You may be as sick of 2017 reviews as you are of 2017 itself, but look at it this way: At least my Top 10 list of dumb right-wing writings might give you a few laughs — and the satisfaction of knowing that you have not become so inured to their foolishness that you can’t still find it funny.
10. The sourest grapes of the year.
Aided by general revulsion at Republicans, election night 2017 was like a liberal revenge fantasy. Among other Democratic victories, Virginia turned so hard against the GOP that its once-large majority in the House of Delegates is still in dispute — in fact, an actual member of the Democratic Socialists of America defenestrated the state’s Republican House majority whip.
So how did Jon Street of RedState spin that? “Democratic Socialist Wins Virginia Delegate Seat, Highlighting Party Division,” his post was headlined. “[Lee] Carter’s win could further the Democratic Party’s ongoing civil war between the party’s far-left Bernie Sanders-Elizabeth Warren faction and the establishment Clinton faction.”
Well, you never know: Maybe the DSA guy will caucus with the Republicans.
9. Worst use of The Handmaid’s Tale.
I’ve seen a lot of comparisons of the dystopia in Margaret Atwood’s novel (now a TV series) with Trump’s America, and it sometimes gets a bit much. But I have to say, the Federalist’s Quiana Fulton caught me off guard with “The Surprising Pro-Life Message In Hulu’s Adaptation Of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale.’ ”
“I realize pro-life philosophy isn’t the intent of the story,” Fulton generously admits, but the Commanders’ wives really want those babies they’re forcing the Handmaids to bear, and isn’t forcing women to have babies what being pro-life is all about? Fave line: “The way they dote on newborns is proof they have hearts.”
8. Every GOP president will be Churchill for fifteen minutes.
One of the weirder right-wing tropes of the George W. Bush era involved comparing the architect of the Iraq debacle to Churchill — favorably, I mean. (“ ‘Mayor of America’ compares Bush to Churchill” is still one of my favorite headlines from that era.)
Well, guess what — inspired by the new Churchill biopic, Darkest Hour, this shtick is already being revived for Trump, on the grounds that he has “defeated” ISIS (meaning it’s suffered some losses and has been out of the papers lately, which history teaches us means “Mission Accomplished”).
Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee got most of the press for his tweet ending with “We had a Chamberlain for 8 yrs; in @realDonaldTrump we have a Churchill,” but at FrontPage Magazine, Lloyd Billingsley drew an even funkier Churchill analogy: “Churchill warned of a Stalin’s ‘iron curtain’ closing across Europe,” he wrote, and Frank Marshall Davis, a mentor of “the former Barry Soetoro,” was, Billingsley alleged, a Communist. See? Also, “POTUS 44 was more than a Davis clone. He attended a Muslim school in Indonesia.… He enabled a massive Islamschluss that has made the nation and world much more dangerous.”
So Trump is Churchill and Obama, I mean Soetoro, is both Hitler and Stalin. (Or Hitler and Stalin Jr.!) As historical parallelism, I gotta say this gives Buddy Starcher’s History Repeats Itself a run for its money.
7. Worst libertarian pitch of the year.
There’s a lot of philosophical overlap between conservatism and libertarianism, which is basically conservatism for people with social anxieties. As the libertarian base of angry ex-Google employees, antisocial billionaires, and lunchroom debate kings is small, the movement must recruit from new populations, which is the only reason I can imagine libertarian flagship publication Reason published “Are Free Minds and Free Markets Compatible With Christianity? A baker’s dozen Christian libertarians weigh in.”
With contributors like Lawrence W. Reed, “author of Rendering Unto Caesar: Was Jesus A Socialist?” the thing’s chock-full of eye-wideners, but my favorite, by Eric July, “frontman of the libertarian rock/rap group BackWordz,” is, “Who nailed Jesus to the cross? The state!”
6. Rod Dreher in Eat Pray Love.
At his blog at the American Conservative, Dreher periodically interrupts his homophobic and racist sentiments with accounts of his foodie adventures in Europe. He’s sort of like a cross between Anthony Bourdain and Richard Spencer.
This weird blend paid off in one of his long moans about how The West is drowning under a wave of Muslims and atheists. Advocating that right-wing Americans move to Europe to save Western Values, Dreher — as if suddenly compelled to justify his leisure activities — talked about why he, simple son of the sod that he is, likes to go abroad so often:
Yes, it’s true that I love to take vacations to Europe. The food is something I love, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Aside from being delicious, the cuisines of European countries are expressions of deep and abiding traditions. I have a sacramental mentality, which means that I don’t sit down at a table in the Umbrian mountains and eat an antipasti platter of cured meats and experience them as merely delicious. I learn what I can about why cured meats, and cured meats in this particular style, came to be associated with this region, or this village, and what the cooking here says about the local culture and its traditions…
When you mugs go on a package tour, you probably just slurp down the grub like it’s McDonald’s, but Brother Rod treats it like a sacrament, see! And nothing refreshes him for his fight against the Transgender Menace like a nice, refined bellyful of cured meats, followed by a cleansing soul-burp.
5. Pledging allegiance to the Lost Cause.
Whenever there’s a groundswell for taking down Confederate monuments — like after the Charleston massacre in 2015 — conservatives rush to defend the rebel statues, usually on the grounds that to remove them would be an insult to the South. (“The blood of slaves stains its soil.… Yet it has also given our nation some of its greatest heroes.” — David French)
As Southern towns and cities increasingly pull down these tributes to treason in defense of slavery of their own accord, however, the brethren have negotiated their argument down, and now claim that Confederate monuments are actually monuments against the Confederacy.
