Thursday, April 18, 2024

Professional Left Podcast Episode #796: The Great Republican Sell-Out

"It's easy to be a tough guy when no one's going to come knocking on your door" -- Pete Hamill, writer.


The Professional Left is brought to you by our wholly imaginary "sponsors" and real listeners like you!

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

The Conservative Road to Damascus is a Merry-Go-Round

It just goes around and around, over and over again, and always ends up in the same place.

If you have been paying attention you may have noticed this trend over at Conservative, Inc.

Every few months for the past eight years or so, some prominent Conservative out there who has cadged for  themselves a sweet media gig based on their Superior Knowledge of The Subject of Politics and Conservatism stumbles over the fact that something they believed to have been inviolable Conservative orthodoxy was bullshit all along.  

In fact, history has shown that, with the exception of Beltway pundits, no group has been more loudly, repeatedly and disastrously wrong about the true nature of the Republican party and the Conservative movement than [checks notes] elite Republicans and Conservatives.  

Yet somehow they all still have elite mainstream media jobs.

And you know who turns out to have been right about the Right all along?  

Yeah.  That's right.  Us America-hating, terrorist-loving, godless, commie, baby-killing Liberals.  Whose are all still treated like pariahs by the mainstream media.

Over and over again.  Around and around the Conservative Epiphany Merry-Go-Round goes.

This post started out as an examination of this New York Times op-ed last week by David French:

The Great Hypocrisy of the Pro-Life Movement

Maybe a blog post of tsk-tsking.  Maybe revisiting the hurry-up-quick way that French tidied up his extremely problematic professional history enough for the Sulzberger family -- who are always thirsty for yet another Conservative to bring under the Times' banner -- to put him on payroll.  

But I set all that aside over the busy travel/socializing weekend, which was  followed by time spent errand-running and podcast prepping and doing, and when I came back to the subject of David French, I wanted to widen the aperture a little.  

After all, French is in no way unique.  Not the only one who, after decades of living La Vida Falwell, "suddenly" noticed a glitch in the Republican Jebus Matrix at exactly the same moment that Donald Trump ripped the mask off the Republican party and showed the world who they had really been all along. 

Before he passed, I wrote dozens of posts about the late Michael Gerson's long, strange journey from Evangelical thug and key advisor and speechwriter for George his gig at The Washington Post where he spent eight years relentlessly savaging President Obama in very unChristian his very slowly dawning realization that his Republican party really was going to nominate Donald his very slowly dawning realization that his Conservative Evangelical movement was, in fact, 100% cool with Donald Trump.

It's been a well-trod path, this denial!denial!denial! decade after decade that anything was fundamentally wrong on the Right.   That to win elections, the Republican party had been filling itself up with garbage people for decades: bigots and imbeciles whose votes and viewer attention had been purchased by way of promises of all sorts of nonsense by party elites.  

And, just like the collapse of the housing market, it turns out that all the specialists and experts and journalists who were supposed to be keeping an eye on the basic soundness of the system were profiting from looking the other way.  

But rather that going along with the increasingly absurd reportage from the cloistered garden of the Beltway media about the state of American democracy, there were a few of us out here in the Real World telling a very different story about what we were seeing and hearing.  

And, just as happened with the collapse of the housing market, anyone who was out there contradicting the received wisdom of the Beltway media was dismissed as a crackpot and an alarmist, because all the Very Serious People just knew that foundations of American democracy were rock-solid.  That the two-party system was functioning as it should.  

It's gonna be Rubio!

And when it all fell down, how uncanny it was -- how deeply uncomfortable it made all those Very Serious People -- that the real Republican party turned out to be just as we America-hating, godless commie Liberals had been describing it all along.  A party of bigots and imbecile, grifters and demagogues, cynics, fascists, homophobes, oligarchs and collaborators which those professionals with Superior Knowledge of The Subject of Politics and Conservatism like Michael Gerson and David French had denied and denied and denied existed at all.

