The Cushy Life of the Rightwinger

If you’re a connoisseur of people pointing out that Jonah Goldberg isn’t a very intelligent man while simultaneously being too polite to come out and say so directly, I’d highly recommend this post from Conor Friedersdorf.

One thread of the argument I’m personally interested in, however, is Goldberg’s apparent belief that it’s somehow extremely difficult for a young conservative with orthodox views “to break-in at places like NR, the Weekly Standard, the Wall Street Journal, etc.” One could be snide and observe that the very fact that Jonah Goldberg (!) was able to break into those venues is indication enough that it’s in fact quite easy, but to be fair to other National Review writers when you’re talking about a case that extreme you actually do need a boost from nepotism.

At any rate, it’s a couple of years old but I think this Julian Sanchez post has the correct take on this issue. For those who don’t know him, Julian’s a libertarian who’s worked at Reason and Cato but mostly focuses on liberal-friendly issues (surveillance, etc.) so he combines real familiarity with the right-of-center institutional nexus with substantial social and psychological distance from it. And as he wrote:

If you’re willing to toe a straight party line, on the other hand, let’s face it, you can be pretty damn mediocre and still carve out a nice little niche for yourself at any one of a welter of generously funded ideological publications and think tanks. Sure, it’s a smaller pond, but you get to be a relatively big fish. You’ll always have a book deal waiting at Regnery, a warm guest chair on Fox, editors at NR and the Weekly Standard eager to look at your pitches, handsome honoraria on your speaking tour of College Republican groups, and in your golden years, an undemanding sinecure as the Senior Olin Fellow at the Institute for Real ‘Murriken Studies.

This is both a cost and a benefit of the fact that the conservative movement has built an enormous institutional apparatus. There’s this nice, very cushy gravy train out there awaiting anyone who wants to be a loyal footsoldier and one consequence of that is that the standards in terms of the personnel are quite low.