have to admit, this sentence here -- "As the old Southern strategy fades, it would be a terrible mistake to replace it with a different form of fear and exclusion." -- had everyone at Liberal central command positively rolling on the floor.  Sides aching.  "Oh my fucking Lord, he really is that fucking stupid," we gasped at each other between tearful gales of laughter.

Yes, he really is that fucking stupid.  It is a very good living.

As July turned slowly to August...
A GOP led by Donald Trump will fail, and deserve it

At this point in the 2016 presidential campaign, the noble, elusive stag of political rhetoric is pretty much road kill.

This judgment is unfair to a few candidates — Rick Perry, Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio come to mind — delivering thoughtful speeches. But in portions of the Republican field, the normal limits of civility have been crossed and recrossed in the relentless search for viral attention. Mike Huckabee compared the sitting president to a Nazi prison guard. Ted Cruz accused the Senate majority leader of being a liar. Donald Trump, well, opens his mouth. His opponents are invariably “clowns” and “stupid” and physically ugly. He mocks a war hero and reveals the cellphone number of another candidate...
But as we dirty hippies all know, the GOP had already failed.  It had already died.  Long ago.  The news had just not been permitted to penetrate the high walls and wide moat of the CNBFNMHFWTA Pundit Guild's collective delusion.

Not yet anyway.

More scolds from Mr. Gerson that no Republican candidate who actually understood what a shitpile of bigots and imbeciles the GOP had become and wanted to win their votes was ever going to heed.
Conservatives should stay far away from Trump’s ethnic polarization

...
Conservatives who support restrictionist immigration policies, above all, should distance themselves from Trump’s ethnic polarization. He has become the discrediting stereotype of their views, using rhetoric and arguments more suitable to European right-wing populists. Ethno-nationalist. Conspiracy-minded. All our humiliating national failures result from treacherous foreigners or a stab in the back by our own weak and corrupt leaders. All our problems can be solved by a strong leader who embodies the national will.

No conservatives should be playing with this ideological nitroglycerin — unless they truly want to blow up our political order. And then they have ceased to be conservatives at all.
More increasingly desperate promises based on nothing but wishful thinking:
Donald Trump will inevitably flame out. Here’s why.

...
The best, maybe only, option is to ensure that his poll numbers deflate quickly, making it obvious that a lavish campaign for the Republican nomination and, later, the difficult task of getting on 50 ballots will end in humiliation. This will require establishment Republicans to stop playing political bank shots off his rise and make clear he has moved beyond the boundaries of serious and civil discourse. And it will require conservative populists to recognize that an alliance with Trump is effectively tying their movement to an anvil (the RedState summit disinvitation is a good start).

It is better to risk a short-term backlash than a predictable, long-term political disaster. So Trump’s inevitable self-marginalization must be given a push.
By now, the sound of the alarms from the GOP's Bonfire of the Sanities -- which Mr. Gerson could no longer pretend were imaginary or were coming from some distant land and were only audible due to some weird atmospheric refraction -- were obviously within earshot.  Maybe just a town or two over.  And they did seem to be getting louder.

Someone should really do something about that!

Also we welcome now a new word to our national political dialogue.  "Trumpism".  It was coined and relentlessly repeated by Republicans who were getting increasingly desperate to continue the pretext that their Republican Party is somehow not full of Republicans, but has been infected by an invasive species of outsiders called "Trumpists".

This is, of course, arrant bullshit.
The wreckage of the summer of Trump 
Trump’s defeat is now a matter of Republican survival. The candidate himself, as the debate demonstrated once again, is small, petulant and out of his depth on policy. And Trumpism apparently regards the speaking of Spanish as un-American, contemplates one of the largest forced migrations in human history and spreads destructive, unscientific nonsense about childhood vaccines. The summer of Trump has been a season of toxicity, ugliness and racially charged resentment.
From then on, the affronts to the delicate sensibilities of Mr. Gerson (and the rest of the CNBFNMHFWTA Pundit Guild) started coming fast-fast-fast.
Is populism on the rise in America?
Yes.

Next.
Why Trump and Carson want to bring about America’s apocalypse.
We on the Left have been trying to explain this to you for decades.
You told us to fuck off.

Next.
Trump hits a new low on immigration
Oh Mikey, it's gonna get so much worse.  At it will all happen to the roar of the adoring cheers of your fucking party.

Next.
The GOP’s uniquely embarrassing vetting season
Hey dumb-dumb, Trump is the Party and the Party is Trump.

Next.
Republicans are still in ‘denial mode’ over Donald Trump
You knew things are getting really bad when Mr. Gerson stared scripting the GOP as "them" instead of "us".

However, according to Gerson, salvation arrived -- huzzah! -- in mid-December the form of the fifth Republican presidential debate

Tuesday’s GOP debate separated the serious candidates from the loons

The Republican field, on the evidence of its fifth presidential debate, is beginning to sort itself by seriousness.

Donald Trump alternately advocated war crimes (kill the families of terrorists), embraced liberal isolationism (end America’s military role in the Middle East and spend the money on bridges), displayed astounding ignorance (badly bluffing through a question on the nuclear triad) and lapsed into looniness (steal oil from the Middle East and give it to wounded warriors).

Trump may, for all I know, gain 10 points for what supporters may regard as out-of-the-box thinking. It is still disqualifying for the presidency. Americans will realize this, either before or after the destruction of the Republican Party.
...
And yet by early-January Mr. Gerson's hopes had begun to turn to ash in his mouth.  
Trump’s nomination would rip the heart out of the Republican Party

Every Republican of the type concerned with winning in November has been asking the question (at least internally): “What if the worst happens?”

The worst does not mean the nomination of Ted Cruz, in spite of justified fears of political disaster...

Cruz’s nomination would represent the victory of the hard right — religious right and tea party factions — within the Republican coalition. After he loses, the ideological struggles within the GOP would go on.

No, the worst outcome for the party would be the nomination of Donald Trump. It is impossible to predict where the political contest between Trump and Hillary Clinton would end up. Clinton has manifestly poor political skills, and Trump possesses a serious talent for the low blow. But Trump’s nomination would not be the temporary victory of one of the GOP’s ideological factions. It would involve the replacement of the humane ideal at the center of the party and its history. If Trump were the nominee, the GOP would cease to be.
...
But even has he wailed and rent his garments, Gerson remained almost congenitally incapable of wrapping his head around the fact that What Has Gone Before inside his Republican Party had anything to do with What Was Happening Now inside his Republican Party.  And, at the risk of repeating myself, it's easy to understand why.