But Gerson was a real trooper, and even as the political and ideological movements to which he had devoted his entire adult life were shown to have been colossal frauds, he never retracted any of the slander he spent eight years heaping on Obama and Democrats, never stopped pretending that his Republican party had lost its mind suddenly and with no warning, never stopped trying to blame Both Sides, never stopped trying to Tone Police us dirty hippies, and, of course, never lost his gig at The Washington Post just because he had been horribly wrong about everything.  

Comes now David French, who, to his credit, actually gets a little further down the road than Gerson ever did when he acknowledges that "many of the critics of the pro-life movement were right all along":

I still believe there are many deeply sincere pro-life Americans. I see their anger in response to Trump’s statements, even when they’ve previously supported him. They are people who genuinely believe that all human life is precious and should be protected from conception until natural death.

But I also recognize that many of the critics of the pro-life movement were right all along. When push came to shove, the pro-life position was either secondary to other values or it genuinely was punitively tribal — enthusiastically aimed straight at the supposedly licentious left but ready to be abandoned the instant the commitment to unborn children might endanger the larger MAGA political project. Abortion is the poison pill that Trump doesn’t want to swallow.

And at no extra charge, Mr. French also got a little taste of the brand of Evangelical Christian love and forgiveness that his side had been handing out to us America-hating, terrorist-loving, dirty, commie hippies for as long as I can remember:

At its worst, the pro-life movement was also deeply cynical. Many of its members have spent the last eight years mocking and bullying pro-life conservatives who’ve refused to support Trump, even when we rightly said he was a terrible ambassador for a virtuous cause. I’ve been called a baby-killer or murderer or heretic more times than I can count.

Mr. French ends on this note:

The older I get, the more I’m convinced that we simply don’t know who we are — or what we truly believe — until our values carry a cost. For more than 40 years, the Republican Party has made the case that life begins at conception. Alabama’s Supreme Court agreed. Yet the Republican Party can’t live with its own philosophy...

But I choose to end on this one.  It's from Ayn Rand's crappy science fiction novel "Atlas Shrugged", but it seems too appropriate not to appropriate:

You have destroyed all that which you held to be evil and achieved all that which you held to be good. Why, then, do you shrink in horror from the sight of the world around you? That world is not the product of your sins, it is the product and the image of your virtues. It is your moral ideal brought into reality in its full and final perfection. You have fought for it, you have dreamed of it, and you have wished it, and I-I am the man who has granted you your wish.

Bonus Content.  

This is from Time Magazine, February 07, 2005.  Nearly 20 years ago.  Same issue, in fact, in which Michael Gerson was named one of Time Magazine's "25 Most Influential Evangelicals".

Give it a read and and see how the dangerous trajectory the Republican party was already on was clearly visible to any reasonable person who bothered to pay attention:

Does Bush Owe the Religious Right?

What do they think Bush owes them? His campaign barely had time to sweep up the confetti last Nov. 3 before the victorious President got a congratulatory bouquet of praise, threats, warnings and demands. "In your re-election, God has graciously granted America — though she doesn't deserve it — a reprieve from the agenda of paganism," wrote Bob Jones III, president of the namesake South Carolina university that his grandfather founded to foster "Christ-like" character. "Don't equivocate. Put your agenda on the front burner and let it boil. You owe the liberals nothing." But if Jones saw the victory as an opportunity to be seized, others were preaching the biblical virtues of patience and caution. "Can we handle success and increased influence with grace and prudence?" Watergate conspirator turned prison evangelist Chuck Colson wrote in a column. "Sad to say, the church has managed to shoot itself in the foot almost every time it has achieved power in society. So what we need right now is a bracing dose of humility."

Having helped wage a presidential campaign over big issues like a constitutional amendment outlawing gay marriage, conservative Christians are not likely to be content winning skirmishes like the one that newly installed Education Secretary Margaret Spellings fought last week against the cartoon character Buster, famous for being Arthur's best friend. She objected to one episode that featured Buster visiting a real-life lesbian couple in Vermont. After her warning about the dangers of exposing young viewers to "the lifestyles portrayed in the episode," PBS decided not to distribute the show to its 350 publicly financed stations.

