Yesterday, several writers were fired from RedState. All of them were fierce Trump critics. While some Trump critics remain at the site, no Trump supporters were fired.
A common reaction to this news goes like this: No problem! Trump haters can get a job anywhere they want! They can just go to ABC, NBC, CBS, NYT, WaPo, LAT, CNN, or any number of other places! The claim is made that opposing Trump is somehow a resume enhancer.
This is wrong, and I thought I’d set aside some time to quote Erick Erickson at length about just how wrong it is:
When I uninvited Donald Trump from the RedState Gathering in 2015, I got death threats, harassment, and also saw the more than 30,000 people unsubscribe from the daily email I was sending at the time. That 30,000 came in only a few weeks.
After saying that I could not support the man for President, I pretty much ensured my days filling in on national talk radio were over for the time being. But not only that, it also played a part in disrupting my career advancement in talk radio to some degree. My bosses were quite worried about my own show, which is significant given its time slot. A few things that seemed just on the horizon have disappeared for now. Thankfully, though, God was watching over me and I’m actually in a stronger position now than before. More on that in a minute.
Over the course of the campaign in 2016, we had people show up at our home to threaten us. We had armed guards at the house for a while. My kids were harassed in the store. More than once they came home in tears because other kids were telling them I was going to get killed or that their parents hated me. I got yelled at in the Atlanta airport while peeing by some angry Trump supporter.
We got harassed in church and stopped going for a while. A woman in a Bible study told my wife she wanted to slap me across the face My seminary got calls from people demanding I be expelled. And on and on it went. When I nearly died in 2016, I got notes from people upset I was still alive. When I announced my wife had an incurable form of lung cancer, some cheered. All were directed from supposedly evangelical Trump supporters convinced God was punishing me for not siding with his chosen one. For a while, given the nature of what we were getting in the mail, my kids had to stop checking it.
When my Fox contract came up, not only did I not want to stay, but Fox made clear they had no use for me. I had jumped from CNN to Fox with a number of promises made, none of which were kept and then wound up hardly ever getting on. After saying I could not support Trump, the purpose of my Fox contract became more about keeping me off anyone’s television screen than putting me on. When I did go on in 2016, I frequently found myself getting called a traitor by some Trump humping celebrity. After the election, that stopped, but most of my appearances did too except from a few kind producers with whom I had become friends.
I have no TV contract now and have literally been on more in the past three three months than in the past year at Fox, though all of it unpaid. Of course, much of the rest of the media prefers Republicans who will only blast the GOP and I don’t do that anymore than mindlessly praise Trump.
Compare that to the soul-searching that Ace of Spades did when he contemplated the future direction of his blog:
Some time ago I faced the choice of doing an anti-Trump-but-pro-conservative blog, or getting on board with Trump. (The latter turned out to be easier than I thought, as the idea of President Hillary Clinton got my partisan dander up.)
But when I was contemplating the idea of a blog that was allegedly pro-conservative while simultaneously being against the key player (flaws and all) of the actual on-the-ground real-world conservative movement, I realized: This makes no sense.
What’s the audience for that? How many readers would that attract?
. . . .
The old expression for this “a feathered fish” — a feathered fish can’t fly, and the feathers weight it down so that it also can’t swim. It’s a blend of two inconsistent things that results in a non-viable hybrid for which there is little audience.
Eh. I think (and long thought) this business model was non-viable but I don’t wish any ill on the fired people and I hope they can find jobs somewhere.
But I still think that, on strictly practical terms, they really have to decide if they’re birds or fish if they want to get anywhere.
I’ve bolded that last part, with the phrase “get anywhere,” because I think it’s central to Ace’s world view.
By “get anywhere” Ace means “get clicks” — which translate to money in the “business model” that he describes. Ace is refreshingly forthright here, which is what I like about Ace at his best: he’ll be brutally honest about some things that other people wouldn’t. He’s not talking about his message primarily in terms of what he believes; his primary focus is economic. And the message is: if you want a lot of readers, you gotta be on the Trump train. Of course, once you make that decision, you can easily rationalize the various ways in which you ignore or minimize the dumb stuff Trump does. After all, you’re just being hard-headed and realistic — much in the same way that settling with a convicted bomber and perjurer like Brett Kimberlin, which Ace also did, can be viewed as a hard-headed and realistic decision when the alternative looks costly or risky.
