EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter, the G-File. Subscribe here to get the G-File delivered to your inbox on Fridays.
Dear Reader (Including all of the Democrats who wore blackface but forgot to tell anybody),
Where is Gary Larson when you need him?
I loved Calvin and Hobbes, Peanuts, Dilbert, and Bloom County, but I was in awe of The Far Side. Larson could do more in one panel — daily — than the best often did in three. And he was weird, and I like weird (you’d know that if you could see what I’m wearing right now).
Anyway, I could write about Larson all day long, so long as the armadillo I have under my breastplate doesn’t need to go to the bathroom.
But I should get to the point.
Larson loved cows, and he made them into cultural things like no one before.
“I’ve always thought the word ‘cow’ was funny,” Larson once said. “And cows are sort of tragic figures. Cows blur the line between tragedy and humor.”
And that’s why we need him now.
Contained within the FAQ for the Green New Deal is one of the greatest sentences ever written with the intention of being taken very, very seriously:
We set a goal to get to net-zero, rather than zero emissions, in 10 years because we aren’t sure that we’ll be able to fully get rid of farting cows and airplanes that fast.
I love this sentence so much I want to stand outside its house holding up a boom box blasting Peter Gabriel’s “In Your Eyes.”
I love the attempt to seem pragmatic. We’re not crazy radicals here, we’re just going for net-zero emissions rather than zero emissions in ten years because we are part of the reality-based community.
This is like the straight man in a comedy team saying something banal and serious to set up his partner for the punchline. “We just need a little more time to get rid of the farting cows and the airplanes.” It’s like Ben Franklin’s “Fart Proudly” essay, except they’re not really in on the joke.
And this is where we need Larson. The Green New Dealers don’t want to get rid all of the cows because bovine genocide is not part of the Commissar’s Ten-Year Plan. But fear not, we’ll get there one day. And even the farters have a little more than a decade to get their affairs in order. But make no mistake: We’re coming for you flatulators (shut up, I need that to be a word). We’re like Kurt Russell in Tombstone, and there’s gonna be a reckoning for you cud-chewing milk-beasts because while we like the cheese we get from you, you must be liquidated for the sin of cutting the cheese.
Leave aside that “Farting Cows and Airplanes” would make a great band name. Forget that it can be read in such way that the airplanes fart too. How many Far Side cartoons could we get out of the image of cows turning on each other for the sin of letting one rip? Remember, all cows fart. (I want to thank the Powers that Be for giving me the opportunity to write that sentence in the context of a serious public-policy debate.) So singling out just the “Farting Cows” as if they are a separate class of animals — the hooved climate kulaks of Al Gore’s Animal Farm remake — conjures images of cows throwing each other under the bus when the Green Commissars show up.
“It was Clarence!” Shouts a cross-legged cow.
“Shut up, Bessy! The Inspector knows that whoever smelt it dealt it!”
You know what you call the cows that successfully survive the purge? The laughing stock.
(On that note, as Dom DeLuise shouted from his trailer before coming out in a Speedo, let me apologize for what you’re about to see next.) It would be udder chaos as each cow tried to be neither seen nor herd because the steaks would be so high. I know I’m milking this by butchering a very serious topic. I don’t want to steer you wrong, and I understand why you might have beef with all of these puns that have moved pasture your lactose tolerance.
They Put It in Writing
Don’t have a cow — I know I am having too much fun with this. And, yes, I know that the methane from cattle is a serious issue. But come on. Just look at this whole thing from a hard-nosed political perspective and you have to see what an unbelievable gift this whole thing is to the very people whom believers in the Green New Deal hate the most.
If you tilt your head and squint, this whole thing looks a bit like Jerry Maguire.
If you’ve never seen the movie, you should. It’s good. But I’m going to assume you did and not recap the whole thing. The kid of a hockey-player client makes sports-agent Jerry Maguire feel guilty about how he exploited his dad. Combined with a bout of indigestion, Jerry writes a 25-page manifesto on why his firm should have fewer clients. He distributes the memo to all of his partners and they all applaud, knowing in their cynical hearts that he signed his own career death-warrant. Soon, he’s asked out to lunch by his Beta — excuse me, Beto O’Rourke-esque partner Bob Sugar to get the bad news. “You did this to yourself. You said ‘fewer clients.’ You put it all on paper,” Sugar explains.
Later, Jerry realizes the full scope of his screw-up and why he’s “cloaked in failure.”
They will teach my story to other agents on “do not do this” day in agent school. Why? Lets recap. Because a hockey player’s kid made me feel like a superficial jerk, I had two slices of bad pizza, went to bed, grew a conscience and wrote a 25-page Manifesto of Doom!
Now, I know some of you are thinking, “How’s that armadillo doing?” He’s fine. Don’t worry. I also know that others of you are thinking that I self-owned myself because Jerry Maguire has a happy ending. Well, here’s the thing: This isn’t a movie.
I’m not going to go over all of the reasons why anything like the Green New Deal will never happen — though I covered a couple in my column. All you have to do is contemplate the tens of millions of jobs — automotive, oil and gas, manufacturing, agricultural — that would be destroyed to understand why politically the Green New Deal, as proposed, might as well be a call to mandate that vegan unicorns crap iPhones. And you can promise to tackle farting cows and planes down the road all you like, it won’t sound any more reasonable to the voters who decide every election. I mean, it’s never a good sign when Nancy Pelosi — who considers climate change her defining issue — brushes you off like she’s a high school principal handed a student petition to abolish homework.
