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April 27, 2018

"Mass Firing" at Red State as Salem Says They Can No Longer Support the Current Roster of Editors and Writers

Apparently the firings were done according to two criteria: Cost of contract and support for Trump.

People whose contracts were expensive were almost all fired. People whose contracts were less expensive were either kept or fired depending on how pro- or anti-Trump they were.

But I don't think it's actually about partisanship or Trump support per se. It's about actual readers and revenue. If the blog were attracting more readers, that would have proved there was a constituency for its position in the conservative movement, and I imagine Salem would have kept them going as-is.

Some time ago I faced the choice of doing an anti-Trump-but-pro-conservative blog, or getting on board with Trump. (The latter turned out to be easier than I thought, as the idea of President Hillary Clinton got my partisan dander up.)

But when I was contemplating the idea of a blog that was allegedly pro-conservative while simultaneously being against the key player (flaws and all) of the actual on-the-ground real-world conservative movement, I realized: This makes no sense.

What's the audience for that? How many readers would that attract? How narrow a window would I have to shoot for, simultaneously opposing the president and the putative leader of the conservative movement while also allegedly being a bright red TruCon gung-ho for conservative political victories?

Wouldn't any conservative political victory redound to Trump's benefit? And wouldn't my opposition to Trump mean that I would not welcome such victories?

How can you have, say, a New York Giants blog where you claim to want the Giants to win each game but want the quarterback Eli Manning to lose every game, because you think he's "unfit to lead the Giants" and you want them to get a better quarterback to do better in later seasons?

It's fine to want the quarterback replaced, and it's understandable that someone might say "I'll take a losing season to set up winning seasons later."

But you can't also be rooting for the Giants at the same time you're rooting against them.

There's nothing wrong, really, with rooting against them so they realize their error in keeping Eli at the helm. People do this. I did this any time their season was so crappy they wouldn't make the playoffs-- might as well then lose ALL THE GAMES.

But the proprietor of such a Pro-Giants-But-Anti-Eli blog must understand, and must admit, that until Eli has departed, the blog would actually be an anti-Giants blog, until they have a quarterback the blog deems fit to lead.

Yes, you can say you're pro-Giants -- but your actual tangible day-to-day hoped-for outcome is losses as far as the eye can see.

Sure, you can say "But on a deeper, more important level, I really want them to win."

Yeah, but in some hypothetical future. As a current-day present-time matter, you want them to lose.

What exactly is the market for a New York Giants football blog dedicated to promoting at least four years of Giants losses until Eli's contract runs out in 2020?

How many readers would such a blog have?

Probably not a lot.

Leftists often say they really support the America that can be in the future, while being pretty opposed to the actual America that exists in the here and now.

And a lot of people disagree with liberals that that constitutes "supporting America." A lot of people think that supporting America involves, as a necessity, supporting America.

A long time ago I watched an interesting Twitter back-and-forth between John Sexton and Ben Domenech on an abortion-law strategy.

Sexton pointed out that Europe (most countries, anyway) permits abortion, but only until the eighteenth or twentieth week. He proposed that as a solution to the American debate (at least -- as a temporary, interim solution until there was more support for a true ban).

Ben Domenech made the point that there was no constituency for such a (pardon) split the baby down the middle approach.

There was a constituency for making abortion illegal, and there was a constituency for keeping abortion legal until the moment of crowning (and sometimes a few minutes after that), but there was no actual constituency that would support Sexton's policy proposal.

Sexton's policy proposal might look good on paper -- again, even if it's just a waypoint towards a true pro-life position -- but the practical reality was that there was no actual constituency for it. No audience for it. No political market for it.

The discussion was interesting because both men were, it seemed to me, right. Sexton was right that, at least as far as a policy, his 20-week-limit compromise had been proven workable and even popular in other countries, and would appease most pro-choicers (who are not nearly as absolutist as NARAL and Planned Parenthood) while delivering a modest waypoint victory to pro-lifers.

But Domenech is/was almost certainly right that as good as that may look on paper, and as interesting as that might make for an Atlantic think-piece (back when The Atlantic permitted heterodox opinions on abortion), there was just no political support for it, either currently or in the imaginable mid-term future.

I'm not saying anyone on the NeverTrump side of things is to blame, or should have predicted this (though, you know, some did predict it), but sometimes you can come up with a plan that makes sense to you and even makes sense on paper but just cannot result in any kind of viable movement or business model.

Add into this the fact that most blog commentary involves very attitudinal snark and denigration of one's political opponents. It doesn't have to involve that, but the practical reality is: It almost always involves that.

So then you've got a bunch of alleged TruCons who are being very snarky, denigrating, condescending, and antagonistic to those conservatives holding to the idea that one should support, you know, day-to-day conservative maneuverings and hope for victories.

And now what's the audience down to? You can either write in such a careful and emotionless way that you aren't read as snarking at your intraparty rivals -- but that would probably result in a dry and overly-milquetoast blog, with few readers.

Or you can write the blog in the typical (lazy) way of just busting chops and slinging #HotTake zingers at your intraparty rivals -- thus driving them away. (That happened here at this blog, too, as long time readers, on the NeverTrump side of things, felt insulted and denigrated by my own cheap zingers. I wish I could get some of them back -- I miss a lot of them.)

Again, in that case too: Audience dwindles. And given that Trump has the support of something like 85% of the GOP, there's not a lot of audience a pro-conservative-but-anti-Trump blog can afford to alienate.

The old expression for this "a feathered fish" -- a feathered fish can't fly, and the feathers weight it down so that it also can't swim. It's a blend of two inconsistent things that results in a non-viable hybrid for which there is little audience.

Eh. I think (and long thought) this business model was non-viable but I don't wish any ill on the fired people and I hope they can find jobs somewhere.

But I still think that, on strictly practical terms, they really have to decide if they're birds or fish if they want to get anywhere.

Note: This is why I keep predicting that various NeverTrumpers will undergo political reassignment surgery to become Atlantic writers. Or will try to. I think some of them understand that in politics, you do need to be mostly one thing or the other, and some are opting to transition to becoming soft Democrats or conservative Democrats. Or moderates.

Anything that will make them potential hires by non-conservative outlets.

I think a lot of them have begun to understand this dilemma, and are taking some steps towards a "soft reboot" of their political beliefs to be more palatable to liberals. The "Libertarian" half-step will appeal to many.

I see some of the more prominent NeverTrumpers sounding CNN-friendly notes, as one example of this.

Another possibility for someone caught in this trap -- and I mention this because I thought about it a lot, myself -- is transitioning to being a writer who writes mostly about some other specialty and only occasionally about politics. Personally, the idea of this appealed to me, but it failed in practical reality because I don't know much about anything. But other writers have areas besides politics they do know well or are at least interested in, and could remake themselves into writers about those things who also have some political opinions too.

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posted by Ace of Spades at 02:27 PM

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