Any suggestion that the rise of Trump was a natural and predictable outcome of +40 years of pandering to the bigots and imbeciles of the Republican would brand Michael Gerson and every other pundit of his ilk as either a complete idiot or a complete fraud.  Every column he had ever written would be judged in retrospect as either a cynical hoax or the blabbing of a clueless nitwit who spent his life as a Serious Conservative Public Intellectual working chin-deep in pig shit which he now claims he never noticed.

Gerson could not allow this indictment to stand.  It would destroy him.  Which is why he took time out from dressing down his own party to yell at us Liberals for daring to suggest that anything untoward had happened inside the GOP at any point between 1860 and 2016 --
Liberals who claim that Trumpism is the natural outgrowth, or logical conclusion, of conservatism or Republicanism are simply wrong. Edmund Burke is not the grandfather of Nigel Farage. Lincoln is not even the distant relative of Trump.
-- before getting back to reprimanding Republicans for letting things get this far:
...Trump would deface the GOP beyond recognition.

Trump is disqualified for the presidency by his erratic temperament, his ignorance about public affairs and his scary sympathy for authoritarianism. But for me, and I suspect for many, the largest problem is that Trump would make the GOP the party of racial and religious exclusion.
...

The nomination of Trump would reduce Republican politics — at the presidential level — to an enterprise of squalid prejudice. And many Republicans could not follow, precisely because they are Republicans. By seizing the GOP, Trump would break it to pieces...
Except no, Michael.  In the end, Trump’s nomination did not rip the heart out of the Republican Party because Trump is the heart of the Republican Party.   And as of this writing your mighty band of Compassionate, "Sam's Club" Conservatives who were going to end this madness have proven to be a politically impotent rounding error, while damn near 90% of your Republican Party stands firmly and enthusiastically behind President Squalid Prejudice.

Then the Iowa primary was upon us, which came with Mr. Gerson's offhand admission that neither he nor any of the experts he consulted could explain just exactly why Trump had not dried up and blown away yet.

And the fire grew closer still...
Who can topple Trump in Iowa?

Political pros in this state are not foolish enough to pick a winner this far out from the caucuses (I am: It will be Ted Cruz, whose mix of frank religiosity and anti-establishment zeal is a good fit for the Iowa Republican electorate, and practically no other), but they do love their typologies.
...

By most accounts, the Republican candidates are competing for control of three “lanes”: Hard-Core Evangelicals, who think the GOP’s main problem is a lack of fighting spirit; Practical-Minded Evangelicals, who are socially conservative but value electability; and Terry Branstad Republicans, who, following in the footsteps of a popular and effective governor, want the largest tent possible consistent with their convictions (and feel the Hard-Core Evangelicals are going off the deep end).
...

No one I consulted can explain the Donald Trump phenomenon, which seems to defy typology, so they tend to talk about down-ticket conflicts: Cruz vs. Rubio. Rubio vs. Jeb Bush. Ben Carson vs. his foreign policy homework.
Then, out of the Alaskan wilds, Sarah Palin -- whose crackpottery Mr. Gerson had gladly risen to defend when it meant he could throw dirt on Barack Obama -- was abruptly back in the picture.

This time Mr. Gerson was not nearly so gallant.
Trump and Palin join forces in the war against reason
And as the Republican Bonfire of the Sanities began stalking the very block where the CNBFNMHFWTA Pundit Guild plied their trade, the Alert Reader would have noticed a distinct shift in the modal verbs used to describe the outcome of the 2016 Republican nomination process.

Suddenly the considered wisdom of the pundit caste shifted from "Trump will lose" to "Trump must lose".
For the sake of the Republican party, both Trump and Cruz must lose

...But [Trump's racist ravings] are not acceptable. They are not normal. They are extreme, and obscene and immoral. The Republican nominee -- for the sake of his party and his conscience -- must draw these boundaries clearly.

Ted Cruz is particularly ill-equipped to play this role. He is actually more of a demagogue than an ideologue. So he has changed his views on immigration to compete with Trump — and raised the ante by promising that none of the deported 11 million will ever be allowed back in the country. Instead of demonstrating the humane instincts of his Christian faith — a faith that motivated abolition and the struggle for civil rights — Cruz is presenting the crueler version of a pipe dream.

For Republicans, the only good outcome of Trump vs. Cruz is for both to lose. The future of the party as the carrier of a humane, inclusive conservatism now depends on some viable choice beyond them...
And Trump "should" lose:
Trump’s toxic temperament should disqualify him from the presidency
From an intuitively obvious inevitability to an increasingly panicked imperative.

But even as the monster the GOP had cooked up in its lab was gearing up to run away with the nomination, it will come as no surprise to anyone that Mr. Gerson was still finding time to brew up yet another bitter Both Siderist cocktail that more than halfway blamed Barack Obama for the rise of Trump and the rising depravity of the Republican Party:
The Obama era has damaged liberalism

...
Declining trust in government is part of a larger decline in the trust of institutions generally. But it is fair to say that the launch of Obamacare, the Veterans Affairs hospital scandal and the Internal Revenue Service political targeting scandal did little to halt the slide. Obama was either complicit in the trend or helpless against it.

The same could be said of political polarization — which Obama eventually decided he could not fight, and joined with enthusiasm. Or the rise of an angry, anti-establishment populism. More than 10 years of belief that the United States is on the “wrong track” has hardened into outrage and cynicism and left some Americans vulnerable to ideologues and demagogues. These will be remembered as the characteristics of the Obama era — not hope, but anger and cynicism. It was a time when many Americans learned to rage.

The president and the future nominee of his party now have one advantage. Somehow these trends have produced another cult of personality, on the other political side — untethered to ideas, offering only himself as the solution to our problems, turning bitterness and pettiness into a previously undiscovered political art. This might be the strangest turn: a Republican Party that copies and amplifies the worst tendencies of our time.
For goodness sake, people, Trump is a potty mouth stoopid! 
Donald Trump’s foul mouth is just a cover for his ignorance

...
Trump’s intentional push against boundaries of taste is really the search for a darting spotlight, like a TV show that has gone on for a season too long and tries to ramp up controversy as a substitute for buzz. Even Trump’s authenticity, it turns out, is a lie. And his message, even dressed in the language of Sunday morning, would be an obscenity.
Surely the Party of Lincoln was gonna snap the fuck out of whatever stupor they were in when they see this, right?

