Go Thither, Bret Stephens - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Go Thither, Bret Stephens
Bret Stephens on June 15 (American Jewish Committee/YouTube)

It’s going to take strong men and sane women to create the American revival our country so desperately needs.

Neither are to be found at the New York Times, something which is provable by gandering at the obnoxious “I Was Wrong About…” series the paper’s op-ed page has blasted to its ruling-class readership. Most of those columns aren’t really apologies or admissions at all, or if they are, they’re deliberately obtuse and off-base.

Perhaps the most obnoxious of the bunch comes courtesy of Bret Stephens, a one-time Wall Street Journal scribe who’s now one of the “pet conservatives” in the Times‘ employ. Stephens is one of the ruling class’s ubiquitous NeverTrumpers, and it’s on that subject he blathers in his own faux struggle session among the Times‘ Wrongabout cavalcade.

Stephens says he was wrong about Trump voters, and spends many words to demonstrate that his assessment hasn’t improved much…

The worst line I ever wrote as a pundit — yes, I know, it’s a crowded field — was the first line I ever wrote about the man who would become the 45th president: “If by now you don’t find Donald Trump appalling, you’re appalling.”

This opening salvo, from August 2015, was the first in what would become dozens of columns denouncing Trump as a unique threat to American life, democratic ideals and the world itself. I regret almost nothing of what I said about the man and his close minions. But the broad swipe at his voters caricatured them and blinkered me.

It also probably did more to help than hinder Trump’s candidacy. Telling voters they are moral ignoramuses is a bad way of getting them to change their minds.

One can almost hear the famous Mel Brooks cinematic line (it was Harvey Korman, as the Count de Monet, in fact) spewing forth from Stephens’ lips: “Sire, the people are revolting!”

And the response, from Brooks himself: “You said it. They stink on ice.”

Stephens goes on to express regret not for having attacked the MAGA movement, but for having done so in ways which alienated its members. And he grudgingly accepts that there were reasons why the Stink On Icers lined up behind Trump…

Though I had spent the years of Barack Obama’s presidency denouncing his policies, my objections were more abstract than personal. I belonged to a social class that my friend Peggy Noonan called “the protected.” My family lived in a safe and pleasant neighborhood. Our kids went to an excellent public school. I was well paid, fully insured, insulated against life’s harsh edges.

Trump’s appeal, according to Noonan, was largely to people she called “the unprotected.” Their neighborhoods weren’t so safe and pleasant. Their schools weren’t so excellent. Their livelihoods weren’t so secure. Their experience of America was often one of cultural and economic decline, sometimes felt in the most personal of ways.

It was an experience compounded by the insult of being treated as losers and racists —clinging, in Obama’s notorious 2008 phrase, to “guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them.”

No wonder they were angry.

Anger can take dumb or dangerous turns, and with Trump they often took both. But that didn’t mean the anger was unfounded or illegitimate, or that it was aimed at the wrong target.

Trump voters had a powerful case to make that they had been thrice betrayed by the nation’s elites. First, after 9/11, when they had borne much of the brunt of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, only to see Washington fumble and then abandon the efforts. Second, after the financial crisis of 2008, when so many were being laid off, even as the financial class was being bailed out. Third, in the post-crisis recovery, in which years of ultralow interest rates were a bonanza for those with investable assets and brutal for those without.

Gee, thanks, Bret, for noticing all of this … in 2022.

He even threw in an admission — after having participated in it, something he interestingly omitted from his piece — that the Trump-Russia scandal issuing forth from the infamous Steele dossier was, in fact, a hoax. Stephens even manages to offer that there were “bogus allegations” which flowed from the “elaborate hoax.”

Hoax? It was an attempted coup d’état against a duly elected president of the United States of America. And all Bret Stephens can summon up is a quiet admission of a hoax — without bothering to issue a mea culpa for his own writings in support of it?

And then comes this septic statement…

A final question for myself: Would I be wrong to lambaste Trump’s current supporters, the ones who want him back in the White House despite his refusal to accept his electoral defeat and the historic outrage of Jan. 6?

Morally speaking, no. It’s one thing to take a gamble on a candidate who promises a break with business as usual. It’s another to do that with an ex-president with a record of trying to break the Republic itself.

But I would also approach these voters in a much different spirit than I did the last time. “A drop of honey catches more flies than a gallon of gall,” noted Abraham Lincoln early in his political career. “If you would win a man to your cause, first convince him that you are his sincere friend.” Words to live by, particularly for those of us in the business of persuasion.

Don’t bother with the honey, Bret. And don’t even try the pretense of sincere friendship. Ordinary America has very few friends among the self-professed, “protected” elite, and you most certainly are not one of them.

As for Trump’s current supporters, they’re still with him because every single one of the concerns that led them to him in the first place aren’t just unresolved, they’re worse than ever. And no one in the NeverTrump pet-conservative establishment in which Bret Stephens delights in dwelling has lifted a finger to address them.

Which says volumes. And it all comes down to this: Bret Stephens is an enemy. He just doesn’t have the gallon of gall it’s required to honestly admit it.

Scott McKay
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Scott McKay is publisher of the Hayride, which offers news and commentary on Louisiana and national politics, and RVIVR.com, a national political news aggregation and opinion site. Additionally, he's the author of the new book The Revivalist Manifesto: How Patriots Can Win The Next American Era, available at Amazon.com. He’s also a writer of fiction — check out his three Tales of Ardenia novels Animus, Perdition and Retribution at Amazon. Scott's other project is The Speakeasy, a free-speech social and news app with benefits - check it out here.
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