At the Federalist, which has became something of a Confederate monument fan site, one Matthew Boomer defended statues like the one of Robert E. Lee in his Dallas hometown as “Not A Celebration, But A Warning”:
This is precisely why it is important for everyday people, most of whom try to be decent as well, to remember Lee — not as a hero, but as a man who devoted himself to the wrong ideals and, whatever sort of individual he may have been, found himself on the wrong side of one of the most decisive and morally laden moments in history.
Yet the actual statue shows Lee, accompanied by a rebel soldier, heroically astride a horse. Boomer did not suggest that Lee have a Steve Martin arrow driven through his head, nor that a thought balloon be put over the accompanying soldier’s head saying “I’M WITH STUPID,” or indeed anything at all that would reduce the dignity of Lee’s statue — for reasons you can probably guess.
Despite Boomer’s eloquent defense, Dallas removed Lee and his aide from the park — presumably because it doesn’t want people to know what a mistake the Confederacy was.
4. A novel defense of Roy Moore.
When it was revealed that GOP Senate nominee Roy Moore was not only nuts — which seemed no impediment to his election — but also quite possibly a child molester, conservatives had to do some fancy stepping to keep from getting caught in the whirlpool as Moore circled the drain.
At the Federalist, Tully Borland suggested that though the candidate “had a penchant for dating teenagers” (eliding that his accusers include one who was fourteen at the time of their encounter), that wasn’t such a big deal because “this was not an uncommon occurrence during this time. In fact, this practice has a long history and is not without some merit if one wants to raise a large family. To have a large family, the wife must start having kids when she is young…”
That is, in olden times Methusalehs took virginal young brides to replenish their stock on the unforgiving frontier, which to Borland explained Moore’s behavior in the 1970s.
Alas, Borland later devolved to the more traditional conservative tactics of smearing the accusers (“the yearbook Moore allegedly signed appears to have been doctored”) and saying Alabamians had to vote for Moore because his opponent loves abortion. I was hoping he actually believed this lunacy — conservatism could use such a bold, unorthodox thinker, and I could use the laughs.
3. The White Working-Class Whisperer goes too far.
Ever since she famously said we ought to take Trump “seriously but not literally,” Salena Zito has been America’s top White Working-Class Whisperer — the journalist editors can count on to defend Boss Trump against reporters who don’t know how the simple folk do things in Opioid Junction, PA. (“Who in D.C. or New York goes to a ‘Gun Bash?’ Plenty of people do in the West Newtons of the country,” etc).
Trump himself even brought Zito to the White House for an obsequious interview, which inadvertently made him look stupid, requiring Zito to explain that Trump is “very different than your typical politician or journalist who use very crafted, very vetted words and sentences,” which is like saying you have to understand that this is a new kind of detergent that doesn’t clean dishes but it does make a lot of suds.
But the weirdest thing Zito wrote in 2017 wasn’t directly about Trump; in an October column explaining “How our country lost its heart and soul — the people,” Zito described a 2015 Washington GOP meeting at which Ted Cruz spoke. “About halfway through Cruz’s speech, one of the reporters sneezed,” reported Zito. “Out of courtesy and habit I said, ‘God bless you.’ I instantly felt a chill in the room…”
Had the air conditioner suddenly turned on? No: “Everyone looked toward what seemed to be my direction,” claimed Zito; later, “after Cruz was done speaking, an aide to one of the candidates, whispered to me, ‘We don’t say that around here.’ I wasn’t sure what he meant, so I asked what was the ‘that’ that we don’t say around here? His answer: Blessing someone after they sneeze.”
We’ve all heard about how liberals are trying to replace “Merry Christmas” with “Happy Holidays,” but only Zito knew about the plot to replace “God bless you” with “gesundheit.”
2. Be thankful Megan McArdle is not your fire safety captain.
In June, Grenfell Tower, a London housing development, burned swiftly and with great loss of life, and some people think it was worse than it had to be because of meager fire safety regulations lacking features that might have been helpful, such as a sprinkler system.
Bloomberg columnist Megan McArdle, who formerly wrote under the Randian pseudonym Jane Galt, stepped up to defend the laissez-faire regulations, essentially arguing that people are going to die anyway and trying hard to stop it is just a waste of time:
Consider the speed at which many of you drove to work this morning. I’m sure you’re all splendid, careful drivers. Nonetheless, when a vehicle is being piloted at 50 or 60 miles an hour, the margin of error for avoiding an accident is pretty small. To drive a car even at 5 miles per hour is to accept a small risk of killing oneself and others.
So, McArdle asked her no doubt dumbfounded readers, would you be willing to limit yourself to, say, 25 mph to save lives? She thought not, and besides, “every dollar [the government] spends on installing sprinkler systems cannot be spent on the health service, or national defense, or pollution control.” You could actually be killing people by installing sprinklers!
This is the column that will probably get McArdle installed as secretary of HUD as soon as Ben Carson wanders off, never to be heard from again.
1. The Emperor’s New Clothes, Trump edition.
There was a lot of Trump toadying on the right last year, but my favorite example has to be John Hinderaker’s, in part because the Power Line writer — whether out of sloth, inattention, or chutzpah — actually reproduced part of a transcript of the president’s brain-damaged yammerings on the Palestinian situation at a press conference with Netanyahu in February before characterizing his remarks in a, let us say, flattering way. Trump said, quote:
So, I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one that both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like. I can live with either one. I thought for a while the two-state looked like it may be the easier of the two but honestly, if Bibi and if the Palestinians — if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like the best.
Your response might be, “Huh?” But Hinderaker’s was, “This is smart, I think. The Palestinians need to understand that if they don’t shape up, they don’t get a state.”
Bonus: About another Trump ramble — in which he responded to a question about anti-Semitism by bragging about his own Electoral College victory — Hinderaker wrote that the president “responded vaguely and with great restraint.” That’s how the pros do it, folks!
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 2, 2018