Right?
Donald Trump and the politics of the middle finger

At first, in the summer of 2015, it seemed like a joke. Then a novelty. Then a bubble that must surely burst. Then a spectacle, overshadowing all the earnestness and experience of the Republican presidential field.

Now Donald Trump seems on the verge of primary victories concentrated in the South that would establish him as a formidable front-runner. And this has happened despite a series of disqualifying comments — ridiculing a war hero, employing misogynist humor, mocking a disabled reporter, displaying ignorance on basic policy matters, slandering the last Republican president — that were not disqualifying at all.

Yet it is Trump’s style, his defiance of convention and political correctness, that seems to explain the intensity of his support. “We’re voting with our middle finger,” said a Trump supporter in South Carolina. All of the institutions that have failed — failed to stop Barack Obama, failed to save the United States from adulteration, corruption and destruction — should be overturned. Burn, baby, burn.
...
Here we find Michael Gerson, the Very Serious Professional Conservative Christian Pundit and adviser and speechwriter to presidents, driving himself mad trying to reconcile the lies the Pundit Guild has told themselves over and over again in the intoxicating comfort of their own delusions -- that Obama was a monster who nearly wrecked Murrica and the Right was mostly made up of noble, humble Christians and thoughtful, Burke-quoting True Conservatives -- with the hideous reality that was now pounding at their door and would not go away (emphasis added.)
...This is the evidence of poor character, in any context. For Christians, the price of entry to the Trump movement is to abandon their commitments to kindness and love of neighbor. Which would mean that their faith has no public consequence at all

And Trumpism is an existential threat to conservatism. ...

Many Trump supporters believe that Obama has changed the country in destructive ways — which I believe is true. But they also would change our country in ways that should make us sick at heart. For all our faults, we are a nation that prizes civility and respect.
The fire was now hot enough to feel through the walls.  The roar of it sounded like an endless roll of thunder.  The air inside the Pundit Guild fortress was getting stale.
Donald Trump is the alpha male — and he’s on the rise

...Everyone I spoke with in South Carolina who wasn’t paid by one of the candidates (there are a few) believes that Trump will win. And it now seems likely that Trump will be unstoppable in much of the South, the region that dominates the primary calendar through mid-March.

Republicans who remain unreconciled to the Trump dynasty now comfort themselves with one scenario. After the shock of early Trump victories wears off, some candidate in a winnowed field will need to rise and restart the race. “Trump,” this heretofore mythic figure will argue, “has won some early primaries in the South. But he has a ceiling of support — just 35 percent in the GOP — that dooms him with the national electorate. So, here I am, the only candidate who can unite the party and win a majority in November.” At that point, the spigots of Republican money will open and the electoral terrain — in Illinois, Missouri and Ohio, and eventually in New York and California — will dramatically improve.
...
OMG!  There's a fire!  There's a fire!
Trump is the demagogue that our Founding Fathers feared
Why isn't someone somewhere doing something about this fire!
The dangerous worldview at the core of Trump’s intimidation
Clearly the situation had grown so dire that the True True Conservatives were going to have to step in and take matters into their own hands with a series of desperate, half-baked schemes and Hail Marys that were doomed to fail.
What are anti-Trump Republicans to do? Here are four options.

The GOP is not facing a debate over policy, but rather a hostile takeover by a pernicious force. Traditional Republicans are now presented with a series of deeply flawed options. And serving the party’s ideals may eventually require leaving it, at least for a season.
...

Under normal circumstances, a clear plurality would begin to gather into a majority, as elements of the GOP internally reconcile to the likely nominee. These are not normal circumstances. A significant group of Republicans — look at #NeverTrump on Twitter — cannot support Trump. This is not, as in 1964 or 1980, a clash over ideology. It is a moral objection to the return of nativism, religious prejudice and misogyny to the center stage of American politics.
...

There is, in fact, no clear or morally satisfying option for Republicans. Option 2 is the obvious choice for the next two weeks. If it comes to it, a convention battle is worth having to save the party. But if Ohio or Florida falls to Trump, anti-Trump Republicans are likely to face a choice between voting for Clinton or supporting a third-party candidate.

My inclination? #DraftCondi.
But don't forget, Both Sides are still equally bad!
Sanders’s and Trump’s backward-looking plans won’t help the working class
From March, 2016.
Republicans stain themselves by sticking with Trump
From April, 2016:
The GOP has two fevers that need to break

...
This is now the subject of many conversations among Republicans: Is it better to lose with Cruz or Trump? The arguments for tea party purity and for “white lives matter” nativism each need discrediting defeat. Unfortunately, they seem to be the two available choices.

Eventually, Republicans will require another option: a reform-oriented conservatism that is responsive to working-class problems while accommodating demographic realities. This is what makes Paul Ryan so attractive as the Hail Mary pass of an open convention. But, more realistically, it will be the work of a headless Republican Party, reconstituting itself in a new Clinton era.
Going through the balance of Michael Gerson's Deep Thinking from 2016 reminded me eerily of the doomed Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.  The GOP was at this point a "zombie plane" where the conscientious Conservative professionals that Mr. Gerson had always assured his readers were safely piloting the thing were either long dead or missing, leaving the whole party flying on autopilot until it fell into the sea.

For example, it turned out that despite Michael Gerson's attempts to pretend otherwise, Rush Limbaugh actually existed and exercised orders of magnitude more influence over the GOP than some whiny nitwit selling "Burke or Bust!" swag on the Washington Post op-ed page.
Rush Limbaugh’s blessing of Trump is killing conservatism
 Killing conservatism?   Oh nooooo!

Come on, people! You're making me look like an idiot in front of the Libtards!
The worst stereotype of the GOP is coming to life in the form of Donald Trump

...
But the durability of Trump’s appeal creates a conundrum for many Republicans. For decades, some of us have argued that the liberal stereotype of Republicans as extreme, dim and intolerant is inaccurate and unfair. But here is a candidate for president who fully embodies the liberal stereotype of Republicans — who thinks this is the way a conservative should sound — and has found support from a committed plurality of the party.

