Tucker Carlson & The Hope That Never Was
This article was written by Ricardo Huerta. Check out his bio.
On February 27th, 2008 William F. Buckley died. He was 82 and by all standards had lived a full life. My hunch is that many of you have never heard of Buckley or the work he engaged in or the kind of politics he advanced. But for me, and many others who for better or worse wear the badge of conservatives, Buckley was a hero of epic proportions. Through his famed show Firing Line, Buckley brought on left leaning guests and made the case for why social conservatism and free-market economics trumped all other forms of governing a country. His arguments, rhetoric, and sheer brilliance all made for an intellectual tour de force that most guests could not bear the weight of, and perhaps more importantly, left viewers convinced of his ideas. See, Buckley put an intellectual face to American conservatism that wasn’t thought possible. He demonstrated to our country that conservatism could rub shoulders with highbrow thinkers who snubbed its adherents before they ever had the chance to put a case forward. Buckley made conservatism relevant to a country entirely convinced of its irrelevance in the 1960’s and 70’s.
Perhaps it is naive to ask, but where is our Will Buckley today? Where is America’s conservative public intellectual hero in a time when a figure like him is so desperately needed? For the better part of 4 years I believed Tucker Carlson to be that man. I was convinced that he and he alone would go on to be the bulldog of the conservative movement that put intellectual meat to the skeletal frames that the Bush years had left us with. The obvious question is why him? Long before filling what was formerly Bill O’Reilly’s primetime commentator spot on Fox News, Carlson was a conservative journalist who regularly contributed articles to publications like New York Magazine, Esquire, The Weekly Standard, and Reader’s Digest. His commentary was bright, politically astute, and never wavered in its commitment to free-mark economics and conservative principles. Carlson was such a capable writer and thinker that the late Christopher Hitchens, a self-proclaimed socialist, stated during an interview that he hoped Carlson would not give up writing for TV commenting.
A simple side-by-side comparison between Buckley and Carlson would lead you to believe that Carlson was on a similar trajectory as the former. In 1955 Buckley had founded the National Review, a conservative magazine that would go on to shape the movements thinking. In 2010 Carlson founded The Daily Caller, a non-ideological online news platform that kept a close eye on the nations Capitol. In 1966 Buckley appeared on the first episode of his new show Firing Line, a show that would run uninterrupted for 33 years. Since the early 2000’s Carlson had been appearing and hosting on TV shows like CNN’s Crossfire, MSNBC’s Tucker, and frequent appearances on Fox & Friends.
This trajectory was promising, but everything would change in April of last year. Fox News released a statement that Carlson would be taking over the networks weekday 8pm slot for the disgraced Bill O’Reilly. I was elated. Here was Carlson’s chance to show the country the best of conservative thinking; Carlson could bring on guests and debate the most central issues facing our country showing viewers that conservative politics would prove to be the best path forward. But I was naïve in having such hope for TV punditry. Instead what took place and continues to take place is a one-sided yelling match between Carlson and the slew of hosts he brings on. Often his guests represent the worst of his ideological opponents, are given little time to respond, and Carlson’s sarcastic tone gets in the way of any real dialogue. And this is precisely the problem with TV punditry, it never allows for serious debate or dialogue to take place. It is a carefully curated entertainment show where pundits ridicule their opponents through sensationalism and sarcasm. I hate to admit that Carlson has fallen prey to such an industry. You need only watch a single segment of Tucker Carlson Tonight to understand what I am saying.
I had hope for Carlson, but like much of life things don’t often materialize the way you would like. Carlson was and is the conservative hope that never was.