28 February, 2021

Ross Douthat Almost Gets It

Opinion | Cuomo and the Twilight of the Anti-Trump Idols - The New York Times (nytimes.com)

Throughout the Trump presidency and especially in the Covid era, there was a quest for figures that could be held up as embodiments of everything that Trump’s opposition wanted to restore: reason, technical competence, idealism. Over time these figures took on the character of familiar dramatic archetypes — the Good Republican, the Heroic Whistleblower, the Beleaguered Expert, the Tough Blue State Governor, the Wise and Sophisticated Europeans.

He lists as playing the part of the Good Republican, Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT), although I don’t remember Douthat having much good to say about Romney in 2012. Starring as the Tough Blue State Governor, Mr. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY), and various entities appear as the Wise and Sophisticated Europeans.

Douthat points out how each of these has let us down, with the exception of Romney whom Douthat now appears to idolize. I want to bring out one key quote before I make my point.

For the sake of the heroic story, the fact that Cuomo and Bill de Blasio jointly botched New York’s initial response to the coronavirus was airbrushed out of the televised hagiography. The fact that the governor shipped potentially contagious patients back to nursing homes was reported on but didn’t dent Cuomo’s reputation, becoming a cause célèbre mostly in the right-wing press. And the bullying, berating side of Cuomo that’s suddenly front-and-center in stories about his alleged cover-up of nursing-home death numbers — well, that was portrayed as the seriousness a reeling country needed.

Douthat correctly points out that the fact that Cuomo was a failure, not a hero, was well known even at the time of his rise in fame, but that the media whitewashed that in their efforts to find an anti-Trump. This is the kind of thing that occurred over the last four years that infuriates conservatives. The media pushes a lie, and they know it’s a lie, everyone “in the know” is aware of it, but it doesn’t matter.

The narrative is important, not the truth. A sad fact that I’ve pointed out many times.

Douthat also brings up the other “Good Republicans” at the Lincoln Project.

[A] similar deglamorization has arrived for the Good Republicans at the Lincoln Project, the collection of Republican strategists dedicated to using their skills to bring down Donald Trump. They started with a sermon about saving the Republic, lapped up Resistance lucre for their ad campaigns, and now — well, it now turns out they had an accused sexual harasser among their founders, a toxic workplace culture and a mission that sought “generational wealth” for its leaders as assiduously as it sought Trump’s defeat.

This is all true.

And let’s not forget the Wise and Sophisticated Europeans.

Finally, the wheel has also turned for the Wise and Sophisticated Europeans, whose governments were once portrayed as having vanquished the pandemic with Science, while Trump’s America was a failed state where the coronavirus held illimitable dominion over all.

That trans-Atlantic contrast diminished when Europe experienced its own autumnal wave, but now, in the race to vaccinate, the whole narrative has been reversed. America’s vaccine program looks far better than Europe’s catastrophic non-rollout, and the only major European country doing really well is Britain, which rather famously Brexited out of the Continent’s technocratic utopia not so long ago.

Douthat fails to put two and two together, though. All of these people have been exposed as either having the same faults attributed to Trump, or just being scam artists, or in fact at having been entirely wrong in their opposition to him.

In fact, every one of these anti-Trumps has shown that whatever they were saying or doing to oppose Trump, Trump was the better choice. He turns out to have been right where they were wrong. He turns out to have the moral high ground. And clearly wiser and more sophisticated than the Europeans.

Trump is better than all of those people, and Douthat is still incapable of seeing this clear and simple truth. Well, perhaps he’ll see it the next time there’s a Republican President. He’ll be able to tell us then about how effective Trump was in comparison to whomever comes next.

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