The most anti-Trump conservative media outlet, The Weekly Standard, was shut down Friday after a 23-year run, by its owner, GOP megadonor Philip Anschutz.
The event underscores the demise of an independent conservative movement built around ideas — as the Republican party increasingly rallies around the president, and conservative “never Trumpers” abandon both the party and the label “conservative.”
Indeed, in an email to staff, Editor-in-chief Stephen Hayes implied that it was opposition to Trump that doomed the magazine. “Many media outlets have responded to the challenges of the moment by prioritizing affirmation over information, giving into the pull of polarization.”
In a thinly-veiled swipe at America’s most fact-challenged President, Hayes added, “I’m proud that we’ve remained both conservative and independent, providing substantive reporting and analysis based on facts, logic and reason.”
Trump, on the other hand, danced on the magazine’s grave in a tweet Saturday morning, calling it “pathetic and dishonest” and proclaiming “May it rest in peace!”
The pathetic and dishonest Weekly Standard, run by failed prognosticator Bill Kristol (who, like many others, never had a clue), is flat broke and out of business. Too bad. May it rest in peace!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 15, 2018
Bill Kristol — founder and editor-at-large of The Weekly Standard — was one of the leaders of the “Never Trump” movement.
“Donald Trump is in many ways a bad president—bad for the country, bad for conservatism, bad for the Republican party,” Kristol wrote in the magazine this summer. “His sway over party and policy should be limited as much as is feasible and his dominance of our politics not extended any longer than necessary.”
Many other conservatives have put it more bluntly. “Did I somehow contribute to the rise of this dark force in American life with my advocacy for conservatism?” asks former Wall Street Journal opinion editor Max Boot in his recent book, “The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right.”
Boot, an adviser to John McCain and Marco Rubio during their presidential campaigns, admits bluntly: “Upon closer examination, it’s obvious that the whole history of modern conservatism is permeated with racism, extremism, conspiracy-mongering, ignorance, isolationism, and know-nothingism.”
And so he explains, “I now prefer to think of myself as a classical liberal.”
Similarly, Charles Jay Sykes, a daily conservative talkshow host for almost a quarter-century, explained in his 2017 book, “How the Right Lost Its Mind,” why he left his long time job.
“There came a moment” in the 2016 campaign, he writes, “when I realized that conservatives had created an alternative reality bubble and that I had perhaps helped shape it.” He explains, “For years, we ignored the birthers, the racists, the truthers, and other conspiracy theorists.”
Perhaps most important, “In this binary tribal world, where everything is at stake,” Sykes wrote, “there is no room for quibbles about character, or truth, or principles. If everything — the Supreme Court, the fate of Western civilization, the survival of the planet — depends on tribal victory, then nothing else really matters.”
Of course, this closing of the conservative mind to truth started a long time ago. Indeed, the tribal rejection of climate science began long before Donald Trump called it a hoax.
The Weekly Standard itself has long denied the reality of climate change. In 2017 it published an article headlined “Dadaist Science,” which stated absurdly, “Look under the hood on climate change ‘science’ and what you see isn’t pretty.”
Back in 2009, ThinkProgress reported that the magazine misrepresented an MIT professor’s study estimating the costs of cap-and-trade. At the time, the professor told ThinkProgress that “the Weekly Standard reporter ‘feigned stupidity’ in an effort to elicit answers that could be taken out of context and misrepresented.”
So, no one has to mourn the death of The Weekly Standard.
In a world where climate science that is accepted by every other country in the world — and 97% of climate scientists — can be rejected by conservatives, acceptance of Donald Trump is simply the final step in the closing of the conservative mind.