Tuckernaught? Tuckpocalypse? Carlsnarok? Okay, okay, I’ll stop now.
Tucker Carlson’s cable-tv show begins identically each night. After the words “Good evening and welcome to Tucker Carlson Tonight”—always intoned and inflected exactly the same way—the host launches into an opening monologue on the news of the day, or what he thinks ought to be the news of the day.
On January 2, 2019, though, there was no news. So Carlson used the holiday lull to deliver a non-stop, 15-minute, 2,571-word evisceration of America’s ruling class—political, industrial, financial, intellectual, and cultural. Our rulers, he insisted, had failed at their ostensible tasks: to improve the health of the country and the lives of its citizens.
The show is usually leavened throughout with puckish humor. Not that night; Carlson was deadly serious. He laid at the feet of our ruling class a devastating litany of failure: the destruction of the family, skyrocketing out-of-wedlock births, the opioid crisis, rampant male unemployment, the sleazy effort to anesthetize the dispossessed with payday loans and pot, increasing financialization and techification of the economy and resultant wealth concentration, and foreign war without purpose, strategy, victory, or end.
But have our rulers really failed? Not if one understands, Carlson explained, that their real aim is to enrich themselves and maintain their power: “We are ruled by mercenaries who feel no long-term obligation to the people they rule.”
Within a day or two, the speech had gone viral. Friend and enemy alike referred to it simply as “Tucker’s Monologue.” Everyone knew instantly which was meant. To those sympathetic, here was a quasi-Trumpist rallying cry not merely for a new Right, but also for millions of apolitical Americans who feel—rightly—abandoned, even preyed upon, by the status quo. By contrast, those opposed sensed a clear danger: a message that—unlike the stale tenets of Republican-study-group, think-tank conservatism—might actually have a chance of inspiring and creating a new majority.
He’s certainly iconoclastic now. The ways in which he breaks—on his nightly show and in bestselling book, Ship of Fools—with the rightist iron triangle of Republican politicians, conservative donors, and the magazine-think tank industrial complex are legion.
Why is capital taxed at half the rate of labor, Carlson asks, and is manifestly unsatisfied by the conventional Right’s answer that “investment” is necessary for “growth and innovation.” What good are the latter, he further asks, if all their gains accrue to a narrowing upper slice while those taxed double for working (assuming they can find jobs) can’t afford to share in the supposed glories of late-stage capitalism?
Why are we still making trade deals, three decades (at least) into a manufacturing decline that has devastated entire American industries and hollowed out many of our communities, all the while enriching some of our most determined foes? Why do our politicians insist on getting us into wars we not only can’t win but for which they can’t even define victory?
Above all, why—at a population of 330 million and climbing, with as many as 22 million here illegally—do our elites refuse to do anything whatsoever to control our borders? Indeed, why do they thwart, at every turn, President Trump on this very issue and attack anyone who speaks up for any limit on immigration whatsoever?
What, specifically, changed the mind of the formerly bow-tied boy-Buckley (or as a friend put it to me, “typical conservative dorkwad”) and launched Carlson toward becoming the leading light of a new conservative movement?
That’s just the opening of a Michael Anton review and analysis which, while lengthy, is a rockin’ good read nonetheless. Part of what makes it so enjoyable is the unvarnished glee with which Anton recounts (and skewers) the Old Guard’s sniffy condescension towards Carlson:
Within a day of Tucker’s Monologue, the “Right” rallied—not of course to denounce the decidedly unconservative trends Carlson complained about, but to attack Carlson himself. “Anyone who thinks the health of a nation can be summed up in GDP is an idiot,” Carlson had said. Right on cue, as if to trumpet their idiocy, in rushed a platoon of policy wonks to defend the sanctity of markets and explain why creative destruction should and must apply every bit as much to people, families, and societies as it did to the buggy whip industry.
Bret Stephens devoted an entire column to riffing on a Monty Python movie, as if Carlson’s meaning were such a joke no serious refutation was warranted. (Then why devote an entire column to it?) It’s worth noting that the proffered catalogue of elite beneficence—“capital financing, deregulation, access to global markets, a stable and predictable regulatory and legal environment, IRAs and 401(k)s, talented immigrants, global cities, good food, universities that are the envy of the world, record-making growth and a world in which there’s almost no chance of my children being conscripted to fight a war”—while no doubt offered with utmost sincerely, reads like self-parody.
“The Right should reject Tucker Carlson’s victimhood populism” whinged David French, who, when not exploring a presidential campaign, never misses an opportunity to moralistically lambaste those to his right.
Later, Anton merrily deals out equally resounding slaps upside the empty heads of bewildered, hapless cucks Max Boot and Bill Kristol. Like I said, it’s a long piece, but stick with it to the end. It’s a sheer delight to read, brim-full of penetrating insight, clear-eyed analysis, and a bunch of good, toothsome lines to boot.