What Are Republicans For?
Not that long ago—it was last year, though it feels like a lifetime ago—I wrote a column that could have made my reputation, and almost began to, but instead it made me sick. It was called “What Are Women For?”, and though it might have seemed like something a pundit had spent a night at a desk assembling out of notes and bookmarks and tabs, I actually wrote it in about 30 minutes at a coffee shop. I was more or less unemployed, I was wondering how long I could last in that state, and I had a deadline I wanted to hit.
When the column was published, I received an avalanche of criticism from outraged, irritated women and liberals, and the conservative establishment didn’t offer a peep in my defense. Rather than embracing my role as the bro version of Ann Coulter and try for a maybe-lucrative career as a conservative pundit, as the angry little controversy gave me a chance to do, I wanted to go back in time and arrange that the whole thing never happened.
On the one hand, politics, like gossip, is the art of talking about strangers. You goad people you don’t know into having a reaction, and, as a rule, the intensity of that reaction translates into success. On the other hand, as I suddenly realized, there’s very little joy in spontaneously inspiring real people you’ve never met to despise you, as if a piece of writing you produced was not just something with your name on it, but was actually you.
And sure enough, as I came to realize more slowly, when you publish things online and live most of your professional life on social media, what you write really is the closest approximation of you that almost anyone on earth can access.