I was recently delighted with receiving a gift for my 80th birthday in the form of vindication, when my iron law of Conservative Inc. behavior was fully confirmed. This happened when Stephen Hayes and Jonah Goldberg decided to dissociate themselves from Fox News because of the network’s association with Tucker Carlson, who has maintained—with ample evidence—that FBI agents were involved in the events of Jan. 6, 2021.
Hayes and Goldberg are both fixtures of the anti-Donald Trump website The Dispatch and formerly of Fox’s “All-Stars” team of panelists. Although they have raged quite tediously against the former president and against anyone who has defended him, neither has been removed from “conservative” TV. Quite the contrary! Goldberg has been free to express his torturously constructed views on what is considered by some to be the indispensable conservative channel. Unfortunately, this opinionator typically sounds like a constipated version of what the listener hears more crisply stated on CNN. But Goldberg has enjoyed the beaming, sympathetic support of Bret Baier, who is another inveterate Trump-hater, each time he holds forth.
To their credit, Goldberg and Hayes have left Fox of their own accord. Though Fox executives have since said they didn’t plan to renew their contracts next year anyway, I doubt this is true. Goldberg and Hayes are the beneficiaries of the iron law Conservative Inc.: left-wing deviationists from the conservative party line will never under any circumstances be expelled from the conservative establishment, unless they leave of their own accord. Whether it’s David Brooks, Bill Kristol, or Max Boot, any conservative celebrity who situates himself to the left of where the movement has momentarily positioned itself will suffer no dire consequences. He will instead continue to be feted and put on public display by party apparatchiks until he spits in their faces and emphatically demands to be taken off their celebrity list.
In all probability Hayes and Goldberg will find multiple places on leftist channels, where, like Kristol and Boot, they will be generously rewarded for their left views. It’s doubtful that Fox will lose “balance” because of their departure. Fox’s directors are already paying a king’s fortune to keep other leftists on hand, like Juan Williams and Richard Fowler, with whom house conservatives can hold canned dialogues.
An equally telling example of my iron law can be found in the recent decision by Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) to confer a special achievement award on Andrew Sullivan. ISI started out as a very conservative organization in the 1950s, but now they are giving an award to a decades-long LGBT activist despite claiming to be upholding “permanent things.” We may wonder what these “things” are. Perhaps gay marriage as a family value.
But let’s not single out a small part of the Con Inc. empire! From the virtue-signaling enthusiasm with which the Fox News staff welcomed the gay marriage of its superstar Guy Benson two years ago, one might think that such arrangements are the new conservative normal. For anyone who may have doubts on this point, the launching of a Republican pride coalition by GOP chairwoman Ronna McDaniel from former president Trump’s home in Mar-a-Lago, should put all doubts to rest. Gayness and even cross-dressing now hold a special place of honor in establishment conservative discourse and self-promotion.
Newly elected Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin is another example of this trend, as Pedro Gonzalez shows in a particularly well-documented commentary. Youngkin has assembled a staff, with the help of Kay James of the Heritage Foundation, that might have been picked out of a Black Lives Matter (BLM)-LGBT rally. The Youngkin staff members whom Gonzalez cites as examples have expressed support for BLM demonstrations, are actively combatting what they consider to be homophobia, and seem every bit as woke as the partisans of Youngkin’s defeated Democratic opponent Terry McAuliffe. It is now irrelevant that Youngkin won his election as an enemy of Critical Race Theory and a champion of the populist right. Since his come-from-behind victory, he has collected staffers who express the opinions of antiwhite racists, providing they imagine it benefits the GOP. Gonzalez observes the self-evident when he tells us that the conservative movement’s “’big tent’ seems open only to the left.”
This adaptability to the left calls to mind an exchange that I had about 10 years ago with the president of ISI. His organization had expelled me from all professional contact with them because of my personal association with people who believed in cognitive disparities between the races. Although it’s true I knew people who held this opinion, I really had no interest in the subject, other than my belief that punishing people who evinced a politically incorrect interest or opinion plays into the hands of the totalitarian left. I warned the ISI president that if we oblige these totalitarians by punishing those they decided to call “racists,” we would soon be accommodating them in other ways, perhaps by excommunicating those who didn’t favor gay marriage. He was incredulous. He seemed convinced that those who believe in “values” and “permanent things” wouldn’t give up their principles about the nature of marriage. Look where we are now.
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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