It was just the last spade of dirt.
(Actually, RedState, the brand, isn’t dead, but I’ll discuss that last. There are other lessons to learn first.)
Before #NeverTrump there was #NoRonPaulNoTime, #NeverPalin and #NeverHermanCain.
In the end, the likely cause of RedState’s demise was hubris and bad manners sandwiched between two slices of stale elitist and class envy sour dough.
“The Jewel in the Crown” was a great PBS drama series based on Paul Scott’s Raj Quartet, about the last days of the British Empire in India. It’s theme was how lower-middle class English could come to India and land jobs in the civil service, then take on airs of genuine British aristocracy, both to each other and the bottom-dwelling native Indian population. It was not a comedy. The “star” of the series was a Capt Ronald Merrick, the police superintendent, who was just such a “grammar school” graduate who saw in his posting to India a chance to rise the ladder.
In a race-baiting exchange Merrick once asked an English gentleman, “Are you one of those people who think that if you teach an Indian the rules of cricket he’ll become an English gentleman?” To which the man replied, “Hardly sir. I know quite a few English gentlemen who play cricket brilliantly but are absolute shits.”
Played brilliantly by Tim Pigot-Smith, I found elements of Ronald Merrick in nearly everyone I came across at RedState, some from their posts, others in their interactions with commenters on RedState, others from private emails, and a few even in face-to-face conversation. The Good at RedState were easy to identify as they wore badges of life achievements before they entered the world of political polemics, while the Bad and the Ugly were almost uniformly separated from the Good by 20-25 years and a Rho Sigma Phi, PΣΦ. fraternity membership card,
The Good were outnumbered and didn’t live in the frat house, where every fault-line in conservatism could be found, only, when I first visited RedState, no one had any idea that such fault-lines existed. “Republican” and “conservative” were largely believed to have many points of commonality. It was inferred that taking up the call of conservatism involved study and fealty to a core set of principles, where some disagreement might exist only along the edges, but never at its core. That there might be conservative poseurs out there, with totally mercenary purposes, never crossed anyone’s mind. Now they are everywhere.
In 2008 no one dreamed that conservatism, for some, meant no more than a pledge written on the back of a frat membership card, that membership defined by the camaraderie of its members, the endless stream of new people they coud make fun of, and, of course the great Saturday night beer keggers. BFF’s.
In 2009 I was 64, while at RedState, I first paused to wonder how a 30-something might define his/her conservatism compared to my own. You see, my youngest son is a little older then Erick Erickson and there was a generational difference, both intellectually and practically, that separated us. Since he entered college in the late 80s; he’d wanted nothing to do with his family’s Oldsmobile, and had been rather loud and clear about it. So I already had skin in the game.
I’ve been writing full time now for about ten years, and a lot of that writing has been dedicated to that single subject; how 25-year olds in 2008 and 25-year old in 2018, see America, (and all the things that word implies), compared to my generation when American exceptionalism was a by-word even among the intellectual elites.
My son’s almost 44 now, a leukemia survivor, so has grown up a lot since McCain caused me to holster my pride and hold my gag reflex in 2008. I got to stay with him 2 weeks at a time for over two years, during his recovery, shutting down my business to stay with him while he was undergoing chemo. When his friends came to visit I got a sense of how they felt about the Them’s in their world of Us.
Where and how they learned this disdain, public schools, university?, but certainly not at home, has been a subject I’ve been interested in studying ever since.
I wrote a couple of posts a week at RedState but was never paid. We were called “Diarists”, which were sort of like those greeters at the YMCA who have a badge that says “Volunteer”. RS had a team of editors, moderators, and behind the scenes tech people, plus a daily briefing from Erickson. It was very popular, and for awhile at least, very writer-friendly. Maybe too friendly, since on many days, diarists out-drew the staff for readers, according to people I know who counted clicks.
How RS staffers were paid, I never knew. I met several of them and couldn’t help but notice that the older they were, the more mature their on-line writing and conduct seemed to be. For the younger ones, their haughtiness seemed to increase with their diminished age. Some, as you know, came out early against Trump, and one even volunteered to work for Hillary earning him some face-time on CNN.
But in the years I wrote there, 2009-2011, I paid a little attention to the inside politics at RedState, except to note how poorly supervised it was due to the daily outpouring of smug bad manners delivered toward many, many readers. At its heart I think RedState was designed to be a mutual admiration society for the amusement of its fraternity membership and select clientele. If the subject of free-and-open discussion were brought up, I’m sure they chuckled much as the faculty at Berkeley does today.
