It is a source of never-ending amusement to me that virtually anyone can, apparently, be a Washington Post columnist. I could be a Washington Post columnist. You could be a Washington Post columnist. The guy who screams at cars at the bus stop down the street could be a Washington Post columnist.
Because wisdom and genuine insight are apparently not the overriding qualifications to be a Washington Post columnist, as Washington Post columnist Megan McArdle proves once again in her first post-midterms column:
During the Republican primary season, Democrats took a big risk: They boosted Trumpist, election-denying candidates over their more moderate opponents. From the perspective of a coldly calculating Democratic strategist, this might have looked like a safe bet. These further-right candidates tended to be inexperienced and undisciplined, and their close association with former president Donald Trump’s various outrages would make them easier to beat outside of the Republican base.
But politics can’t all be reckless cynicism — that’s how you get Trump. As I and other critics pointed out at the time, screaming that Trump poses an existential threat to American democracy falls rather flat if you’re also helping Trumpist candidates get closer to positions of power, where they might be able to subvert our electoral processes.
Democrats were not taking the ordinary political risk of installing a bad candidate or two; they were wagering our country’s future to marginally improve their own electoral chances. It was a feckless and unconscionable gamble.
I am therefore quite distressed to report that, at least at the level of cold political calculation, it seems to have worked.
Sure, the cynical move paid off in a bunch of races and might have had knock-on effects down the ticket by discouraging moderate Republican voters — early Wednesday morning, Republican control of the Pennsylvania state house was imperiled. But there are two grave dangers in this kind of cynicism.
The first is that the cynicism will stop being a political tool, a necessary concession to human realities, and start being the primary modus operandi of campaigns that no longer have any real principles except “Give me power.” But the second is that pure cynicism will, ironically, not be quite cynical enough.
Poor Megan. She’s spent the last few weeks boosting Republicans with her predictions of a red tsunami, and hectoring Democrats about all the ways she thinks they botched the mid-terms.
Now that she’s been proven to be utterly wrong (a habit, with her) she’s bound to be a bit addled to the point of being unable to come up with anything mildly insightful to write in a pinch, except to lecture Democrats by saying, “Your tactics turned out to be spot on, but here’s why you should not have relied upon your winning strategies.”
This is, of course, the grand bargain that so-called centrists in the press expect Democrats to agree upon: Republicans can play as cynically and dirty as they’d like, and everyone just rolls their eyes and says, “Oh, that’s just how Republicans do things.” But if Democrats do the same thing it’s unseemly and beneath them. It’s also always a danger to the republic — as if responding to proto-fascism with a heavy dose of realpolitik is somehow a moral failing.
(And, by the way, since WHEN has politics ever been not cynical? Has McArdle ever sat through an American or French or British political history course?)
You see? Anyone can be a WaPo columnist. You don’t really ever have to be correct or insightful. You just have to be able to scribble bloviating hot takes and to never, ever, admit you were wrong save for saying you are “distressed to report” that you have no earthly idea what you’ve been writing about all this time.