Hayward on Jonah Goldberg (and Me)

By | 2018-05-15T18:30:47+00:00 May 15th, 2018|
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Friend of American Greatness Steve Hayward has a long post up today at Power Line on Jonah Goldberg’s book, Suicide of the West. And the best part about it? He cites my work!

All kidding aside, Hayward thinks Goldberg’s detractors on the Right like me miss the point: Jonah’s actually on our side. On the Right, Jonah’s real beef is not with Trump but is instead with two factions: historicists, who are riding the wave of History, on one side and traditionalists like Patrick Deneen who repudiate what they take to be Enlightenment theory on the other. (From reading Deneen’s new book, his conception of that theory is highly flawed, to say the least.)

He goes on to talk about Deirdre McCloskey’s trilogy examining the grounds of democratic capitalism, Francis Fukuyama and Deneen, the “proliferation of academic specializations over the last century,” and a long memo he wrote for AEI that discusses the failures of the modern Right in speaking to Americans as Americans. Phew! And that’s just scratching the surface of Hayward’s intriguing post.

There’s a lot to say about it but I will focus on one overarching point. Hayward dramatically—and I mean dramatically—undersells Jonah’s hatred of Trump. Here’s a minuscule sample of what Jonah’s said on the topic of Trump and his supporters:

  •  He’s said that defending Trump on the basis that he smashes the establishment “is really no argument at all. It is catharsis masquerading as principle, venting and resentment pretending to be some kind of higher argument.”
  • Many, many times, he’s labeled Trump supporters (and I assume this includes brilliant men like Roger Kimball and Michael Anton) as dutifully following a “cult of personality.”
  • He’s described Trump supporting friends in the following manner: “All of a sudden, you see a close friend of yours talking about Comrade Trump, and you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, they got you!’ It happened, one by one, with lots of people, lots of friends of mine.”

There’s an endless amount of material from where that came from.

To put it bluntly, Jonah Goldberg is not on our side. And the fundamental divide doesn’t even concern Trump. It’s instead about Goldberg’s rejection of politics and the consent of the governed in favor of a romantic sentimentalism that mistakes etiquette for character and debate club with statesmanship.

I wish it was otherwise but that’s the truth of the matter. Acknowledging that truth is more useful than wishing it away.

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.