Matt Continetti and the Conservative Id

Matt ContinettiEd Kilgore brought my attention to a rant by Matt Continetti in the Washington Free Beacon, Dialing It In. Basically, Continetti is upset that President Obama is continuing to have a good time and not spending all his time wringing his hands about all the fake scandals that Fox News and idiot writers at the Washington Free Beacon are obsessed with. It’s really quite a silly article.

This is especially true, when you consider that this is almost a journalistic genre. Around the same time in Ronald Reagan’s presidency, Richard Restak wrote an OpEd arguing that Reagan wasn’t suffering from senility, “[I]f the president can be faulted for his mental performance, it is entirely likely that the flaw results not from dementia but from laziness.” And note, this was when Reagan was embroiled in a very real scandal: the arms-for-hostages deal with Iran. But what’s a journalist to do? You write the same stuff over and over because these websites aren’t going fill themselves!

What struck me was Continetti’s imagination of what the president talks to his liberal friends about at these cocktail parties that he goes to rather than dealing with the fact that Susan Rice said something that turned out to be wrong on some Sunday news shows. Get ready for the unleashing of the conservative id:

Does it take a few drinks to get things going? I imagine that there is plenty of hesitant and anodyne talk about children, about movies, about basketball, about the weather. When the discussion turns to domestic or foreign affairs, though, the cliches must be stifling: how can the Republicans be so obstructionist and rude and Luddite, what happened to the nice moderate conservatives they used to have in the Eisenhower and George HW Bush administrations, have you seen the latest essays by Ezra Klein and Michael Tomasky and Ta-Nehisi Coates, who cares what the media says, EJ Dionne says you are doing A-OK, what’s it like to hold the nuclear football, have you been to Eric Ripert’s newest restaurant, weren’t the Afghan and Iraq wars terrible mistakes, people have got to recognize America can’t go its own way in today’s integrated, global, flat world, the Wire is Shakespearean, what are you going to do about the polar bears, we need to appreciate the value of other cultures, America doesn’t have such a clean record itself you know, my son just took a job in Dubai, wasn’t Sheryl Sandberg brilliant in her City Colleges of Chicago commencement speech, let’s touch base on the new youth outreach project Mark Zuckerberg is standing up, do you watch Mad Men, politics is a relay race and we just have to keep going until we hand the baton to the next person, where do you come up with all of those beautiful words, we leave for Beijing next week, Putin doesn’t understand how we do things in the twenty-first century, God that Bibi is so unreasonable, who are your favorite authors, it’s time for a real conversation about race, is Homeland like real life, this is the sushi place to go to in Los Angeles, you are a real role model for young men not only in this country but all around the world, I watch House of Cards but my wife prefers Orange is the New Black.

Let’s leave aside the stupid political talking points. I know that both Democrats and Republicans do that kind of thing when they are together. The focus here isn’t on politics. It is on cultural signifiers. Eric Ripert and the litany of television shows that appeal not to liberals but to urbanites. Continetti is doing the regular guy conservative rap, but in reverse. Instead of “I’m into fast cars, guns, and big boobs” he gives us “They’re into Volvos, lattes, and sushi.” How does he know they talk about The Wire and Mad Men and Homeland and House of Cards and Orange is the New Black? Because all his friends are into them. After all, he’s the Columbia University graduate who has worked for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and The Financial Times. I’m sure he watches those shows. I’ve only seen a single episode of House of Cards and none of the other shows. I’m sure he has eaten at one or more of Eric Ripert’s restaurant. I’d never heard of him before. How can it be that he is the real American and I’m the America-hating liberal?

That’s the thing about conservatives: they are elitists. The majority of the rich vote Republican except in California and New York. They drive more Volvos, drink more lattes, and eat more sushi. A big part of their appeal to poor is this kind of social identification, even though it isn’t true. And someone as smart as Continetti knows this. But he’s more than willing to spew this nonsense to other conservative elites at the Washington Free Beacon, which I assure you is not read by blue collar workers in Mississippi.

Notice also the implication that Obama is out of touch. This is coming from a political movement that when it isn’t talking about keeping women pregnant and barefoot in the kitchen, is only interested in how much more money can be given to the rich. But no, it is Obama who is only listening to Ezra Klein and Michael Tomasky and Ta-Nehisi Coates and EJ Dionne—all men who have been rather critical of the president. But again, these are urbane intellectuals, and the point is to associate Obama with the not-real America—with that place that Sarah Palin does not represent.

This is what we get from a fairly serious conservative journalist. And it highlights what I wrote about last week, Hopeless Search for Honest Conservative. Because Matt Continetti is smart—there is no doubt of that. But he is not honest. He knows exactly what he’s doing. And it is indicative of the total vacuousness of conservative intellectual thought. They have nothing but made up scandals and claims that Democrats are out of touch because they watch the same television shows the Republicans do.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

2 thoughts on “Matt Continetti and the Conservative Id

  1. All this jackass did was provide his marginal commentary to a gossipy story that ran in Politico – what a fraud. He has no sources or research of his own and none of the work of other reporters. The smell of sour grapes just leaps off the computer screen.
    How ‘smart’ is this guy to be found writing anything under the banner of this cruddy excuse for a newspaper?? My bet is that he’s angling for a cushy think-tank office where he won’t have to do even this degree of ‘investigation’ – there he’ll be licensed to make any balmy claim he likes. And attend an endless circuit of right-wing cocktail parties and fundraisers where he can engage in the same pathetic banter he attributes to his adversaries in this pissy little whinefest.

  2. R.Ward – Actually, I think you’ve described his life already. There was a time when conservative think tanks did real work, but that isn’t really true anymore. Cato has said outright that if any of their research turns out to argue against libertarianism, they will bury it. But most don’t even do research; they just find better forms of propaganda.

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