The Enduring Face of the Fake Right

4 ½ min

It is hard to understand the continued presence of Jonah Goldberg as a conservative icon. Goldberg has the right to criticize Trump, yet he has turned himself into a nonstop Trump-hating machine, who manages to condemn anyone who still defends the president as a lunatic or criminal.

Nietzsche once said mischievously that a good war may justify any cause; for neoconservatives such as Goldberg, Steve Hayes, and David French at The Dispatch, it seems that any stick may be useful if it can be used to beat Trump. If memory serves, Goldberg was among the first to announce that Trump was “stealing” the election, after claiming that he deservedly lost it.

Most recently Goldberg has gone after Sen. Ted Cruz as a lackey of Trump’s, noting Cruz’s reservations about opening the country to Chinese dissenters. Both Cruz and Trump have expressed concern that our excessive hospitality could lead to opening the country to a flood of immigrants at a time when the U.S. is hurting economically.

This all confirms something that has seemed obvious to me for decades and highlights what contributors to The Vanishing Tradition recounted in detail. The establishment Conservative Inc. happily expels members for right-wing deviation, even helping to destroy a right-wing target professionally, as in the case of the Southern literary scholar M. E. Bradford. Yet it never expels anyone who makes a leftist fool of himself. Thus Con Inc. has clung to Obamacons, Trump-haters, and LGBT activists.

Con Inc. has also never found a way of dealing with nutjobs on the left. It is therefore now stuck with the mouthy, fatuous Jonah, who still swaggers in his seat on Fox News, while Bret Baier and other news anchors overwhelm him with good will.

In the case of Goldberg, I have no idea what ever qualified him as a “conservative,” other than his tendency to identify himself on election off-years with centrist Republicans, who are sensitive to immigration and sexual identity issues. That, and the fact that Jonah’s mother outed Bill Clinton’s relationship with Monica Lewinsky.

Perhaps I am grasping at straws to make sense of what I have trouble understanding, namely the fabulous career that the conservative movement has made available to Lucianne Goldberg’s not very bright son, and whom it continues to favor even after he has become an embarrassment. No, I am not overlooking Jonah’s supposed piece of scholarship, Liberal Fascism (2009), which is a GOP screed ridiculously advertised as a study about a dangerous political movement that has traveled from Hitler to Hillary Clinton. As a scholar of fascism, let me assure my readers that Jonah’s tome is among the worst books ever produced on that subject.

This leads back to my initial reflections about why Con Inc. has no tradition of expelling vocal left-wingers who enjoy its patronage. Neoconservative leftists such as Bill Kristol, Jennifer Rubin, Max Boot, David Frum, etc., all hung around Con Inc. halls of power until they decided to rebrand themselves as something other than conservatives. Gradually these luminaries grew tired of assuming a fictitious right-of-center identity, even if the leaders of the movement they left may well have regretted their loss.

In my considered view, the conservative establishment puts up with and even celebrates faux conservatives like Goldberg because they represent the general course the movement is already on. Media conservatives are trying to impress not very conservative sponsors, who may loathe Trump every bit as much as they care about the defense industry and other economic interests. In many cases conservative publicists are also interested in pleasing the liberal establishment, with which they hope to establish useful professional relations. Jonah does not offend these interests, unlike those unlucky few who take a hard line on immigration, gay rights, or some other unfashionable issue.

Even after having pointed out the obvious, I remain intrigued by the movement’s tendency to treat Jonah with gushing respect. But perhaps there is more to the story than has been thus far revealed. The unmistakably leftist local newspaper in my Pennsylvania town features Jonah as its token “conservative” columnist, an honor that the Chicago TribuneLos Angeles Times, and other newspapers across the country have bestowed on him. If I were on the left and looking for a token “conservative,” I too would pick Jonah as a perfect fit, along with perhaps David Brooks and Ross Douthat. Why choose someone more difficult when your readers can be feasting their eyes on columnists who mostly agree with the paper’s left-of-center editors? But Jonah also enjoys the favors of the Murdoch empire: He is regularly syndicated in the New York Post and maintains a very conspicuous presence on Fox News. This makes me think that he and other members of Con Inc. are forever in clover unless they go to the dark side, which is of course the right.


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Flickr-Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0

Paul Gottfried

Paul Gottfried

Paul Gottfried is editor in chief of Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He is also the Raffensperger Professor of Humanities Emeritus at Elizabethtown College, where he taught for 25 years, a Guggenheim recipient, and a Yale Ph.D. He is the author of 13 books, most recently Fascism: Career of a Concept and Revisions and Dissents.

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Yikes! In trying to come to grips with an abhorrent political system -- a party that deviated from what I thought was important -- I've spent a few years now trying to figure out who sits where on the wire. Goldberg, later French and Williamson, were the three that most clearly espoused what I did think was important, at least about Conservatism. National Review and I go back to the 60's. (Svend's Trans-o-Gram I very much miss.) Long ago I subscribed to Chronicles (before the Internet!), and enjoyed its articles. Hence my signing on when I discovered it online. But, here, Mr. Gottfried's criticisms of Goldberg bemuse me. I too seem to be missing something. Or maybe I just don't know what "Conservative" means. Nowadays.


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(Neo)con Inc needs to disappear. We’ve no practical use for this greedy, obsequious, squishy sort of elephant today.


After what happened at the capital you can not say it's unjustified to push away people who say States-Rights and "Confederate" and "Secessionist". Quite a few of that crowd were the people glorifying a woman killed for trying to climb over a barrier (which has broken glass in the videos) as a martyr when the building was supposed to be closed. You need to realize that for some, what happened yesterday was a breaking point for a LOT of Republicans who have been trying to work through their communities with good will. You can't act like ANTIFA without being compared to them, and scorned for it. Double-standard? No. Don't act like the left, and I won't think they are the same.


Find me proof first. YES. That is something Antifa would do, but the video and photograph analysis has found Trump supporter and secessionist after secessionist in this. There has not yet been any positively identified Antifa in the crowds that broke in, got into the office, or sat in the VP's Seat.
wow, you need to do some research, there are enough videos on the net in the last 24 hours to PROVE that Antifa or some perhaps PAID agitators (deja vu just hit me) remember those paid by the DNC agitators that were outed at Trump rallies during the race 2016 or is your brain too weak to retain past input? This was an intentional, well funded, well planned orchestrated infiltration of the MAGA protest. The Truth will never hit you as it appears you feed at the trough of MSM for info
Thank you!! I agree totally.