If the worst enemies of conservatism were to construct a Frankenstein figure that represents the worst elements of right-wing politics, Donald Trump would be it. But it is Republicans who are giving him life. And the damage is already deep.
And what about the civility!
Dear GOP: Ignoring manners does America a nasty disservice
But who knows?  But maybe things weren't quite as hopeless as they seemed.  Maybe Trump would swallow his own tail and magically disappear in a puff of racist stink!
Is Trump sabotaging himself?

Welcome to Donald Trump’s banana republic. “We’re going to have protests, demonstrations,” says Trump surrogate and confidante Roger Stone. “We will disclose the hotels and the room numbers of those delegates who are directly involved in the steal. If you’re from Pennsylvania, we’ll tell you who the culprits are. We urge you to visit their hotel and find them.”

This is the Trump-world version of a counterpunch. Lose in a delegate-selection process you’ve known about for a year but didn’t prepare for. Respond with brutish threats of mayhem and personal harm...

It is possible that Trump began his presidential race as a lark, found an unexpected momentum and now realizes that the enterprise involves skills he does not possess. Trump’s actions (or lack of them) are consistent with this interpretation...

...
Self-sabotage can take many forms. It may be that Trump is calculating that he wants the nomination only on his own terms — like a college student who desires a degree, but only if he is spared the indignities of opening a book or attending a lecture. Trump may hope Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus brings him the nomination on a silver platter in the billionaire’s Cleveland hotel suite. And if Priebus doesn’t — if a serious, working campaign is an actual requirement to secure the Republican nomination — Trump is set to be a populist folk hero, energized by a “stolen” election. Playing the victim is Trump’s most comfortable pose. Maybe, deep down, it is the role he desires.

Desired or not, it is the role that Republicans should give him.
Oops.

Never mind.
Buying into Trump’s fake pivot would ruin the GOP
Ruin the GOP?  Holy crap!  Obviously it's time to slather on the Both Siderism with both hands.
Republicans and Democrats are fixated on nostalgia — and have deformed our politics
 But none of the Beltway misdirection or slight-of-hand worked.

And as Donald Trump began running away with the nomination, the Republican bonfire continued burning right through every pretense that the GOP was anything other than a shitpile of bigots and imbeciles who had been waiting for their Swine King to come and sweep them off their feet.

From May 9, 2016:
Trump’s victory is leading to lunacy in high places
From May 12, 2016:
Trump’s ugly speech threatens our ideals and our safety
From May 16, 2016:
Conservatives make a deal with the devil
From May 23, 2016:
The Trump train is fueled by conspiracy
From May 30, 2016:
The most depressing moment of the 2016 race

For those of us with a certain political bent and background, this is the most depressing moment of all. The best of the GOP — Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan, the intellectually serious reformicons who have called attention to issues of poverty and the need for Republican outreach — are bending their knee to the worst nominee in their party’s history. Ryan drags himself slowly. Rubio eventually went with a quick Band-Aid pull. But the largest political choice each man has made this year will be one of the worst mistakes of their careers...
When Mr. Gerson spends his declining years stirring the ashes and consulting goat entrails looking for clues about how things went the way they went, perhaps he will finally summon the strength to consider that a party whose elite held Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan to be "intellectually serious reformicons" was fucked from the git-go.

Meh.  Probably not.

As late as June of 2016, Gerson was still working his way through a whole laundry list of things which various Republicans must and must not do, all of which they blithely ignored.

From June 2, 2016:
Evangelicals must not bear the mark of Trump
From June 8, 2016:
The party of Lincoln is dying
We've been over this, Michael.  The Party of Lincoln died decades ago.  You and your friends were just too busy making a living shitting on Liberals to notice.

And as implacable reality pounds on the door of the Pundit Guild fortress demanding entry, inside a palpable, last-ditch bunker desperation has set in...

From June 20, 2016:
A delegate revolt has become Republicans’ only option
From June 27, 2016:
A resistance strategy for Republicans
But Republicans don't want to revolt.  They don't want to resist.  They fucking love Donald Trump and have been waiting for someone like him their entire lives.

And the dominoes continue to fall.

From July 18, 2016:
On trade, Trump pushes — and the GOP caves
From July 21, 2016:
In praising Trump, Mike Pence pushes an imaginary and corrupt narrative
Oh noes!  Not Pence too!

By the time the 2016 Republican National Convention had wrapped up, there was no doubt how hollow and absurd all of Mr. Gerson's theorizing and moralizing had been all along.  
Republicans have ceded the ground on faith
And yet, no matter how many times reality punched him in the dick, Gerson refused to give up the fairy tale that there was some other Republican Party out there ... somewhere ... which could still step in at the 11th hour and end this nightmare:
Dear Republican leaders: It’s not too late to dump Trump
A wholly imaginary GOP that gave a damn about the future:
Trump may cost the GOP a generation of voters
Instead, the actual GOP enthusiastically nominated a monster who then cheerfully began surrounding himself with other monsters.
Trump’s repellent inner circle
And a quarter of a century too late, Conservative Brain Wizard Michael Gerson began to slooowly notice that the Conservative media in which he had energetically participated might have had some unfortunate side-effects:
How Donald Trump has discredited much of conservative media

...
Much (not all, but much) of the new conservative establishment feeds outrage as its source of revenue and relevance. It is a model that has been good for Limbaugh and Fox News but bad for the GOP. Republicans are now caught in a complicated electoral dynamic. What their base, incited by conservative media, is demanding, the country is rejecting. A choice and a conflict are becoming unavoidable. Trump’s angry nativism — newly restated in Arizona with a few twists — is a talk-radio shtick, correctly viewed by most of the electorate as impractical and cruel. It is less a proposal than an offensive, unhealthy form of ideological entertainment. And this show needs to close.
From September 12, 2016:
The self-refuting idea that America needs Donald Trump as a savior
From September 15, 2016:
Trump’s destructive validation of racists
This was around the time when the Pundit Guild began stocking up on canned food and iodine tablets against the possibility -- however slim -- that the unthinkable might happen.  Mr. Gerson pitched in and did his part, advising his readers where to place the blame should Donald Trump actually win.
If Trump wins, blame Obamacare

...If Trump succeeds in essentially turning out the midterm electorate in a presidential year — whiter, older, angrier — the main motivating issue may be the restriction of immigration. But the general atmosphere of contempt for government that helps Trump — of disdain for the weakness and incompetence of the political class — is due to the Affordable Care Act.
...