Like Ace, Erick Erickson also depends on audience for his income. He made a different choice, and it’s not working out well for him financially. But even though he struggles to make ends meet, he seems at peace with his decision — because for him, what it means to “get anywhere” is different from what Ace means.
What Erick is doing is far more admirable than what I’m doing. It’s relatively easy for me to just say what I believe. Sure, my comments section fills up with vitriol from people disappointed that I won’t jump on board. But, unlike Erick, I don’t depend on my political punditry to make my living. The money from RedState in particular was nice, and made things easier, but we’ll eat and pay our mortgage without it.
But don’t pretend that my saying what I think is financially positive, or a “resume enhancer.” Of course it’s not. Many readers have left, because they simply can’t deal with the fact that I regularly criticize Trump.
By the way, I often see people try to justify their abandoning me on grounds more principled than “I don’t like it when you criticize Trump.” That sounds silly, so they come up with various rationalizations. But those rationalizations are all provably false. For instance, people will say things like: You seem to insult everyone who supports Trump! So then I go and dig up posts where I said I respect people who voted for Trump:
I have always said — always — that I fully understood why someone would vote Trump in a general election against Hillary Clinton. (If you voted for him in the primaries, that’s a different discussion entirely.) I’ve never criticized a general election vote for Trump. I’ve never criticized the people who cast that vote. . . . I respect people who cast a vote for Donald Trump to avoid Hillary Clinton becoming President.
Then they say: OK, but you never ever praise Donald Trump for what he does right! So then I go dig up my posts where I praise him for what he did right, like nominating Gorsuch:
Tonight, I am proud of President Trump, without reservation.
Or other issues:
[S]o far, he’s been more conservative than I expected. Much of that is the flag-waving I-love-a-parade brand of conservatism that doesn’t excite me much, but a sizable chunk is real conservatism: almost (almost) uniformly excellent judges, reduction of regulation, etc. Notably, so far — as long as he doesn’t get us into a stupid war — his policies have been a clear improvement on what we would have gotten from a Hillary Clinton.
[T]here’s plenty to like. The executive order on immigration, while concededly poorly thought through and chaotically rolled out, is a fulfillment of an important campaign promise to keep our country safe. He has made an incredibly solid Supreme Court pick. Many of his cabinet picks have been encouraging. And he seems to be taking steps to rein in regulations, even if his manner in doing so has been ham-handed and ridiculous.
Much of the praise is mixed in with criticism. And that’s the part that the flouncers don’t like. They simply can’t handle reading criticism of Trump.
So why do I keep doing it when a lot of people don’t like it?
The answer is pretty simple. I say what I think. Sure, I criticize Trump far, far more often than I praise him. Why? Because I think he deserves criticism far, far more often than he deserves praise. I still think he is unfit to be president — morally, intellectually, and temperamentally. That’s what I actually think. So, I just say what I think.
Saying what I actually think hasn’t gotten me a “gig” at the New York Times or CNN. It is not a resume enhancer. In the end, it has gotten me fired from RedState. Make no mistake: that’s going to be a hit to my pocketbook, at a time when I am sending my first child to college. But it’s nothing like the financial difficulties that Erick Erickson is going through — or that people like Susan Wright and Caleb Howe, also fired for criticizing Trump, are going through. Those folks depended on that income, and now they have to find something else.
But the one thing I can say about Erick, and that I can also say about everyone else who was fired yesterday, is that their view of what it means to “get anywhere” is not about getting clicks or eyeballs or TV appearances. It’s about saying what they believe and letting the chips fall where they may. That is not a popular position, but it’s the position they chose.
And it’s not a position that makes them rich. So stop claiming that what they did is easy. It isn’t. It just isn’t.
[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]