Taking the Neither Pill
On talking with Ben Shapiro, the death of Roe v. Wade, and the end of Normie politics
Last Thursday, I sat in a studio in Newark for the above interview with Ben Shapiro. It was a wide-ranging and oddly friendly discussion between a former Breitbart staffer and the author of Andrew Breitbart’s mostly infamously obscene obituary, in which the fact that the interview could even happen at all was among the most interesting things about it (more on this on a Callin discussion tomorrow).
Ben and I talked about how it was the political left that years ago was famous for being willing to engage anyone, while the business model of right-wing media was a heated conversation with itself about an always-expanding regimen of enemies, a catastrophic strategy that allowed the Jon Stewarts and not-yet-unfunny Stephen Colberts of the world to win huge audiences by default. Add the lack of a sense of humor, which made Frank Zappa, Larry Flynt, and Dee Snider automatic winners over crusading curmudgeons like Jerry Falwell and John Tower, and the culture war for decades was never a real battle. “There’s no question that the left had been in the ascendancy my entire lifetime,” is how Shapiro put it.
Now the script is flipped. The press mainstream has borrowed from the old Fox model and not only (as Shapiro notes) excludes dissent via the “laundering of expertise” but leads interminable crusades against an exploding list of deviationists within their own ranks. You may have thought you were solidly a progressive, but you can catch a permanent green-room ban for going against narrative on any issue, whether it’s Syria or Ukraine or Russiagate or trans issues or any of a hundred other things. This is the same losing strategy that hurt the old GOP, which logically should lead to the same losing outcome, except this is a political atmosphere where no one seems to be winning.
On Friday, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision granting women a constitutional right to abortion. This exact moment was supposedly why I owed my vote to the Democratic Party, and indeed the Supreme Court was on my mind when I pulled a lever for Hillary Clinton, a politician I couldn’t stand, in 2016.
Four years later, I voted neither. The Democrats between 2016 and 2020 not only lost my vote, but reveled in the idea that they didn’t need or want it, denouncing critics in all directions as traitors, white supremacists, and terrorists, no different from the “deplorables” who voted for Donald Trump. In that time they perfected an attitude of imperious condescension and entitlement so grating that at least half of America wouldn’t piss on someone like Adam Schiff if he were on fire. Then Friday happened and it was the same song everywhere: “See! We were right all along! You do owe us! And if you ever criticized us, this was your fault! ”
No, it wasn’t. Friday was the result of decades spent building a political project so incoherent, unsellable, and untrustworthy to ordinary people that in 2016 they chose Donald Trump over the person Barack Obama called the most qualified candidate in history. The justices who cast the critical votes Friday were picked by a man denounced by all of institutional America prior to election. All those voices were ignored. That total collapse in trust, not Jill Stein’s candidacy or Putin’s Facebook ads, led to Dobbs v. Jackson. Until Democrats reckon with that problem, which incidentally spread to every category of voter except white men in 2020 and looks poised to spread even more in the midterms, there will be more moments like this.