The Affordable Care Act has come to embody and summarize declining trust in political institutions. The law was passed in a partisan march, without a single Republican vote. The system’s federal website was launched with a series of glitches and failures that still make “healthcare.gov” a byword for public incompetence in the computer age.
By now there was no question about the reason for Donald Trump's rise to the top of the GOP:
Trump’s angry white men
However because Mr. Gerson is an aggressively self-deluded simpleton, who had never had the slightest fucking clue what was actually going on inside his own political party, even at this late date he remained completely unable to understand how and why his fellow Conservative evangelicals were throwing themselves at Trump's feet with such zeal:
...
America is seeing a movement of white grievance led by an avatar of the Playboy philosophy. In light of this, Trump’s deep support among evangelical Christians is the hardest for me to account for. I wonder how Trump evangelicals explain to their sons and daughters that this man is a suitable leader for a great country. I know that people in some minority groups are genuinely frightened by the possibility of Trump’s election. (“We should frankly test every person here who is of a Muslim background,” Gingrich has said, “and if they believe in sharia, they should be deported.”) I also know that if Trump ends up losing in November, it will be because women rallied in large numbers to defeat him.


Conservatives oriented toward reform and outreach — longing for the leadership of Nikki Haley, Tim Scott and Marco Rubio — are largely waiting in shelters for the storm to pass. But what of the Republican Party will be left?
After Trump's huffing, sniffling, snarling, bed-shitting performance in the second presidential debate,  Mr. Gerson took his Righteous Scourge of Righteousness to what he still believed were a minority within the party who had made Trump their standard-bearer, and who would certainly bring them to ruin in November:
Republicans deserve their sad fate
The Alert Reader will notice that Mr. Gerson had by now fully separated himself from the party to which he had given his unswerving supported for his entire adult life.  He now spoke of "Republicans" almost exclusively as one might speak of some distant third cousin-in-law with a long criminal record and loathsome personal habits.  One wag describes this condition "Republican Detachment Disorder": an extremely common and contagious affliction defined as:
It's a huge shit sandwich and everybody but me is gonna have to take a bite.
Mr. Gerson continues with the scourging:
...
What Trump actually did was ensure that hardcore conservatives stay with him until the end of his political journey, when Republicans begin the search for survivors and examine the charred black box. Trump’s performance was perfectly tuned to make a loyal Rush Limbaugh listener burst out in “Hell, yeah!” Put Juanita Broaddrick in the audience? Threaten to jail your opponent? Throw WikiLeaks in her face? Blame her for the death of Capt. Humayun Khan in Iraq? Dismiss all the fuss about sexual predation as locker-room talk? Hell, yeah!
...

To many people outside the talk-radio hothouse, I can attest, Trump’s debate performance was appalling, contemptible, shameful, squalid, vile.

Allow me to translate that last bit for you if it's not clear.  What Mr. Gerson means is that he and his fellow members of the Pundit Guild found Trump’s debate performance "appalling, contemptible, shameful, squalid, vile."

The scourging goes on:
Trump and his advisers must know that the conservative talk-radio audience, and the Republican primary electorate, is different from a national electorate, which actually includes minorities, young people and women who don’t like disgusting boors...

Whatever the explanation, Trump achieved the worst possible outcome for the GOP. He was good enough with his base to avoid a generalized revolt, and bad enough with the rest of the country to continue his slide toward major defeat...

The Trump evangelicals deserve a special shout-out in all this. By accepting, or even excusing, Trump’s talk of sexual predation, they are demonstrating a political polarization that runs so deep that even common decency no longer matters...
And or course you all know exactly where Mr. Both Sides Do It is going to land this thing...
This is what many Democrats already showed in the 1990s by minimizing or excusing a presidential abuse of power for sexual purposes that seems even more odious at two decades removed. Now some evangelical Christians are making a similar case — playing down the importance of integrity, morality and character in leadership.
Yep.  The fucker cannot help himself.

From October 13, 2016:
Donald Trump is right: The GOP is utterly pathetic
As October of 2016 shudders to a close, we must ask ourselves, "Hey, aren't we overdue for yet another big helping of face-saving, self-righteous Beltway Both Siderist bullshit?"

Why yes.  Yes we are.
This election, a vote for bad could defeat dreadful

...
What does all this tell us about Hillary Clinton? It reveals a leader who seems to value loyalty above integrity; who surrounds herself with yes-persons; who responded to a lifetime of controversy by growing a thick shell of Nixonian paranoia; who seems to regard her own considerable public contributions as permission for profiteering...

What does all this tell us about Trump? He pulls people close to him who reinforce his anger, his prejudice, his megalomania, his conspiracy-mindedness. He is both impossibly ignorant and insanely confident in his own flawed judgment. He thinks he should be exempt from the normal rules of transparency — by refusing to supply his tax returns — while using a presidential campaign to pimp his brand. He is acting as a propaganda arm of the Putin administration, defying the judgment of U.S. intelligence agencies, in a manner that raises serious questions about his motives...

But how about the rest of us? It does not help to point out that there has been a massive failure of the presidential nomination process in both parties; one candidate stale and tainted, the other vapid and vile.
And then, on November 8, 2016, the world ended.

The Republican Bonfire of the Sanities finally blasted through the last remaining firewall between the preposterous political fairy tales that men like Michael Gerson had been spinning for credulous readers for decades, and the bestial reality of the real Republican Party.
The country may have to depend on stubborn Republicans

...
After so many harsh words for Donald Trump, I can’t pretend that his victory is anything less than a disaster for the country. A hurricane has power. It clears away the sticks and bricks of an old order. But anything it might construct defies entropy in miraculous ways. Hurricane Trump was a defeat of elite expectations so complete and unexpected that it might be called an act of God. An assessment that Trump himself might share.
...

More personally, it is sobering to find that your view of things — your most basic principles of ethics and political theory — is not ascendant in the electoral world of 2016. And to find that your political party, on the verge of controlling all the elected portions of the federal government, is completely unrecognizable. It feels like a kind of exile from everything cherished and familiar. Many I disdain are cheering; but not everyone cheering is worthy of disdain
For solace, Mr. Gerson advised his stunned readers to lean hard on those principled Congressional institutionalists -- Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell -- who, despite making themselves handmaidens to Trump's barbaric agenda on the campaign trail, would now surely step up and "offer their restraining judgment and to defend the integrity and influence of the institutions where they serve."

