What exactly is a “conservative?”
It’s a term, like liberal, that’s thrown around a lot. Some use it as a badge of honor. For others, it’s a political bogeyman. Often used interchangeably with the word “Republican,” it’s used to label people, ideas, parties, TV stations. But what is a conservative in 2019?
For that answer, I turned to David French, one of the premier conservative thinkers of our age.
French recently joined with colleagues to launch The Dispatch, a new conservative publication, but is perhaps best known as a writer for National Review.
We spoke on French’s last day with that publication at his home in Franklin, Tennessee, surrounded by life size posters of NBA icons like Magic Johnson. French is one of those writers who gets attacked from both sides, he’s obviously at odds with some of the left but he’s attacked by the right as well. Because he’s committed to a conservative ideology, not defending a political party.
We discuss the Never Trump movement. Trump’s actions in Syria. The state of conservative media. And also how the South has changed during his lifetime.
(I should note that we recorded this conversation a week before the news that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had been killed in Syria.)
Here’s a couple excerpts from the episode to get you started.
David French on the state of conservative media
I would say that one of the things that is plaguing conservative media, writ large, is that it is awash in opinion and not as heavy on reporting and analysis. So if you were going to look at the whole conservative media landscape, for example, what you often see — now there are reporters who do good work and break stories on the news side of Fox News — but if you’re going to look at conservative media writ large, it’s an extremely commentary heavy medium. And so you’ll take the reporting of Washington Post and New York Times and react to it and comment on it.
And so what we want to do is, in addition, we’re going to have commentary. I mean, gosh, Jonah [Goldberg] and I both are opinion writers. But you’re going to also have an emphasis on deep dive reporting, really rigorous analysis.
We’re not going to be “partisan” at the Dispatch. We’re unapologetically and openly conservative. But one of the things that – and this is something that Jonah’s talked about a great deal – it has been eye opening, especially in the age of Trump, to see the extent to which large chunks of conservative media are just purely partisan when you get right down to it.
The purpose isn’t advancing a particular set of ideas. The purpose isn’t even the pursuit of truth. The purpose is the advancement of, you know, a party and often a person. Donald Trump. I mean, this is plain and obvious from the tilt of conservative commentary, obviously, and right-wing commentary, but it’s also obvious from the startling way in which people will vigorously defend actions from the administration that they would absolutely unequivocally condemn coming from a Democrat. I mean they would be calling for impeachment coming from a Democrat and that, to me, is sort of the hallmark of partisan media.
For French’s thoughts on Trump’s actions in Syria, free speech on campus, and how the South has changed, listen to the full episode here.