As Bush begins his last term in the White House, the voters who believe they did more than anyone else to put him there are asking themselves and him: What now? And when, if not now? "He's not the typical politician who 'understands' us," says Michael Farris, chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association. "He's one of us."

Evangelical activists, for their part, say that as Bush looks forward, he should also look back. They claim that what brought churchgoing Christians (including a record number of Hispanics) to the polls more than any other issue last year was gay marriage. Initiatives banning it were on the ballot in 11 states and passed in every one, overwhelmingly in almost every case. So religious groups were startled and angry when Bush, bowing to what he said were political realities, seemed to signal in a pre-Inaugural interview with the Washington Post that he would not press the Senate to pass the federal ban.

The reverberations came almost instantly. Former presidential candidate Gary Bauer, who sends a daily e-mail to 125,000 Christian activists, says his computer mailbox was jammed with hundreds of complaints, many lamenting, "I worked my heart out for this guy." The Arlington Group, a coalition of conservative religious organizations, quickly fired off to Bush political guru Karl Rove a private letter signed by such figures as Bauer, Don Wildmon of the American Family Association, Focus on the Family's James Dobson, conservative standard bearer Paul Weyrich and evangelist Jerry Falwell. They laid down a none-too-subtle threat that the Administration's "defeatist attitude" on gay marriage might make it "impossible for us to unite our movement on an issue such as Social Security privatization where there are already deep misgivings."

I Am The Liberal Media

Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Professional Left Podcast Episode #795: No Fair Remembering Trump-Era Presidential Debates

"Freedom is hammered out on the anvil of discussion, dissent, and debate." -- Hubert H. Humphrey.


The Professional Left is brought to you by our wholly imaginary "sponsors" and real listeners like you!

Monday, April 15, 2024

A Peak Science Fiction Nerd Moment


It happened today as we were driving back from a short trip to northern Illinois to visit relatives old and new.  

My wife was in the car, on her Space Age phone, simultaneously FaceTiming with two younglings, one in a different state, one halfway around the world.  At that exact moment we were driving through one of Illinois' many wind farms: a widely spaced forest of bright, white windmills that tower 400 feet from their base to the apex of a blade at 12 o'clock.

To make this happen we had to pause the science fiction audiobook we had been listening to on our trip (Andy Weir's "Project Hail Mary", which is pretty terrific so far) because we weren't listening to the novel on via terrestrial radio or satellite radio, but via some science fiction dark magic that allowed my wife's phone to talk to the car's media center so that we could listen to the story of a man in a spacecraft traveling at .9-something of the speed of light, while we sailed down this smooth highway (Thanks, Biden!) at a constant speed slightly above the limit, knowing that the alert system on my phone would tell us of any speed traps ahead.  

At that moment I was transported back to the late 1970s, to our Volkswagen Fastback with Mom and my brother, driving down the same I-80 we had just left to take us back to Springfield.  That would have been summer -- she was a teacher, so we were all on summer break -- and ungodly early because Mom always had us up and on the road well before sunrise so that we could make camp before it got too hot outside.  

Our nav system was a paper map, which, unless we took side trips, we didn't really need since we knew the way.  Our entertainment was the License Plate Game, a magnetic chess board, a deck of cards,  AM/FM radio, and an 8-track tape player with played one of the four or five tapes Mom had on hand.  Not sure what listening to the cast album of "Cabaret"  and "Fiddler on the Roof" over and over had on my me and my brother, but I'm sure it had some.

The car was packed so tight with sleeping bags, tent, cooler, food, clothes and essential whatnots and dog bowls and doggie provisions, that my brother and I (and our very good dog) sort of wound ourselves into whatever space remained.  The first time we made this trip this way, the Coleman stove Mom had just bought just would not fit.  And we were excellent packers.  If we'd been in charge of packing the Apollo missions, I'm almost positive we could have found room to provision the astronautes with some extra bologna sandwiches, Hi-C, and a nice sheet cake.  But our little stove just would not go in...until we took it out of the box.  Just that little bit of space-saving allowed it to drop into the slot we had for it like a Tetris piece. 