This moment right here was when pundits like Michael Gerson should have been sacked.  No question about it.  Clean out your desk.  Security will escort you out.  Your final check will be mailed to your home. 

Period.

Sure, given their long, infamous history of passing off toxic claptrap, wishful thinking and outright lies as the received wisdom of America's most serious political thinkers, most professional political pundits should have been given the hook years before, but as far as comprehensive; humiliating and public failure at the one fucking job you have in this fucking world, it's hard to beat how hard the Pundit Guild collectively hit the pavement here.

And yet, there were absolutely no consequence to their failure.

None.

Because there never are.

No one missed a meal.  None of them were docked so much as an hour's pay.  They were left entirely unmolested by the media corporations that pays them for one very simple reason:  those corporations are not in the truth or accuracy business.  They are in the reassurance business, which depends on customers coming back over and over again.  And with the election of Donald Trump, the best way to market reassurance to the pearl-clutching lackwits who actually read and believe Michael Gerson was to keep him on the job despite the Apocalypse.

Keep him the job and hawking exactly the same tired, poisonous claptrap he had been feeding his readers for years.

So having shown his ass to the entire world and then having landed prostrate and face down in a puddle of his own sick, Mr. Michael Gerson went right on playing the only card that every member of the Can-Never-Be-Fired-No-Matter-How-Fucking-Wrong-They-Are Pundit Guild had left to play.

The Beltway Both Siderist card.

And boy howdy did he play that busted two dollar fiddle it for all it was worth.
Republicans have heart disease. Democrats have a gushing head wound.
Of course, under unified Republican control over every branch of the federal government, the old Both Sides Do It scam was losing quite a bit of its luster.  And Donald Trump's daily shitshow was Tturning out to be grotesque and relentless that pundits like Mr. Gerson often had to debase themselves to level of  (horrors!) Liberal bloggers, standing on the sidelines of American politics "documenting the atrocities" and wearing the corners off their thesauri but having no real power to influence anything.

Calling Trump a shithead (while continuing to punch the hippies whenever possible) was also how Never Trumpers built their bona fides among each other in preparation for the Glorious True Conservative counterrevolution that was no doubt soon to come.

From January 15, 2017:
Trump’s attack on John Lewis is the essence of narcissism
From January 30, 2017
Trump’s half-baked travel ban is a picture of American shame
From January 26, 2017:
Why a tweeting president is so bad for our politics
From February 13, 2017:
A White House where no one is in charge
From February 16, 2017:
Reality will get its revenge on Donald Trump
From February 27, 2017:
Bannon’s reckless pursuit of ethno-nationalist greatness
From March 13, 2017:
Republicans are defining lunacy down
From March 30, 2017:
Trump’s failing presidency has the GOP in a free fall
But not for one second did Mr. Gerson forget why The Washington Post was keeping him on the payroll. And so with increasing frequency, his columns were cut with increasingly heavy doses of increasingly ridiculous Beltway Both Siderist Bullshit.

Like this (emphasis added):
The tribal truths that set the stage for Trump’s lies

...
Trump did not create the conditions for his own rise. During the Obama era, conservative media, particularly talk radio, adopted what Vox’s David Roberts calls a “tribal epistemology.” All facts were filtered for the benefit of the tribe. In this approach, information is useful only as ammunition. And conflicting views are entirely the result of bad faith. This was a political wave well suited to an empty vessel. Trump was willing to say anything the medium demanded.

At the same time, a different tribe — academic liberalism — was moving in a similar direction. In this approach, the very possibility of truth is undermined by philosophies of relativism and reductionism...

Put a representative of each of these tribes in a room — one in red war paint, the other in blue — and the result would be a shouting match, or worse. (I am actually describing many Americans’ table discussions last Thanksgiving.) On issues such as climate change or gun control, the reds and blues do not see different ways up the mountain. They see two different mountains — two different fact sets, two different political, social and scientific realities.
Also those insufferable know-it-all, we-told-you-so, smarty-pants Liberals need to stop mocking Donald Trump right now!
Stop sneering at Trump. It won’t help.

For those of us convinced that President Trump’s defects of character, lack of knowledge, encouragement of social division and disregard for democratic norms outweigh any good he may do — the rough definition of being #NeverTrump — these are confusing and challenging times.

...
Caitlin Flanagan recounts how late-night personality Samantha Bee set up and ridiculed a young Trump supporter (for which Bee later apologized). “Trump and Bee,” Flanagan argues, “are on different sides politically, but culturally they are drinking from the same cup, one filled with the poisonous nectar of reality TV and its baseless values. . . . Trump and Bee share a penchant for verbal cruelty and a willingness to mock the defenseless.”

It is far more consequential, of course, when Trump does the mocking. But Flanagan is correct that the attitude of late-night television gets mixed up in the public mind with the mainstream media and appears to many as a monolith of cruel, establishment bias.
Well damn, how dire could the consequence of late-night cable teevee people mocking Trump possibly be?

Pretty fucking dire!
The pose of late-night television — duplicated by many on the left — is a continuing provocation. It is the general, obnoxious attitude in which it is somehow permissible for the Democratic National Committee to hawk a T-shirt on its website saying, “Democrats give a sh*t about people.”

This leads to a second, divisive and counterproductive tendency among anti-Trump forces. For many on the left, the energy of opposition to the president is useful only to drive an existing agenda — and to drive the Democratic Party leftward. When women marched on the day after Trump’s inauguration, their platform included “open access to safe, legal, affordable abortion” — as though this was the natural position for all who have deep concerns about the president...

Consider where trends might take us. At the presidential level, there is currently no center-right party in the United States. With the ascendancy of its Elizabeth Warren-Bernie Sanders wing, there would be no center-left party in the country...
Joe Fucking Lieberman died for your sins and this is the thanks he gets from you ingrates?

And what, pray tell, can save us from this awful fate?

The power of Michael Gerson's Sensible Centrism of course!
A substantive, centrist response to Trump has a chance of releasing his hold on the GOP and the country. A sneering, dismissive, dehumanizing, conspiratorial, hard-left-leaning response to Trump is his fondest hope.
Yes, having failed completely to understand what was going on inside own political party, and having failed spectacularly to alter the trajectory of that party in the slightest way. Mr. Gerson had now gone into the business of lecturing the rest of us on the proper way to clean up the wreckage his party of Gohmerts and Getzes and Grahams were leaving in its wake.

