Welcome to the Pirate Skiff
The Goldberg File enters a new era.
Author’s Note: You are receiving this because you signed up for stuff from us. If you are just interested in what’s going on with our new venture, you can scroll to the stuff at the end. I didn’t plan on writing some manifesto-length thing about why we’re doing this, but that’s what came out of my head this morning.
Dear Reader (Thanks for signing up for the new pirate adventure!),
Welcome to the New G-File, now with 30 percent more vintage Canadian porn!
I kid, I kid. That’s not my bag (too many lumberjacks and too many implausible plumbing repair scenarios at Tim Horton’s).
But the nice thing about living inside the Beltway is that nobody would judge me harshly if I were into such things, because Washington is, and long has been, run by [checks notes] …. libertarians.
My friend Tucker Carlson said the other night:
“Our leadership class remains resolutely libertarian, committed to the rhetoric of markets when it serves them, utterly libertine on questions of culture.”
It’s funny, I was just saying something similar the other day while waiting in line to pick up some black-tar heroin at the brothel in the basement of the Hay Adams hotel across from the White House. David Gergen, wearing his Brooks Brothers tie and favorite pair of ass-less chaps, was standing behind me and I said, “It’s amazing how Tucker is the only guy out there telling the truth about this stuff.” I nudged the dude in front of me and said, “You agree?” Jeff Sessions turned around and seemed to nod his approval, but I was a little distracted by the ball-gag in his mouth and the enormous tattoo of Mel Tormé riding a giant spliff like Slim Pickens on a nuclear bomb.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Aren’t all chaps ass-less?” And the answer is: Yes. But if I just said “chaps,” you’d think Gergen was an equestrian, and if I said the more accurate “ass-full chaps,” you might think I was referring to a gay British espionage ring at Cambridge.
You might also be thinking: “What on earth is happening on the right today?” Or “Is Goldberg really launching a new media venture by talking about Canadian porn and ball-gagged Jeff Sessions?”
So let me respond to both—alas, at some length, because I might as well get it all out.
The Present Age
If you listen to The Remnant podcast – back next week by the way – you know I’m obsessed with a theory of contemporary politics. We live in one of the most partisan times in American history. No, it’s not as partisan as the 1850s or even the 1960s (thank God). But the difference between now and those periods is that partisanship is running white-hot even as the parties themselves have never been weaker.
Partisanship is now a lifestyle choice as much as it is a political or ideological orientation. That’s one reason politics are so ugly these days. When the political is personal and the personal is political, political disagreement feels like a personal attack. Politics today increasingly takes up the space in our brains normally reserved for religion, which is why there are houses in my neighborhood where people post signs listing social justice nostrums like they were Martin Luther’s 99 Theses.
In this climate, social media makes everything worse, because it’s impossible to avoid being exposed to people and ideas you find offensive. Worse, there are bad actors – Russians, grifters, click-bait monetizers, rage-addicted ideologues, and trolls – who deliberately try to make things worse by literally distorting reality with selective editing of videos and nutpicking (get your mind out of the gutter; I’m referring to the tactic of identifying idiots and buffoons and amplifying their importance).
Add in the rage-culture of Social Justice Warriors and MAGAnauts, not to mention the obvious partisanship and anti-Trump dementia afflicting much of the Mainstream Media, and you can see how America is grappling with a modern-day version of Lenin’s strategy of “the worse, the better.”
This is not a particularly novel insight, you can hear versions of it from lots of people, including from many who sincerely don’t see how they are part of the problem (a charge some might level at me, with varying degrees of legitimacy. More on that another time). But what usually gets left out of the indictment of our times is any discussion of the practical causes and remedies of the problem, to wit: The parties suck. Like the last days of the Ottoman Empire, they are the sick men of contemporary politics.
Parties as Brands
America is the only major developed democracy in which the parties have voluntarily gelded themselves. It’s happened in stages over the last half century. (For those interested, this is a running theme in Jon Ward’s invaluable “Long Game” podcast, to which I am indebted.)
Stage one involved the parties’ surrendering the power to pick their own nominees. In 1972, the Democrats responded to the tumult of the 1968 convention by democratizing candidate selection, outsourcing the process to primaries.
Yes, primaries have been around for a century, but they were a joke until George McGovern changed the rules.
Consider this. Here are the Democratic primary vote totals from 1968.
Eugene McCarthy – 2,914,933 (38.73%)