Checking in on the Tribes
Some of you may have noticed that I took about a month off from writing about politics on this website. There were a few reasons for that absence, including some personal issues, a much needed Mexico vacation, and preparation for the release of my new book (thank you Bernie Goldberg for this week's interview). During that time, I stayed somewhat politically tuned in, but with little time and other priorities, I didn't feel too terrible about not weighing in on politics and the latest dopey culture battles (beyond some tweets).
But now, I'm back. And upon reviewing my social media posts during that time, I figured I'd expand on some of them in a column. I'll be back to writing standalone pieces next week.
Pence Speaks Out
Former Vice President Mike Pence made headlines last weekend when he publicly said, in no uncertain terms, that former president Donald Trump was "wrong" in his recently reiterated statement that Pence had it within his power, on January 6 of last year, to overturn the 2020 election.
"The presidency belongs to the American people, and the American people alone," Pence added. "Frankly, there is no idea more un-American than the notion that any one person could choose the American president... There’s more at stake than our party or political fortunes. Men and women, if we lose faith in the Constitution, we won’t just lose elections. We’ll lose our country."
Pence was right, of course. And in sane times — when a good chunk of the country hasn't been brainwashed into believing an election is illegitimate just because the leader of a personality-cult says so — such things wouldn't need to be said. I only wish Pence wouldn't have waited over a year to make such a blunt, important statement. Instead he let a handful of since thoroughly vilified (and likely soon to be removed) GOP members of congress take all the slings and arrows for saying and doing what was right, in regard to Trump's attempts to overthrow democracy.
My guess is that Pence has probably concluded (I think rightfully so) that he doesn't stand a chance of becoming president himself in 2024. He certainly wanted to at one time, but despite four years of loyal service while in office, Trump has successfully presented him to the Republican base as a complicit figure in the "stolen election" conspiracy. And therefore, like many other once promising GOP leaders who didn't demonstrate slobbering, unconditional servility to Trump 100% of the time (though Pence came pretty close), his political career is effectively over.
If that's indeed how Pence sees things, and if he believes he has nothing politically left to lose, I have an idea for him: work on a patriotic legacy. He should take the fight to Trump on the former president's anti-democratic efforts, including his persistent lies about the election.
He should help to sink Trump's potential 2024 plans (the way Trump sunk his) as a service to the GOP, and much more importantly, the country. He should do whatever he can to keep Trump (and what Pence called his "un-American" ideas) from becoming a Republican presidential nominee once again.
What are the chances Pence will actually do such a thing? Slim to none. But one can dream.
"Legitimate Political Discourse"
One of the big added benefits of Pence taking a firm stance against Trump would hopefully be less party servility to the former president. And boy is it needed, because the display over the past year, even after Trump lost everything for the GOP and caused a deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, has been well beyond pathetic.
Case in point, just last week, the RNC (led by Ronna McDaniel who removed "Romney" from her name a while back to appease Trump) formally censured GOP members of congress, Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger. What were the two's sins? According to the censure resolution, they "support Democrat efforts to destroy President Trump," and are participating in "a Democrat-led persecution of ordinary citizens engaged in legitimate political discourse."
In case you're confused (and who could blame you), the RNC's argument was essentially that:
serving on the select committee that's looking into the events of January 6 equates to the "destruction" of the guy who caused them, and the "persecution" of those who participated in them.
what those participants (aka "ordinary citizens") engaged in, which included an insurrection attempt that resulted in deaths, injured about 150 police officers, led to hundreds of criminal prosecutions, and caused several millions of dollars in damage (including a good amount of literal defecation clean-up) was "legitimate political discourse".
I wish I was joking.
Of course, once the resolution went public, and McDaniel and everyone else quickly realized that "legitimate political discourse" was no less outrageous than the "mostly peaceful protests" phrasing some assigned to the BLM riots in 2020, the RNC went into full damage-control mode (complete with nonsensical alternative explanations of the wording, and how it somehow related to Cheney and Kinzinger... who can't charge or prosecute anyone of anything).
It was a hot, steaming pile of asininity. And needless to say, it was done purely at the behest of one man's ego. Helluva job, Ronna.
Hayes and Goldberg Back on Cable News
Over the past couple of weeks, former Fox News contributors Stephen Hayes and Jonah Goldberg (both of The Dispatch) have found new network homes. Hayes took a job as a political contributor at NBC (where he'll appear on Meet the Press and some other programs), and Goldberg signed on with CNN to contribute to shows like The Story with Jake Tapper and State of the Union.
My reaction upon hearing the news was essentially, "Wow. I'll finally have a reason to watch something on CNN and NBC."
But many in the MAGA-verse decided that these moves illustrate rank hypocrisy. Their argument is that because the two demanded out of their Fox News contracts, in protest of Tucker Carlson's grossly irresponsible January 6 special "Patriot Purge", subsequently going to work for other news networks that have, at times, lent a platform to reckless conspiracy theories, disproves the notion that Hayes and Goldberg are men of principle.
I very much disagree, and it's worth reminding people what these two said at the time in regard to their decision to leave Fox. Their protest wasn't just about irresponsible content (though years of it in service to Donald Trump was certainly a big part of it). It was also about consequences. Such content had already contributed to the violence of January 6, and they were concerned it would spawn additional, perhaps more widespread violence in the future.
In their joint statement back in November, they wrote this about Patriot Purge:
"The domestic war on terror is here. It’s coming after half of the country, says one protagonist. The left is hunting the right, sticking them in Guantanamo Bay for American citizens—leaving them there to rot, says another, over video of an individual in an orange jumpsuit being waterboarded.
This is not happening. And we think it’s dangerous to pretend it is. If a person with such a platform shares such misinformation loud enough and long enough, there are Americans who will believe—and act upon—it."
About the culture at Fox, they wrote that "the voices of the responsible are being drowned out by the irresponsible," and it's tough to argue otherwise. Lots of thoughtful, intellectually consistent conservatives (including the owner of this website) were pulled off the air permanently at Fox for the crime of pushing back on their viewers' preferred narratives. Others, like Hayes and Goldberg, had their appearances scaled back to almost nothing, leaving much of the network, including its prime-time programming, a soapbox for some of the most ridiculous hard-right echo-chamber nonsense imaginable.
Are the other news networks a mess too — especially cable news networks? Absolutely! Their credibility is no less in the toilet that Fox's. So, what's the solution for fixing that — for restoring credibility within these organizations?
I could list off several ideas, but one is to hire (and prominently feature) smart, informed, honest, credible, on-air personalities who aren't afraid of offending partisan or ideologically-opposed viewers with their thoughts and insight.
Truth be told, few have maintained their integrity the way Hayes and Goldberg have over the years. They refused to swing left in their commentary (like the Jen Rubin and Max Boot did) for a cozier relationship with the liberal, anti-Trump media. They also refused to abandon their principles for a shameless but lucrative ride on the Trump Train (like Mollie Hemingway, Bill Bennett, and countless others did).
In announcing their new jobs to Dispatch members, the two wrote, "As we said when we left Fox News, we won’t be occupying the anti-Fox chairs on these networks; we’ll use our appearances to offer sane, thoughtful analysis on what’s happening in the country today." And the credibility they've earned is why I have no trouble believing them. Say what you will about CNN and NBC (there's plenty to criticize), but in these hires, they're going in the right direction... not the wrong one.