And if all of this this sounds eerily familiar, it should: this is literally the exact the same line of codswallop Mr. Gerson was selling back during the 2008 election.

Now, at long last. let's consider how the hell to end this post, which now clocks in over 16,000 words?  Hell, that's over 1.5 Atlantic cover stories!  (From the Jeffrey Goldberg interview where he sets his dick on fire.)
It’s really, really hard to write a 10,000-word cover story. There are not a lot of journalists in America who can do it. The journalists in America who do it are almost exclusively white males. 
Well, first, since we have reached that point in the timeline of the Pecksniffian arc of Michael Gerson's intellectual and moral bankruptcy where it's just simpler and easier to direct your attention to posts I wrote in reaction to some godawful tripe had written at the time, I'll start winding us down with some of that.

If you'd like to know what happened when Mr. Gerson snuck into the No True Scotsman clubhouse, stole a bottle of Pineapple Ice Cream Conservatism absinthe from the top shelf and drank the whoooole thing, well here you go!

There's was Mr. Gerson's deep and recurring concern that our democracy is in peril because Liberals say "fuck" too much ("The Derangement of the Havisham Hacks".)

The running battle between The People's Front of Republicanism and the Republican People's Front over who are and are not the real Republicans.

Another heaping helping of Gerson's Own Beltway Both Siderist Bullshit.

Followed almost immediately by yet another heaping helping of Gerson's Own Beltway Both Siderist Bullshit.
America is currently cursed, not only with tribal politics, but with tribal morality. Some liberals tend to minimize or excuse offenses against a few women in the broader cause of women’s rights. What is a politician’s wandering hand in comparison to maintaining legal abortion? Some conservatives tend to minimize or excuse offenses against women in the cause of conservative governance. What are a few old accusations compared to cementing a conservative Supreme Court or passing tax reform?

Both sides...
Gerson's paralyzing inability to grasp what he is seeing with his own two eyes -- "I believe Ryan to be a good person." -- when it conflicts with his political fundamentalism.

And hey look!  Still another heaping helping of Gerson's Own Beltway Both Siderist Bullshit.
In the GOP, fanaticism seems to have all the passion and energy. On the left, the same is increasingly true. 
And even though I cannot eat another fucking morsel, what do I see being served up on the WaPo op-ed page yet again?

Yes, it is another heaping helping of Gerson's Own Beltway Both Siderist Bullshit.
The rhetoric of our era has reached its vile peak

In Washington — at the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner — comedian Michelle Wolf...

In Washington, Mich., President Trump gave an 80-minute speech in a stream-of-semiconsciousness style that mixed narcissism, nativism, ignorance, mendacity and malice...

In both Washingtons, political discourse was dominated by the values and practices of reality television and social media...
And just today, as a dog returns to his vomit, we find Mr. Gerson falling back on his despicable  "Democrats are responsible for Trump" argument.  Specifically today reprised his shameful 2016 assertion that...
If Trump wins, blame Obamacare
... except this time, if Trump wins again, Gerson is advancing the even more despicable lie that it will be because of the "radicalism of the Democratic Party on the issue of abortion":
Abortion supporters have made Trump’s reelection more likely

One of the largest obstacles to the defeat of President Trump in the 2020 election is the radicalism of the Democratic Party on the issue of abortion. By forcing Joe Biden to abandon his support for the Hyde Amendment — which currently prevents the funding of abortions through Medicaid — the abortion lobby and activist liberals have taken the first, major step toward reelecting Trump...
Because from Michael Gerson's narrow, medieval perspective, a woman exercising control over her own body is such an extreme act of radical Leftism that it may well catapult Donald Trump into a second term because...
Biden has made it harder — significantly harder — for cultural conservatives who are disturbed by Trump’s cruelty and prejudice to vote for Biden, should he be his party’s nominee.
Well fuck 'em then.  I for one am all out of patience with Republican stalking-horses like Gerson insisting that if we Liberals want to woo "cultural conservatives" away from "Trump’s cruelty and prejudice" they each have to be given a cookie and veto power over the party platform.

As to why I almost-accidentally decided to undertake this massive thing -- so much longer than almost anything I had ever tried before -- I have no clear answer.  It seemed to be something that needed doing and there was no earthly reason to expect that anyone else would ever do it.  It seemed, even as I was grinding my way through the WaPo archives, important in a way I could not adequately explain, but that kept me at it.

However I will say this.

Every hour the news overwhelms us with tragedies and crises and heroes and villains of every kind.  They skirl around us constantly, waxing and waning, each with its own mass and meaning and claim on our attention.

But that's all in the nature of the weather of the political media, which changes constantly.  Trump's tweets.  Cable news reading meaningless polling numbers at you.  That sort of thing.

What interests me these days is the climate of the political media.  The big, steady tectonic forces that slowly reshape culture and civilization.

And when you stand back from the hullabaloo and look at the overall -- look at the people and the opinions which are given pride of place at the media's table over and over again no matter how cringingly wrong those people and opinions are shown to be over and over again -- it becomes painfully obvious that the corporate media is not concerned with journalism or the First Amendment at all.

What becomes clear is that the corporate political media is a machine designed to enforce the norms of the political establishment.  And I wanted to decompile the operating system of that machine to understand what it was doing and why by deconstructing Michael Gerson's career and looking for patterns. Because let's face it, when taken all in all, the career of Michael Gerson, professional Republican Haver-of-Ideas, comes to not much of anything.  He is a trivial thinker.  A banal and mawkish writer.  A culturally irrelevant humbug.  A religious bigot who pretends tolerance when it suits his political ends. A right wing Conservative who pretends not to know what that really means.  A professional Republican pundit who, until 2016, had apparently never met any actual, real-world Republicans and was utterly stunned to discover that his Republican Party was full of them.

And yet for all of that, Mr. Gerson is also a senior member of the Can-Never-Be-Fired-No-Matter-How-Fucking-Wrong-They-Are Pundit Guild.  One of many privileged, white, conservative men who, up until five minutes ago, had no fucking idea what was going on out here in the Real World and yet are paid handsomely to issue sweeping declarations on the subject, which are read and heard by millions of unsuspecting citizens.  These are privileged, white, conservative men who not only have no apparent qualifications (and an entire laundry-list of disqualifiers) for the jobs they were hired to do, but who are also spectacularly wrong about pretty much everything almost all of the time.