Front seat co-piloting duties consisted of keeping Mom supplied with hard candies (Brach's Butterscotch) and coffee from the Girl Scout thermos (being careful not to drop it because it was glass lined.)  Mom drove with a tea towel draped over her left arm -- the sunward arm -- to avoid sunburn.  

We'd picnic off the road somewhere, use the toilets, walk the dog, stretch, and then power on.  Before sundown we'd be at some campsite -- usually a Jellystone -- get the tent up quick, fire up the little Coleman stove and make something for dinner.  Next morning, make breakfast, feed and walk the dog, strike camp.  Then back to the road and "Cabaret" or whatever was on local radio.  

And I was almost always packing a book.  Science fiction, no surprise.  Probably by Bradbury or Asimov.  I'd read in the back seat when my brother and I swapped the co-piloting duty.  And here I was, all these years later, older than my Mom was then, driving through a world that is now so casually upholstered with wonders (any one of which could have been its own Golden Age science fiction short story) that most people barely notice the miracles all around them.

I Am The Liberal Media

Friday, April 12, 2024

Thursday, April 11, 2024

Professional Left Podcast Episode #794: MSNBC Wins and Loses

"Trust everybody, but cut the cards." -- Finley Peter Dunne, writer.


The Professional Left is brought to you by our wholly imaginary "sponsors" and real listeners like you!

Arizona: A Land of Contrasts

In this crazy, mixed-up world, I suppose there is a weird kind of solace to be found in knowing that The New York Times is just gonna keep right on being exactly the same kind of awful, over and over again, rain or shine.   As mathematically predictable and certain as tides and eclipses.

From today:

Arizona Ruling Spurs Strong Reactions, but Election Impact Is Unclear

This Magic Eight-Ball level of reporting was based on New York Times journalists wandering around the greater Phoenix metro area until they found two people with two different opinions -- y'know anecdotal reporting, which, as everyone knows, all the top-tier J-school hold to be the most accurate, useful and predictive kind of journalism.  

So the Times reporters met some people who thought Donald Trump is disgusting and the abortion ruling in Arizona is barbaric, but they also met a 25-year old-retail manager named Maverick, and that's when they knew they had struck gold in the Grand Canyon state:

“Leave it up to the female,” said Maverick Williams, 25, a retail manager who was walking his dog in the conservative Anthem neighborhood on the northern edge of Phoenix. “It’s her body, then she needs to decide.”
But voters like Mr. Williams suggested that it might not be so simple in this closely divided desert battleground. Although he opposed the state court’s abortion decision, he said he was more worried about the rising cost of living, and he called President Biden too old and unfit to serve another term. He said he would vote for Mr. Trump.

Bam!  Right there!  Call the Pulitzer people and tell them the contest is over.

Sure they could have looked at, y'know, all that data from all those other states where the abortion issue had flipped the script and had the anti-woman fanatics on the ropes.  Or all those dozens of polls and focus groups.  But the Time's didn't need any of that.

With "Maverick" in one hand and other people in the other, they had their scoop.

Arizona Ruling Spurs Strong Reactions, but Election Impact Is Unclear

And it's not just the headline.  The article is packed with gems like this:

The decision upending abortion care in a critically important battleground state inspired passionate reactions from Arizonans across the political divide, ranging from elation to disgust. 

And this:

Some conservative voters and the state’s most ardent critics of abortion hailed it as a victory for women. Many Democrats, moderate independents and some Republicans said the Arizona Supreme Court had gone too far. But it was far from clear Tuesday that the decision would tip the balance in the November presidential election.

I can't decide is this is the Times still being so freaked out about being so very, very wrong in 2016 that it's in-house default position is to publish this kind of garbage, or this kind of garbage arises naturally from the Times' decades-old Both Siderist fetish.

Buit one thing I can say for sure.  Arizona is a land of contrasts.  


I Am The Liberal Media