Why The View’s search for a palatable Republican will fail
The View has had a problem ever since Megan McCain left her position as co-host last August. The daily talk show’s format features four women discussing current events. The women are meant to represent a diversity of, yes, views; customarily, one of them leans conservative. McCain, who is always quick to remind anyone who listens that she’s the daughter of the one-time Republican presidential candidate John McCain, fit the bill. She has solid Republican credentials, is a fierce right-winger on issues like reproductive choice but is also not a straight partisan. Rather, she positioned herself as a Never Trump Republican.
But over time McCain felt alienated from the show, claiming her liberal colleagues were bullying her. Finding a new McCain is proving difficult. For the last half year, her seat was filled with an confusing array of guest hosts, including S.E. Cupp, Alyssa Farah, Morgan Ortagus, Condoleezza Rice, Carly Fiorina, and Gretchen Carlson. Like McCain, many of these replacements hailed from the Trump-skeptical minority faction with the Republican party.
As Politico explains, the difficultly is in finding someone who holds right of center positions, but doesn’t voice ideas that are extreme enough to embarrass the show:
Sources close to the show said that the search has stalled as executives struggle to find a conservative cast-member who checks all the right boxes. They will not consider a Republican who is a denier of the 2020 election results, embraced the January 6 riots, or is seen as flirting too heavily with fringe conspiracy theories or the MAGA wing of the GOP. But at the same time, the host must have credibility with mainstream Republicans, many of whom still support DONALD TRUMP.
“The problem is that they bring people on under the mantle that this woman is a conservative, when they’re ‘Never Trump,’ so they don’t represent the country,” said one of the rotating guest hosts.
At the same time, the anti-Trump conservative can’t be seen as too chummy with the other co-hosts, as the network’s market-research shows that the audience wants to see the women spar.
Mickey Kaus, the liberal-turned-conservative pundit, puckishly recommended his friend Ann Coulter for the job. Kaus’s troll has some merit, since it highlights just how much The View is driven by a desire to create a fictional consensus. By any measure, Coulter, a best-selling author who has shaped the way Republicans think about issues like immigration, is a major right-wing voice. But she’s also an incendiary bigot.
In a polarized America, The View is trying to manufacture a reasonable conservatism that is a miniscule and an ever diminishing part of the political spectrum. They are trying to create out of thin air a conservatism that has no bearing on actual politics, because they prefer to keep alive the idea of reasonable discourse along a narrow spectrum—some disagreement is permitted between left and right, so long as it’s the center that holds. Just as they wouldn’t have Ann Coulter as the voice of the right, so they wouldn’t pick, say, socialists like Nina Turner or Elizabeth Bruenig to be the voice of the left.
I was reminded of the process by which David Brooks was hired to be a New York Times columnist. As New York magazine reported in 2010:
In 2003, Brooks got a call from New York Times editorial-page editor Gail Collins inviting him to lunch. Collins was looking for a conservative to replace outgoing columnist William Safire, but one who understood how liberals think. “I was looking for the kind of conservative writer that wouldn’t make our readers shriek and throw the paper out the window,” says Collins. “He was perfect.”
Brooks turned out to be a poor representative of conservatism. He voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 and Joe Biden in 2020. He now identifies as a moderate Democrat.
This manufacturing of consensus dates back to the start of the Cold War in the 1940s. It’s always done a disservice to the actual range of opinion in America, squeezing all acceptable opinion into a tight box. It’s also a journalistic disservice, since it obscures the actual stakes in political contexts. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend Ann Coulter as a host on The View, but she should be treated as a representative voice of the right and her opinions reported on. Conversely, it's a falsification to continue elevating Never Trumpers as if they were the true face of the Republican party rather than an vanquished faction.
(Edited by Emily M. Keeler)
End of the Year Review
I joined the journalist Eoin Higgins for a year end chat here.
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