They have a nearly 100% failure rate and yet they are effectively immune from criticism.  Untouchable, in the same industry where as hundreds of working reporters, editors and photographers are routinely given the ax for "budget reasons" every year.

But how can this be?

Obviously it must be because men like Michael Gerson serve the interests and imperatives of the corporate media better that all those reporters, editors and photographers who swell the ranks of the unemployed every year.

And why is this so?

It must be because whatever it is that Michael Gerson does consistently, over the course of years and regardless of prevailing conditions, that is the thing the corporate media is willing to paying handsomely for him to go right on doing.

That is the vital component that enforces the norms of the political establishment.

That is the indispensable ingredient that helps maintain a consistent and predictable political climate regardless of the transient conditions of the political weather.

And what exactly is the thing that Michael Gerson and dozens of other members of the Can-Never-Be-Fired-No-Matter-How-Fucking-Wrong-They-Are Pundit Guild can be counted on to deliver come rain or come shine, summer or winter, Obama or Trump?

Helping after helping after big, steaming helping of Beltway Both Siderist Bullshit.

Mr. Gerson is untouchable because he is a useful cog in a machine which rigidly enforces and relentlessly reinforces this biggest corporate media lie of all.

And the toxic fallout from that lie has damn near killed our country.

The End

10 comments:

wibble said...

,,,O!O,,,

*slow clap*

Unknown said...

Is it the end? Will it ever end? Nah. Well, maybe this chapter:

"Forget it, Drift. It's Lyingtown."

Unknown said...

Big Media knows which side its bread is buttered on...

https://getyarn.io/yarn-clip/c43cd384-d3e7-4cc0-8c1c-8ef675c9ec27

After all, the Media Outlet is one tiny little aspect of the conglomerate. So the Corporation will give the Media Outlet its marching orders, and the Media Outlet will reinforce the opinions that allow the Corporation to continue to have Business before this Congress.

That's called Synergy. It's a big business buzzword that means Working Together for Profit. It might also be known as its other name when it is used for nefarious purposes, or counter to the facts of the matter - then it's called Collusion.

Unknown said...

Gerson was right about one thing: Obama should've chosen Hillary as his VP. It's obvious now that Biden supported, no doubt encouraged, Obama to be conciliatory toward Biden's GOP friends. A clear-eyed Hillary would have fought,taken the heat for Obama.

San Francisco Values said...

You need to demand a raise from your publisher. This is not lazy opinion writing, this is labor intensive investigative reporting. You've more than earned a promotion and transfer from the op-ed cubicles, to the elite Spotlight Unit.

The Case for Reparations was 16,000 words, and this Driftglass opus is in the same category of substantive, historically significant works. Why isn't it published in a dedicated, stand alone issue of The Atlantic? That is a rhetorical question because DG has answered it many times.

I say the following as someone who was raised Catholic, and was a practicing Catholic until the Iowa Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in that state in 2009 (after I read the full opinion, the Catholic leadership response to that was my breaking point). Over many years I've been a moderate and an orthodox (Latin Mass) Catholic. I have held every office in my local Knights of Columbus chapter, and participated in the Tootsie Roll fundraising drive every year.

So I feel like I have the street cred to ask "What the fuck is wrong with Catholics like Michael Gerson?!?" And Brett Kavanagh, Clarence and Ginni Thomas, the other Catholics on the Supreme Court, and Ross Douthat, and all the Federalist Society bots? You talk about the reprogrammable Republican meatbags. There is also this bizarre Catholic subculture and bot-net that marches in goose-stepping lockstep.

And the damage they've all done and will continue to do is terrifying. There is no other way to say it: The common denominator is this far-right strain of Catholicism. And the contrast with the significant social justice work other Catholics do inflicts terminal cognitive dissonance.

XtopherSD said...

Phenomenal execution. I love the weather/climate analogy. Thanks!

rapier said...


I was going to say it's mostly a story of class. So I figured I better find out it that was true. Cue Wiki

Gerson was raised in an Evangelical Christian family[8] in St. Louis, Missouri, attending Westminster Christian Academy for high school. His paternal grandfather was Jewish.[8] He attended Georgetown University for a year and then transferred to Wheaton College in Illinois, graduating in 1986.[9]

Gerson suffers from major depressive disorder.[10]

Gerson's wife Dawn was born in South Korea. She was adopted by an American family when she was six years old and raised in the Midwestern United States. The couple, who met in high school, have two sons and reside in Northern Virginia.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Gerson

I think I had it about right and the depression doesn't surprise at all. From now on I will strongly suspect that every other Conservacentric pundit is depressive as well because one of their hallmarks is their apparent total inability to feel joy or have fun. I mean the real conservatives get a real kick out of a dead negro or Iraqi, or 10,000.

I'm trying to think of one of these guys that have ever hinted that they like some fun once and awhile and don't give me that George Will baseball aficionado crap, who comes to mind because Slate brought him out from somewhere to do a Gerson today, which is another atrocity I can't deal with right now.

If sort of liberal Slate is bringing out these depressive cracker stiffs why not NYT WaPo?

stratocruiser said...

Nice little piece you dashed off just before deadline. Imagine what you could do after that first cup of coffee.
I really like the climate metaphor. Allow me to abuse it.
The first stroke of lightning that took out the transformers happened on November 22, 1963.During the LBJ years, it was hard to notice the gathering clouds. The Nixon front passed through and the tornado howled about those "nattering Nabobs of negativism". After that, the disinfecting sunlight of a free press waned to a perpetual gloom. After the fury of the Nixon years, culminating in that thunderclap pardon, we thought( many of us) that the Carter era returned us to calmer times. Little did we know it was only the eye of the storm.
Twelve years of Reagan/Bush and the shadows deepened. After the Clinton Dawn, some noticed that triangulation angles meant less warmth to reach the surface. And still , the weather forecasters predicted calamity if the full power of the sun were to be spread onto the land. During the Bush 43 time, those who predict things laid supine and said nothing about the gathering gloom. Obama was not able to defeat the forces marshaled against him and his personal warmth couldn't thaw the nation.
Now, we wait to find out if this is just winter or a new Ice Age.

dinthebeast said...

His writing does reinforce their business model... And by the way, how is that business model looking these days?


-Doug in Oakland

akryan said...

Writing like this is why I send you guys money each month. Keep up the good work.