Whenever I want to get “Lucretia” spun up, I say something like, “Pssst. . . I’ll need to check with Bill Kristol on that!” And then I sit back and open up a new bottle of peaty single-malt. But I did relent when she pointed out that Bill had lately embraced the idea that Democrats are best-suited to fix the country’s problems. Maybe he was just trolling again? Lucretia won’t let him off that easily:
For many conservatives who for years looked forward to the arrival of William Kristol’s Weekly Standard, expecting to devour cover-to-cover the excellent articles, analysis, and commentary, Kristol’s descent into near-fatal Trump Derangement Syndrome has been distressing, to say the least.
The rabid anti-Trump posture adopted by the Weekly Standard proved to be its undoing (I cancelled my subscription in December, 2016), but the cadre of NeverTrumpers doubled-down on their failure. Some still pretended to be conservatives, wanting to “save” the Republican Party and conservatism from Trump; others, like Kristol, aligned themselves clearly with the left in opposition not only to Trump but to any conservative so misguided and corrupt as to continue to support Trump populism or the Republican Party Trump dominates.
Kristol nowadays calls himself a well-wisher of the Democratic Party despite the “sub-optimal performances of it leaders,” writes a wistful column in the laughable, “no tribal prejudices” Bulwark. The Democratic Party faces challenges: the party needs to defend (urgently!) democracy, moderation, and the rule of law; and the party needs to advance (urgently!) major reforms in our broken or damaged institutions.
This is major league self-delusion. Does Kristol really not understand that “democracy” for the Democratic Party simply means “we win and we get our way”? Anything else is not democracy. Voter integrity? If that means Democrats lose, then it’s voter suppression and therefore racism. Moderation? Kristol lists all the ways Democrats need to reform our institutions, as if it were not Democrats who intentionally intended to destroy those institutions to advance their own political power. Kristol calls on Democrats to defend congressional government while pledging to reform Congress: does he not recall that Democrats are those willing to destroy longstanding norms such as the filibuster to force through their unpopular agendas? He calls on Democrats to defend law and order: does he not recall that it was Democrats who encouraged the violent protests allegedly in response to the police killing of a violent, fentanyl-crazed felon and the demand to defund the police?
Kristol calls on Democrats to “to defend the rule of law while being appropriately critical of the current Supreme Court.” This is especially disingenuous on multiple levels: it has become abundantly clear that Democrats define the rule of law as simply punishing their political enemies (e.g., the treatment of the January 6 protestors versus the treatment of Stephen Colbert’s film crew illegally trespassing the halls of Congress). With respect to the Supreme Court, I suppose it was necessary for Kristol to make that obsequious comment; after all, if Kristol were to admit that the Court’s recent rulings do in fact advance the rule of law by returning political power to the appropriate venues for exercising that power (the states, Congress, the American people), he would have to admit that Trump’s appointments to the Court were salutary—something his TDS would never allow. So Kristol is willing to pretend he never favored a conservative understanding of the proper role of the Supreme Court. He may be a little uncomfortable with the lack of moderation in some Democratic methods of protest against the overturning of Roe, for instance, but he can certainly understand the frustration!
Kristol believes that the Biden Administration had the right idea with Build Back Better, because the country really did need to build back after the Trump years and the pandemic. The real problem, of course, is that the country was so thoroughly destroyed by Trump that the challenges we face are very, very serious. And we will need serious, thoughtful Democratic Party leadership, presidential leadership, to meet those challenges. What Kristol does not say, but also does not deny, is that there is no one currently waiting in the wings in the Democratic Party who is capable of providing that kind of leadership. His silence on that point may be his only honest moment in the whole piece.