Next Sunday’s New York Times Sunday Magazine will feature a long essay by left-wing historian Rick Perlstein: “I Thought I Understood the American Right. Trump Proved Me Wrong.” Approach with caution, warn two prominent conservative writers. National Review's Jonah Goldberg warns: “Perlstein’s essay offers a really good insight into how the Times has jettisoned so much credibility in the age of Trump.”
How is Donald Trump “not a normal Republican”? Let New York magazine’s Jonathan Chait count the ways. Trump is “crudely ethno-nationalist,” wrote Chait in a Tuesday post, and he’s “personally ignorant and undisciplined in a manner that sets him apart not only from traditional Republicans but most human adults.” That’s pretty much it for Trump’s deviations from orthodoxy, according to Chait, who thinks current White House economic and fiscal proposals are “perfectly orthodox” by party standards, notwithstanding blasts at them from GOP-aligned sources such as National Review.
Whatever else Donald Trump is, he’s a skillful multitasker, suggested Jeet Heer in a Tuesday article. Trump is in the news mostly as a presidential candidate, of course, but Heer claims that his “real objective, win or lose, is relaunching his lucrative brand.” As for how Trump became the Republican party’s presumptive nominee even though politics wasn’t his top priority, Heer opined that there’s “something in the nature of the [GOP] and its conservative base that made them particularly vulnerable to Trump’s deceptions.”
In 1993, a Washington Post reporter wrote that the Christian right was “largely poor, uneducated, and easy to command.” Heer seems to believe that “uneducated” and “easy to command” describe enough of today’s conservatives, Christian or otherwise, to explain Trump’s popularity: "The anti-intellectualism that has been a mainstay of the conservative movement for decades also makes its members easy marks. After all, if you are taught to believe that the reigning scientific consensuses on evolution and climate change are lies, then you will lack the elementary logical skills that will set your alarm bells ringing when you hear a flim-flam artist like Trump."
On Thursday’s edition of All In, Chris Hayes brought on “perhaps America’s leading historian on the modern conservative movement,” Rick Perlstein, to discuss the attacks against Donald Trump for not being a proper conservative. Perlstein argued that when GOP candidates fight over the conservative mantel they really are saying, “I'm the guy that’s going to protect white virtue from, you know, the dark scary hordes.”
By the late summer of 1977, Jimmy Carter had been president for only a few months, but if you knew which way the cultural and political winds were blowing, he seemed unlikely to win a second term. That’s because on May 25 of that year, Star Wars had opened, and its colossal success both foreshadowed and helped to revive a mindset that carried Ronald Reagan to the White House. That’s the word from Perlstein, who laid out his theory last Friday in The Washington Spectator.
Historian Rick Perlstein, the author of three books (so far) on American movement conservatism from the mid-‘50s through the mid-‘70s, believes, in essence, that conservatives are tribalists whose central task is to promote hatred against other tribes. According to Perlstein, two recent news stories serve to illuminate that process, which, he suggests, involves an almost scientific-sounding conservation of the right wing’s bigoted energy.
“Conservatism is like bigotry whack-a-mole,” wrote Perlstein. “The quantity of hatred, best I can tell from 17 years of close study of 60 years of right-wing history, remains the same. Removing the flag of the Confederacy, [Donald Trump] raising the flag of immigrant hating: the former doesn’t spell some new Jerusalem of tolerance; the latter doesn’t mean that conservatism’s racism has finally been revealed for all to see. The push-me-pull-me of private sentiment and public profession will always remain in motion, and in tension.”
Ed Kilgore contends that if the Gipper had headed the Republican ticket that year, he would have lost to Jimmy Carter and consequently would have been an also-ran if he’d sought the 1980 GOP nod.
The New York Times is not blind to the lawsuit that conservative publicist and historian Craig Shirley has filed against left-wing author Rick Perlstein, claiming he purloined chunks of his 2004 book "Reagan's Revolution." They not only reported a story on it, the public editor Margaret Sullivan then strangely apologized for advancing a conservative “swift-boating” agenda.
In Sunday’s Times Book Review, they interview Perlstein, and they let Perlstein claim he’s spellbound by Shirley’s latest book on Reagan (from 2009), with no acknowledgement of the controversy:
Within the space of a week, the Public Editor of The New York Times, Margaret Sullivan, and Sarah Durand, a senior editor of publisher Simon & Schuster subsidiary Atria Books, have vividly illustrated how the game of liberal media bias works.
Let’s start with the Times.
MSNBC's Cycle hosts on Thursday brought on liberal author Rick Perlstein to pine for the greatness that was the 1970s. Perlstein appeared to promote his new book on the '70s and the transition from Richard Nixon to Ronald Reagan. Allowing that the decade was a "dark time," the writer enthused, "But to me, there's some nostalgia to that period. Because Americans proved they could look our problems in the eye like grownups and face them." [See video below. MP3 audio here.]
Remember, this was the decade of Vietnam, gas shortages, American hostages in Iran and inflation, to name a few problems. Perlstein attacked Reagan's sunny optimism during the period, complaining, "One of the problems with Reagan, one of the things we need to reckon with, is he gave us absolution from doing that hard work as citizens."
In a May 26 New York Times op-ed piece entitled "America's Forgotten Liberal" (HT Jim Taranto at the Wall Street Journal's Best of the Web), Rick Perlstein opened by telling readers that "January was the 100th anniversary of Ronald Reagan's birth."
Oops. Ronald Wilson Reagan was born on February 6, 1911.
Here's a graphic capture of Perlstein's first two paragraphs:
President Obama can mount a comeback from his midterm "shellacking" a la Reagan, Rick Perlstein argued in a January 23 article.
But the Newsweek contributor wasn't so much thinking of Obama adopting Reaganesque policies so much as mimicking the late president's political style.
For example, Perlstein lamented that Obama seemed chastened just after the midterms, whereas President Reagan was confident, almost defiant in November 1982 (emphases mine):