The Declining Relevance of Conservatism

NRO (National Review Online) is a zombie publication, that, like AOL, is sustained by subscribers who forgot to cancel their subscriptions. I have never seen anyone, on twitter or elsewhere, link to or speak favorably of an NRO article. NRO’s relevance peaked during the Bush years in 2004, began its decline after the death of Buckley Jr. in 2008, saw a brief uptick in relevance in 2012-2013 in opposing Obamacare, and began it’s plunge again in 2016-2017 by betting wrongly against Trump. The magazine holds the dubious distinction of writing possibly the ‘worst article ever,’ which in a rare feat of bipartisanship united both the left and the right against it and made its author, Kevin Williamson, the most hated man in America. How he was not fired eludes me, because I’m sure it only hasted NRO’s demise, but given that the editor presumably signed off on it, they were actually so deluded as to think it was a good idea.

I, like many young people, read National Review (in print form), and although I don’t feel deceived, I don’t think I got the full picture either. The fact there is so much debate about these issues, shows the answers are not as self-evident as they seemed at the time in nice, concise 1,000-word article form.

TBH, I think conservative media, in general, is dying or in a ‘dark age’, with NRO one of many casualties. The alt-right and Trump-right have not fared better, having been surpassed by the alt-middle/lite/center and IDW (intellectual dark web). NRO (along with much of ‘establishment conservationism’ which also includes the AEI) declined first starting around in 2016 with the rise of Trump, and then the alt-right began its decline later around late 2017 or so. Milo and Spencer are largely irrelevant now, having in early-mid 2017 been surpassed by the likes of Jordan Peterson, Dave Rubin, Joe Rogan, and Ben Shapiro. [1] Same for paleocons and traditionalists such as Pat Buchanan and Ann Coulter, who seem increasingly irrelevant to the national debate (at least online).

The election of Trump was, as cliched to say, an earth shattering event that few could have foreseen. What ended up happening is, rather than Trump’s win emboldening the right-right, which is what most pundits in 2016 thought would happen, it lead to a sort of come-to-Jesus moment for moderates, liberals, and centrists. This lead to a huge national conservation online and the rise of intellectualism, similar to the rise of the Frankfurt School, which in the 40′s was conceived in response to the anti-intellectual violence and authoritarianism of Nazism and Communism.

Centrists and moderates seem to be the only winners of the Trump administration thus far, with the ‘left’ and ‘right’ coming up empty-handed. The left’s hopes for impeachment look increasingly dim as the Mueller investigation has only revealed stuff that we either already know or doesn’t directly implicate Trump. The ‘right’ wanted a big concrete wall but had to settle for an impotent piece of legislation that may appropriate a pittance for 100 miles of wire fence, assuming the courts don’t kill it, and it has an amnesty loophole built into it, too. And a ‘national emergency’ that feels more like a national farce.

According to rank2traffic, since Trump’s win, the only right-wing news site to see a substantial gain in traffic was The Daily Wire, founded in 2015 by Ben Shapiro, but it’s growth is not completely organic but rather due to extensive marketing (and it’s backed by the billionaire Wilks family), and also the site is relatively new. FoxNews.com and Daily Caller saw a little growth, but anncoulter.com, infowars.com, and rushlimbaugh.com fell, and drudgereport.com, townhall.com, and others were flat.

[1] By ‘decline’ I don’t just mean decline in traffic stats by also decline in overall relevance as it pertains to the ‘national debate’ and crossover appeal. Rush Limbaugh and Drudge are still popular, but they do no not contribute much to the debate compared to someone like Jordan Peterson or a major media publication such as the Washington Post. A Rush Limbaugh listener of a Drudge reader is worth less than a Reddit or 4Chan user or YouTube viewer in terms of meme propagation.