Sunday, May 14, 2017

GOP Reduced to Trolling

Former conservative talk radio host Charley Sykes describes the descent of the Right into trolling in The New York Times.

For many in the conservative movement, this sort of anti-anti-Trumpism is the solution to the painful conundrum posed by the Trump presidency. With a vast majority of conservative voters and listeners solidly behind Mr. Trump, conservative critics of the president find themselves isolated and under siege. But, as Damon Linker noted, anti-anti-Trumpism “allows the right to indulge its hatred of liberals and liberalism while sidestepping the need for a reckoning with the disaster of the Trump administration itself.”

This is also a much sounder business model than airing doubts about the president. Conservative media is, of course, a business that relies on ratings, and few things generate ratings more quickly than bashing liberals. In this case, it is more profitable for talk show hosts to play down Mr. Trump’s failures while piling on his enemies.

The ad hominem argument is rightly regarded as a logical fallacy because it substitutes personal attacks for a discussion of the argument someone is making. But on many talk shows, including Mr. Limbaugh’s, nearly every argument is ad hominem. Instead of offering statistics and building a case, it is easier to simply make fun of a Trump critic like Representative Maxine Waters, or shrug off a negative report because it came from the “lamestream media.”

Not surprisingly, the vast majority of airtime on conservative media is not taken up by issues or explanations of conservative approaches to markets or need to balance liberty with order. Why bother with such stuff, when there were personalities to be mocked and left-wing moonbats to be ridiculed?

What may have begun as a policy or a tactic in opposition has long since become a reflex. But there is an obvious price to be paid for essentially becoming a party devoted to trolling. In the long run, it’s hard to see how a party dedicated to liberal tears can remain a movement based on ideas or centered on principles.

Conservatives will care less about governing and more about scoring “wins” — and inflicting losses on the left — no matter how hollow the victories or flawed the policies. Ultimately, though, this will end badly because it is a moral and intellectual dead end, and very likely a political one as well.

The right’s reaction to the firing of Mr. Comey hardly bodes well. Even conservatives who are still smarting from his handling of Hillary Clinton’s emails should recognize that the timing of Mr. Comey’s abrupt dismissal in the midst of a growing investigation into Russian meddling raises fundamental questions about the rule of the law and the possibility that justice is being obstructed.
As the right doubles down on anti-anti-Trumpism, it will find itself goaded into defending and rationalizing ever more outrageous conduct just as long as it annoys CNN and the left.

In many ways anti-anti-Trumpism mirrors Donald Trump himself, because at its core there are no fixed values, no respect for constitutional government or ideas of personal character, only a free-floating nihilism cloaked in insult, mockery and bombast.

Needless to say, this is not a form of conservatism that Edmund Burke, or even Barry Goldwater, would have recognized.

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