And yeah, I know, the Green New Dealers have an answer: Think of all the jobs we’d create building a new electric grid and high-speed rail system, retrofitting every building in the United States, not to mention the Great Round-Up of the Gassy Cows.
Even if one were to take all of that seriously — an if larger than Egon’s hypothetical Twinkie in Ghostbusters — you don’t have to be Mancur Olsen to understand that the interests invested in the economy as it is aren’t going to bite at your offer of magic beans, and not just because beans make you fart.
Don’t Uncork the Champagne
Nancy Pelosi has many faults, but she understands the facts on the ground. It was Pelosi more than Obama who pulled off Obamacare because she understood that you have to co-opt the “stakeholders,” not declare war on them, to achieve anything significant. She knows that if she were to embrace the Green New Deal (or Medicare for All) it would be the greatest gift she could give to Donald Trump and the GOP, because the stakeholders would stampede, like a herd of cattle fleeing the fart police, to the party that promises to save them.
There’s a reason President Trump proclaimed in the State of the Union last year a few days ago, “Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.” If Trump is going to get reelected — another giant-Twinkie-sized if in my opinion — he needs to reignite the Flight 93 Binary Choice panic that allowed him to pull off his win in the Electoral College last time. (As of now, there’s almost zero chance he can win the popular vote.) The White House is reportedly — and understandably — giddy over the Dems’ lurch left. Kamala Harris recently told Jake Tapper that she would like to erase the insurance plans of more than 100 million Americans and destroy private insurance companies wholesale. Where will those voters and insurance PAC dollars go if they took her seriously?
Yet none of this means all is good with the world. Many conservatives — including yours truly — are having great fun watching leading Democrats embrace something that can so easily be turned against them.
It’s a quaint memory now, but the goal of the conservative movement was not to make the GOP more conservative. That was step one in a two-part plan. The real goal was to make the country more conservative. That requires moving the center of gravity in politics rightward. How does that project look today?
So while it may be good news in the short-term for Republican politicians for the Democrats to veer wildly to the left, it’s not good news for the country or our cause that conservatism has been redefined as Trumpism for millions of Americans (including millions of conservatives). When large swaths of young voters — the largest bloc of voters in America — look to someone like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as their spokesperson, the Overton window moves in a direction conservatives should not celebrate because it is likely to slam shut on our squishy bits. Many of the people spinning the largely frivolous Trump State of the Union as a masterstroke are implicitly endorsing his moves leftward on legal immigration, infrastructure, trade, paid family leave, and — I would argue — foreign policy.
The larger point is that when you ask for and get a “disruptor” in the Oval Office, you don’t necessarily get to choose the form of the disruptions you get. Conjure a Stay Puft Man or Godzilla all you like, there’s no guarantee that the behemoth will only smash the things you want smashed. Retaining walls that serve valuable purposes will likely get smashed, too.
The Democrats have become radicalized in no small part because of their hatred of Donald Trump. And because that is the defining mindset of the Left these days, it creates breathing room for other forms of radicalism. The people pushing Trump to declare a national emergency to build his wall will undoubtedly rationalize the move on the grounds that he was elected to be a disruptor and the fact that the Democrats are so “obstructionist.” Maybe he’ll get the wall, maybe he won’t. But he will leave in his path enough flattened barriers to executive power that the next Democrat will have no problem using the exact same talking points for her or his emergency declaration. (As I write in the new cover story for National Review, the Left is much better, and has a far richer history, at declaring national emergencies to justify its power grabs.)
More broadly, the Trump years may mark some significant policy and political victories, but culturally it has been a boon for the Left. Just in the last week or so, we’ve seen the Democrats come closer than ever to literally — not figuratively — endorsing infanticide and socialism. Again, that’s arguably good news for partisans looking at the next election, but it’s a nightmare in the larger context, in part because the Democrats could still win despite that baggage. And while the Unicorn Caucus will never get everything that it wants, you can come well short of the slaughter of the farting cows and still do profound damage to the country.
Various & Sundry
Canine Update: It’s generally been a good week on the dogger front, though last night Zoë got angry about all of the attention I was giving Pip. People following my dog tweets understandably think Pippa is the star of the Goldberg Canine Show because she brings so much action, but the truth is Zoë is still the alpha and gets the alpha’s share of the spoils. And sometimes, she’s even the star on Twitter. Still, Pippa was feeling good about herself because she conquered a personal goal earlier in the day. And she gets her share of attention too. Oh and here’s a special treat. While cleaning up my hard drive I found some old Puppy pics of Zoë.
The real challenge on this front is meeting the unexpected demand for Fafoon content. Fafoon is one of my mom’s three cats and I’m constantly asked for more Fafoon tweets (mostly by @ComfortablySmug). Since I’m only up at grandma’s so often, it can be difficult to make supply meet demand.
I’ll be on Face the Nation this Sunday.
As I mentioned above, I have the cover essay in the new issue of National Review (which prompted Rich Lowry, for the first time ever I believe, to cite something I wrote as one of his Editor’s Picks on the Editor’s podcast. Though he did deliciously grumble about my shots at nationalism).
We’ve had a string of great Remnant podcasts of late, including two this week with Noah Rothman and Daniel Hannan.
ICYMI . . .