I Review NR’s “Against Trump” Issue

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Everybody is writing today about National Review’s big “Against Trump” issue. I did that last night, so today I want to review their effort. I give it a D+.

This isn’t my usual liberal carping at NR. Normally I carp because I disagree with them, but this time we are joined in a mutual bond of disgust. Virtually every single thing that everyone said in their anti-Trump symposium was true. I applaud what they did.

But why was it so damn lazy? Every editor in the world knows that the easiest way to fill pages is to corral a bunch of writers from the ol’ office Rolodex and ask them each to write 300 words on some topic. Every editor also knows that unless there’s some serious adult supervision, these “symposiums” are usually flaccid and unpersuasive. Lots of contributors will repeat what others have said. They mostly just bang something out instead of working on tight pieces that make crisp points. Some of them just toss out a few bromides and email it off.

That’s what happened this time too, and it’s yet another example of what I was complaining about yesterday: no one seems willing to really attack Trump. Obviously I don’t expect NR to produce the written equivalent of a Willie Horton ad, but despite all my past (and future) kvetching about them, I have no doubt that NR’s stable of writers can produce very persuasive, very well-written agit-prop1 when they put their minds to it. I’ve seen it before, and it’s not always easy to respond to.

What NR should have done is simple: Figure out half a dozen of Trump’s weakest points—points that even Trump supporters might find troubling—and assign a writer to dive into each one. Give each one the time to really do some research and produce a tight, fact-checked piece that tears Trump a new asshole. Put them all together and you’d have the definitive anti-Trump manifesto. Something like this would have an impact beyond the mere fact of NR doing it.

I don’t know why this didn’t happen. Lack of time? Lack of staff enthusiasm? It’s a mystery.

1I don’t mean this in a derogatory way. (Not this time, anyway.) This is what political magazines do. It can be done well or poorly, subtly or noisily, but our mission in life is to persuade people and provoke change.

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DEMOCRACY DOES NOT EXIST...

without free and fair elections, a vigorous free press, and engaged citizens to reclaim power from those who abuse it.

In this election year unlike any other—against a backdrop of a pandemic, an economic crisis, racial reckoning, and so much daily bluster—Mother Jones' journalism is driven by one simple question: Will America move closer to, or further from, justice and equity in the years to come?

If you're able to, please join us in this mission with a donation today. Our reporting right now is focused on voting rights and election security, corruption, disinformation, racial and gender equity, and the climate crisis. We can’t do it without the support of readers like you, and we need to give it everything we've got between now and November. Thank you.

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