The Confusion of Jonah Goldberg, Part IV

It must be pick on Jonah Goldberg night here at KBO. Ben Boychuk has already noted the silly paragraph on the great Michael Anton in Goldberg’s new tome. I want to discuss Goldberg’s interview this morning with the fatuous Mika and Joe and all their friends at MSNBC.

Let me get this out of way: Goldberg’s right that we have a crisis of gratitude. He’s right that capitalism has brought more wealth to more people than ever before in human history.

But on a fundamental level, he seems incapable of seeing political reality (and quoting correctly from our founding documents).

He says that though things are better than ever, we overly focus on the downsides of our modern life. Well, maybe there’s a reason for that. Before Trump, things were looking bleaker and bleaker. What Goldberg mistakenly calls capitalism (it’s really managerialism) has undermined the middle class and the sovereignty of our nation. It has empowered the elites on the coasts while at the same time stripping political consent from Americans who live outside of the centers of power. Crime is up, divorce rates are through the roof, education is a complete joke at both the secondary and college levels, opioid addiction is out of control as is illegal immigration, etc. I could go on for many paragraphs—many volumes in fact.

But rather than seeing these very real conditions, Goldberg blames technology and other assorted accidents of history—which is, of course, the same phenomena that birthed what he calls the “miracle” of capitalism. No real issues exist that caused people to vote for a man like Donald Trump. It’s simply a question of psychology. Is this not the liberal thesis in its clearest and fullest expression?

Goldberg defends our sacred institutions, rights, liberties, and democracy, which engenders lots of encomiums in serious tones from his fellow ruling class panelists. But Goldberg gives no acknowledgment of the fact that these things are extremely degraded, if they exist in any meaningful sense today at all. Which is odd since one of his previous books, Liberal Fascism, was all about seeing the damage the early Progressives did to the institutions the Constitution set in place and the principles of the founding. Why would Goldberg suddenly shift to defending things as if they were pristine until Trump and his co-tribalists came along and tore down our scared institutions? What happened to his grasp of U.S. history prior to 2016?

His blindness to reality leads him to express a naive, kumbaya view of politics: “Why can’t all thinking people get along?” It’s ironic because that exact sentiment has buoyed illiberalism for decades. From FDR to Barack Obama, rhetorical moderation has been typically expressed hand-in-hand with radical actions that were the very cause of the so-called vital center breaking apart. But Goldberg would need to notice the reality of the Left in order to recognize this Lucy-picks-up-the-football act.

Goldberg hits Trump for corruption (he calls him “thoroughly corrupt”) but offers no actual evidence for this quite serious claim. This from the same man who, in the same interview, derides a politics based on unthinking tribalism and name calling and wishes instead for a politics based on reason and comity between citizens. “Principled conservatism” sure doesn’t seem so principled, does it?

Goldberg decries “populism,” “nationalism,” and “tribalism” without defining these terms in any meaningful way, preferring instead to use them as rhetorical bludgeons to beat his opponents. But there is nothing intellectual about this. There is nothing principled about this. Instead, it’s a cheap parlor trick being performed by a man who is in way over his head.

About 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.

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