Opinion

Hating The President Is Not a Strategy, As Bill Kristol Just Learned

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Posted: Dec 15, 2018 12:01 AM
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Hating The President Is Not a Strategy, As Bill Kristol Just Learned

Going all in on attacking President Trump isn’t proving to be a particularly effective business strategy for media outlets.

The Weekly Standard, a 28-year old neoconservative institution, is reportedly headed towards dissolution after its founder, Bill Kristol, devoted almost three years of work to attacking the President and his supporters.

It’s not just Kristol. The entire world of clickbait Trump-hate seems to be in jeopardy, including sites that cater to the liberal base.

The same week that The Weekly Standard’s troubles broke, Vanity Fair dropped a bombshell report about the struggles faced by those hip, millennial-targeted left-wing rags with the cool names and rabidly anti-Trump headlines strewn across your social media feed. Vice, Vox, Mic, Buzzfeed, Mashable — they’re all either looking for buyers or seriously reevaluating their strategies in hopes of becoming profitable. Mic laid off most of its workers. Vice and Vox are firing staff left and right.

On cable TV, one network in particular has abandoned decades of journalistic tradition and ethics, devoting its resources to a relentless, nakedly partisan crusade to savage President Trump: CNN. Its ratings, predictably, are in the tank — in October, CNN fell behind both the Hallmark Channel and Home and Garden Television.

The “resistance” media strategy is not only corrosive to the country; it seems to be a loser business model. Kristol’s descent into fringe irrelevance and the possible end of his once-illustrious magazine is a perfect illustration. 

Kristol was a neocon hero, especially during the George W. Bush administration, when The Weekly Standard was one of the most important conservative outlets, read by serious people making serious policy decisions. Then the 2016 campaign happened, and Kristol seemed determined to make “Never Trump” his — and his magazine’s — raison d’etre.

While most of the Republican Party, no matter which candidate they backed in the primary, came together to get Donald Trump elected, Kristol just couldn’t seem to let it go. After promising a major, serious third-party candidate to defeat both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, he put forward a politically obscure friend — embarrassing them both.

As President Trump delivered victory after victory on issues Kristol long claimed to care about, Kristol and The Weekly Standard’s desperate anti-Trump crusade, looked increasingly like ego, then obsession, and then farce.

Kristol tried to primary pro-Trump Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz with a Never Trump challenger. It ended in another embarrassingly lopsided defeat, but that didn’t stop Kristol from continuing to lead a campaign to unseat President Trump in 2020. He even published a campaign announcement speech for a fantasy Never Trump savior, but as usual, no one cared apart from the Trump-hating left. 

Unmoored to reality, Kristol continues to threaten Trump, prophesying that “the Trump presidency crumbles” in the face of his 2020 primary challenge.

What’s actually crumbling are Kristol’s reputation and legacy. Happily, it appears that the bulk of the late Standard’s funding will be reassigned to its thus far fair-to-Trump sister publication, The Washington Examiner. 

It turns out that trying to build resistance credentials by demonizing President Trump isn’t just lousy for journalism, it’s terrible for business.

Jeff Ballabon, CEO of B2 Strategic, is a political advisor, media consultant, and former CBS executive.