So, you want to be a conservative commentator? Welcome aboard. But before you start you need to think about what kind of conservative commentator you want to be. I know what you’re thinking: are you a traditional conservative, or a neoconservative, or a libertarian?
But the map of conservative commentary is richer and more complicated than that — containing archetypes that are not reducible to ideology alone. There are all kinds of subcultural phenomena here that you have to navigate as you build your brand. Shall we begin?
The Absolute Wonker
Need a study showing tax rates from 1962-2021? Wonker is your man. He’s a stats fiend, mainlining data. He knows graphs like a seasoned mechanic knows the engine of a car. What is the point of them? Wonker is less sure. Ask him what he does for a laugh and there is a serious risk that he will start explaining the Laffer curve. You need Wonkers around but you have to understand their limitations.
The Age of Empires Enjoyer
This foreign policy hawk is what used to be called a ‘keyboard warrior’. Absolute rubbish! It is pure coincidence that he believes in the muscular exercise of American power abroad and spends all night playing strategy games on his computer. Now, time to recreate the Battle of Thermopylae. Come and get me Assad! I mean, er, Xerxes.
The Cocktail Drinker
Did you see them at the National Review do? And the First Things thing? And the Commentary anniversary? Did you chat to them at Christopher’s book launch? And at Michael’s? And at Sohrab’s? Yes, you did. What do they do except drink cocktails? No one is quite sure. But they know everyone, and they have an inexhaustible memory of who slept with who, and who got handsy with who, and who got drunk and started talking about Black Lives Matter, so everyone keeps them around.
The Conservative Caser
‘The Conservative Case for Open Borders’. ‘The Conservative Case for Critical Race Theory’. ‘The Conservative Case for Prescribing Puberty Blockers to Kids’. You know there is nothing wrong with challenging each other’s tribal assumptions. Still, you have to ask yourself exactly where the Conservative Caser disagrees with progressives. On the exact percentage of top rate income tax? Perhaps. But what else?
The Ronald Reagan Misser
Ah, the Eighties! Communism was in retreat. The economy was booming. A genteel Republican president held office. The Ronald Reagan Misser remembers those times like a man remembers his first love. If only America had a Ronald Reagan now. Sure, we live in a completely different world, but a few paternal homilies, as well as stout resolve in the face of foreign evil, could help us to build a new one. It could be morning in America, I tell you. Morning in America. Morning. Mourning.
The Decline Wallower
Did you see this children’s cartoon with a transsexual hippo? Did you see this Jacobin op-ed about the revolutionary power of crack? Did you see this hardcore porn? The Decline Wallower did, and they want to tell you about it in detail. Will they ever get married, have kids and enjoy the ‘trad’ ideals they admire? Perhaps. But for now there is too much decline to wallow in. Did you see this Netflix series about a gender bending prostitute? Decline!
She’s an attractive young woman and she’s a conservative? Scientists have been working for decades to explain this mystery. Is she doing it for attention? Perhaps. But consider the quality of the attention! Perhaps one has to conclude that she is sincere. And perhaps she wants to discuss her latest op-ed over coffee. Or drinks? Or dinner?
The David French Hater
This person just really hates David French.
The Heavy Implyer
Did you see this statistic about gun violence? Interesting. And did you see this data on ethnicity and math results? Curious. And did you see this paper about ideology and mental illness? Makes you think. What is their point? They never said they had a point!
Haha, what is everyone getting so worked up about? Can’t we find a safe middle ground between these MAGA hooligans and this ‘woke’ nonsense? Can’t reasonable people on all ‘sides’ get together and hash out sensible compromises? Frankly, the Dad would rather be writing about baseball and barbecues, but political commentary pays the bills and his daughter’s college fees aren’t cheap. He isn’t sure why he is paying for her women’s studies course. But it seems like part of being a dad.
The True Conservative
The True Conservative wants to know your influences. Milton Friedman? Oh. William Buckley? Ah. Tucker Carlson? Heh. The True Conservative has a deeper sense of history. He has read Russell Kirk. He has read Richard Weaver. He has read Edmund Burke. He has read De Maistre. He has no time for your shallow presentist warbling about ‘policies’ and ‘institutions’. He sips from a glass of vintage conservative values and looks across the world with dark and impotent disdain.
The Manly Man
This guy loves guns! And beer! And steak! And whiskey! And cigars! And drinking whiskey and smoking cigars! And drinking beer and eating steak! And smoking guns! And firing cigars! And drinking steak! No, he doesn’t know the meaning of the word ‘overcompensation’! Fire him some steak! Pour him a gun! Let’s smoke some beer!
The Irony Dude
The Irony Dude floats above political debate in a haze of multi-referential jokes. Pin them down to a belief? You can’t. They might be being ironic. They might not. But how can you tell? Is the irony a form of cowardice? A mask to wear? Perhaps. But how can you tell?