Look over there. That smoldering, smoking ruin was once The New Republic. The editors and writers dropping and rolling to put out their burning clothes once had jobs.
The New Republic had everything going for it: a deep-pocketed owner (and, before him, another deep-pocketed owner), the respect of the media and the liberal establishment, a president in near lockstep with it editorially, and — as they say too much these days — a great “brand.” Look at it now.
Maybe it will come back, I hope it does. But its predicament should be a cautionary tale for everybody who cares about this weird business. These are perilous times for magazines. Don’t believe me? Ask some teenagers if they know what Newsweek is — or rather was. Or Life magazine — “Wasn’t that the name of that made-up magazine in that Walter Mitty movie with that old guy, Ben Stiller?”
For all that The New Republic had going for it, the one thing it didn’t have was you. Well, technically it didn’t have you – and it didn’t have the right ideas about how the world does, or should, work. But why quibble? I’m being broadly figurative here; for all I know, some of you supported that magazine, too. What I mean, though, is that National Review has always relied on the support of its readers, of our community. Contrary to popular perception, Bill Buckley wasn’t the Chris Hughes of National Review. Yes, Bill owned the magazine, and, yes, he kept it going, but he didn’t do so simply by writing personal checks to cover our losses. He didn’t have that kind of money. He gave speeches around the country and applied the proceeds not to his bank account, but to National Review’s. But even that wouldn’t cover all of our costs. So he asked for the help of our readers, supporters, and champions of our cause. And each and every time, our friends responded. Believe me, I know none of you like this pledge-drive stuff. Please know we don’t like it either. It’s a drag to ask for money. But it’s also necessary.
It’s necessary because liberalism can afford to lose The New Republic. I’m not sure conservatism can afford to lose National Review. Maybe that’s my biased love for my home talking. But I do know that even if the conservative movement could survive our demise, the country would be worse off for it. The next few years are a pivotal moment for the country and the conservative cause. This should also be a very entertaining time. National Review needs to be in on all of that.
Edmund Burke never actually said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” But he surely believed that was true. Something similar is also true for magazines like this one. All that is necessary for the demise of National Review (and all it holds dear, by the way) is for good people to do nothing.
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— Jonah Goldberg is a senior editor of National Review and a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. You can write to him by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @JonahNRO.