Their staff moderators had, for a year or more at least, become more and more snide, condescending and down right ugly to readers who did not agree with editorial positions. Most conspicuous of that group was a fellow I called Captain Kneepants, so-named because while a recent Vanderbilt law grad, he was very young, yet talked down to readers much older than himself, calling many “Skippy”. And from private email conversations we belonged to, he tried to make himself appear older and more experienced, as if describing all the brands of scotch he’d tried equated to being shot at, visiting a goat-herder’s house in the Balkans, or having his nose broken for lying, all of which he could only read about in books.
His work done at RedState, he moved on and is left now helping Glenn Beck shovel the last spade of dirt over The Blaze, confirming many of the whispers about both Beck’s judgment of managerial horse flesh and the secret supplications of his heart about #NeverTrumpism.
Although I should have studied more about my son’s class consciousness while he was ill, it was not until RedState began punishing fans of Sarah Palin did I get a larger understanding of the generational fault lines in conservatism and its connection to Ronald Merrick’ penis-envy for his betters. It wasn’t that Sarah was a woman, but a cowgirl, that threatened the RedState editors. She was not part of the circle of elites they so-wanted to join. On crowd-drawing ability alone, in the 2008 campaign, Sarah was the McCain campaign’s one shining star, but she didn’t go to Yale. Instead she graduated from Moo U in Idaho.
So I knew where the RedState “editorial board” stood. Although she was never a candidate, just saying nice things about Sarah, not unlike Ron Paul, could get you into trouble.
Then there was Herman Cain.
I met Herman in Las Vegas in 2010, at the invitation of a RedState insider, and on Christmas Eve, 2010 interviewed him about making a run in 2011, then published it on RedState in January. There was no doubt who I would support, so, within 6 weeks, I’d be shown the door at RedState.
And unceremoniously, too, as no one even sent a “Sorry, but we’ve decided to go another way in our programming” message. I just suddenly found I had been blocked and could no longer log it. Never one to get angry at a host for asking me to leave his house, I was only a guest you know, I was offended only by the lack of manners.
I can understand an AM station going from a Classic Rock format to Pop music. But Bubble Gum?
But while only two-or-three of us were banned at RedState, grown-up writers all, dozens more came with us, including one of the tech guys behind the curtain at RedState. UnifiedPatriots,com was launched in February, 2011, by the grown-up exiles of the Kraken Purge of 2011, and while we never grew to be a brand like RedState, neither have we ever worn rings that must be kissed.
We’ve lost a couple of ours along the way, a gentleman named Pilgrim, well know at RedState as a political analyst par excellence, but never appreciated by the sonnenkinder there. He never got to see the Swamp finally defeated in 2016. His real name was Richard Lucy, and it’s one of my greatest regrets that I never got to meet him personally, and shake his hand.
The other was a gentleman named Streetwise (Robert Choire) an airline exec, and founder of his own unique travel blog, who did get to see the beginning of the end start unfolding before he unexpectedly passed away.
This RedState postmortem and comeuppance is dedicated to their memories.
Like Parkland school survivors who can’t get air time because they are pro-gun rights, our people here at UnifiedPatriots.com are the exiles of the Kraken Purge of 2011, when free-thinking grown-ups were encouraged to leave, and many did, We’re not snickering as we watch this final reckoning arrive (well a couple are, I’m told) but I’m here to remind you where all the grown-ups went after the Purge.
We invite you over. The quality writing and the names you may remember are still here; Lady Penguin, Lady Impact Ohio, Jaded by Politics, Bob Montgomery, Allen Ness, BeagleScout, EPU, and myself.
In all truth, RedState likely isn’t dead and will re-emerge as it is a “brand”, although in whose camp, I can’t say. The Left loves buying dead brands, see Newsweek, and using it for its own purposes. Most of the bright-eyes ate RedState would never know, as long as there was a paycheck and byline in it. Besides, if there is a genuine conservative left at RedState. what conservative would go there to find out? Some of those kids may grow up and reform. New books are being written as we speak about how (and when) millennials will shed the skin of adolescence, but we’d be fools if we did not expect at least some of them to choose the Kathy Griffin path to rehabilitation.
All we know is that as a body of thought and thinkers, the shallow pool of warm piss that once called itself RedState, has left the building.