Tucker Carlson: Trump-ism without Trump. By Benjamin Wallace-Wells, in the leftish New Yorker.
When Tucker Carlson was fired from Fox News last week … the most acute notes of regret came from young conservative intellectuals who had seen his nightly hour of programming as an interesting, and perhaps essential, experiment in what right-wing populism could be.
“The Tucker Realignment,” Ross Douthat called that experiment, in the Times, adding that young conservatives “increasingly start out where Carlson ended up — in a posture of reflexive distrust, where if an important American institution takes a position, the place to be is probably on the other side.”
Part of what was appealing about Carlson’s point of view to thinkers on the right was that, in his curiosity about fringe ideas and his occasional highlighting of antiwar (Ukraine) and anti-corporate (Silicon Valley) themes, he was testing out a form of conservative populism that did not hinge on Donald Trump personally.
Michael Brendan Dougherty, of National Review Online, wrote, “Since January 2016, Tucker Carlson has consistently and relentlessly advanced one thesis about American politics: ‘This isn’t about Donald Trump, but our corrupt liberal elite.’ ”
Ever since Trump lost first the political initiative, in the twists of a COVID crisis that he could never get ahead of, and then the Presidency, to Joe Biden, Carlson’s programs have been where the right’s future was incubated …
After Senator Ted Cruz called the January 6th insurrection a “violent terrorist attack,” Carlson forced him to walk back that comment. Carlson grilled Governor Greg Abbott, of Texas, about why he hadn’t called up more National Guard soldiers to the border, and Abbott did so. The host also suggested that, if people who live in places like Martha’s Vineyard were so keen on diversity, someone should send undocumented immigrants there. Not long afterward, Governor Ron DeSantis, of Florida, took him up on it. …
A future mass movement? This lefty would certainly not want that to be the case, trying to craft reality as follows:
The big question for the G.O.P. during the Biden era is whether all this adds up to a viable platform for a major political party. How many people are there, really, who see the world the way Carlson does?
His audience — about three million viewers — was formidable by the standards of cable news. But mainstream advertisers largely avoided the show; commercial breaks involved a heavy dose of MyPillow.com.
When Rupert Murdoch, Fox’s corporate chairman, decided to fire Carlson, he did so without any public explanation. … Maybe the thought of paying a person twenty million dollars a year to rage against élites had run its course. Or maybe Murdoch, who is ninety-two, and reportedly recently broke off an engagement to a conservative radio host who referred to Carlson as a “messenger from God,” was just sick of hearing about the guy. …
Trump-ism without Trump:
After the Trump earthquake, Republican politicians still needed ideas, but, in truth, the ones they took from Carlson mostly required only that they intensify positions they already held. It reflects both on Carlson and on the G.O.P. that his occasional rants against corporations, say, have not had much impact on the Party’s policies. But when he showed Republicans places where they might weaponize a more aggressive social traditionalism and nativism, and how they might make use of distrust, they paid close attention. …
The conservative movement will be less interesting without Carlson in its most prominent media seat, but in the end he didn’t shift the movement very far.
Conservatism for now comes in just two slightly different variations. There is Trumpism with Trump, and there is Trumpism without him.
Tucker for President?