A Democratic presidential primary — which just happens to be taking place during National Review’s 2019 Fall webathon — is always . . . an unusual, target-rich environment for a conservative magazine. I don’t know about you, but for me, the emergence of the clown car of candidates running in 2020 stirred feelings of excitement, instant irritation, a bit of amusement, a dash of dread, and buckets of preemptive exasperation. The Circus of Liars has come to town, and calling them out is set to be the biggest and most furious game of whack-a-mole of all time.
I spend a lot of time covering the campaign and reading other publications’ coverage of it. There are lots of fine institutions, and many cover the race quite well. But I think few people recognize how much National Review covers the Democratic primary and how well my colleagues cover it, in depth, breadth, and insight. It’s easy for right-of-center publications to simply shrug and say, “We don’t agree with these guys, they stink.” National Review listens, reads, studies, analyzes and digests . . . and then explains in detail why we don’t agree with these guys, and why they stink.
But every now and then we’re pleasantly surprised. Take Andrew Yang. Maybe he intrigues you, or maybe you think he’s nuts. But National Review noticed him early and took him seriously, unlike many other publications. Back in April, our Alexandra DeSanctis interviewed Andrew Yang and sharply assessed, “Unlike the rest of the Democrats, Yang is not fighting for the honor of being the most left-wing candidate on stage. He’s not even especially progressive. He is, ultimately, a technocrat, with a complex explanation for every problem and a corresponding, carefully developed policy solution, which is more feasible in some cases than in others.” Long before most publications had ever heard of the “Yang Gang,” National Review was evaluating where he had a point and where he was off his rocker. Our Teddy Kupfer diagnosed that he’s running his campaign as an Internet meme. Howard Husock covered Yang’s past work in attempting to revitalize depressed cities.
Or take Marianne Williamson, who is, let’s face it, at least a little strange. But as Kathryn Lopez noted, she doesn’t sound quite so wacky when she describes a country enduring a spiritual crisis and under assault from dark forces of division and rage. Kayla Bartsch observed, “Williamson understands that we have to re-anchor our politics in the soul of each person rather than in the sparring of nameless groups and faceless systems. Although she is obviously a wacky candidate, Williamson’s aim of solving political problems with energy, atonement, and love is not as far out as it may seem.”
Michael Brendan Dougherty noticed that Tulsi Gabbard’s criticism of the pre-Trump bipartisan foreign-policy consensus echoed that of the current president, and that when other congressional Democrats were eager to demonize the Knights of Columbus, Gabbard defended them. Most mainstream-media institutions either ignored or failed to notice Gabbard’s small deviation from Democratic-party orthodoxy on late-term abortions; you can’t slip something like that past our DeSanctis.
(A note about rumors of MBD’s clairvoyance: Five days after Michael wrote his column entitled “The Beginning of Bernie’s End,” the Vermont senator had a heart attack. Michael, please don’t write any columns entitled “The Beginning of Jim’s End.”)
Of course, National Review’s coverage isn’t just about spotting those rare diamonds in the rough.
It’s very easy to write that the Democrats have assembled a bunch of idiots. But only a Mark Krikorian can spell out how the candidates don’t know the basics of our current immigration policy, or how they’re calling for the creation of programs that already exist. When Beto O’Rourke called for gun confiscation, our Charlie Cooke instantly recognized and explained how Beto’s debate-stage rallying cry undid decades of work by the gun-control movement. Madeleine Kearns laid out how the Democratic candidates’ discussion of gender reflects a “tirade of alphabet activism.” Kevin Williamson notes how often progressive voices lament polarization as if it just came out of nowhere from entirely natural sources, like a hurricane — absolving themselves of any responsibility and ignoring their own role as anti-constitutional provocateurs and culture war aggressors.
And the most recent issue features eleven — eleven! — writers dissecting the uninspiring record, extreme proposals, and implausible promises of Elizabeth Warren.
Not to toot my own horn, but quite a few folks found my recent lengthy and comprehensive timeline of Hunter Biden’s employers, business dealings, partners, clients, and secret meetings extremely useful. In isolation, most of Hunter’s cozy arrangements that created the appearance of a conflict of interest for his father can be explained as legal but distasteful errors in judgment. Put all together, and it’s an indisputable pattern of powerful institutions at home and overseas paying massive amounts to the underqualified Hunter as his father shaped U.S. policy in the Senate and the Obama administration.
As hopefully you’ve noticed, this stuff is really good. This stuff is also not cheap, or easy, or quick to produce, and yet somehow the team here writes all this — and records podcasts, and short videos, and produces a biweekly print magazine. You can’t just go down to the local bus station and find a bunch of people who know the issues inside and out, who understand the nitty-gritty of policy details, who can write with clarity and style and wit and insight.
Which is why we need your support. We don’t have a wealthy Uncle Rupert to throw money our way. We do the best we can with what we’ve got, and we’ve always had just enough because of the support like readers like you. This election cycle is just getting warmed up — help keep us doing what we do best, all the way through November 2020.
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