The Confusion of Jonah Goldberg, Part III

By | 2018-04-17T17:01:37+00:00 April 17th, 2018|
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At the insistence of my editor, I will continue on with my series on Jonah Goldberg (so blame him if things go off the rails).

Another problem with Goldberg’s long essay adapted from his even longer book (it’s 464 pages if Amazon is accurate) concerns the now infamous topic of “tribalism.” One of the key arguments of the NeverTrump Right and Left is that Donald Trump rose to the presidency due neither to policies nor persuasion but because of a cult of personality based around blind loyalty to a strongman intent on righting wrongs against people and accidents of history his followers don’t like. As Goldberg claims, Trump “created his own tribe, in which he’s a symbol, a totem, an avatar of the tribal us.” This neatly “explains why many conservatives have changed many longstanding positions to accommodate President Trump.”

But as Coach Lee Corso is fond of saying, “Not so fast my friend!”

In fact, Goldberg has it exactly wrong. If tribalism was really the culprit, how does he explain vast swaths of the conservative movement questioning their ideology and re-thinking basic assumptions?  Why didn’t they flock to Ted Cruz, the perfect totem of True Conservatism™, or Jeb! Bush, the icon of Establishment Republican orthodoxy?

Instead, many now-former conservatives explicitly rejected tribal thinking in voting for a man who had no tribe, no following of his own among the ruling elites. They rejected the tribal pull of globalism, increased immigration, and foreign intervention, which had animated the Right for so long. They followed a man who had the decency to speak to their interests and concerns in a way no president had done since Ronald Reagan.

And they haven’t shied away from voicing concerns over the president’s policies, such as his bombing of Syria late last week. So much for blind loyalty.

Goldberg and the rest of the intellectual class continue to liken Trump supporters to The Who’s Tommy: deaf, dumb, and blind. It makes sense—but only if you’re an intellectual like Goldberg.

One last note on tribalism is Goldberg’s interesting way of avoiding his own tribalism while seeing the specter of it everywhere else. Somehow human nature affects everyone around him, yet he is immune. Holes the size of Mack trucks are typically not a good sign for the validity of one’s argument. But, then again, Goldberg would have to drag himself away from the mesmerizing gaze of the idol of Checklist Conservatism in order to notice.

About the Author:

Tom Doniphon
Tom Doniphon is not, as you may imagine, an iconic character from John Ford's greatest western. He is, rather, a writer in the Midwest. The moniker, suffice to say, is a pseudonym.