Shortly after the November 8 presidential election in which Donald Trump lost the state of Virginia, Bearing Drift’s Shaun Kenney wrote a howler of a blog post essentially blaming Corey Stewart for the 2016 Virginia Republican loss – despite the fact an obvious case could be made that in fact Bearing Drift lost Virginia for the Republicans.
Corey Stewart is running for the 2017 Republican nomination for Virginia governor against, among others, Kenney’s former boss, Ed Gillespie.
It was an interesting argument for Kenney to make because, first, it may signal an ongoing NeverTrump proxy war in Virginia throughout 2017, but also because we think it denoted Shaun Kenney’s “Oh shit” moment upon realizing the full import of the November 8 results.
One could argue that several Bearing Drift writers played a key role in helping Republicans lose Virginia in 2016, by encouraging people not to vote for the Republican presidential ticket.
There is no need to even build a case that Bearing Drift was a major source of anti-Trump vitriol beginning at least last December. In our view, Bearing Drift owned the Republican anti-Trump propaganda effort in the state.
Instead of listing all their broadsides, therefore, let’s just review some of the impact. After all, Bearing Drift proudly bills itself as “Virginia’s loudest and most read conservative website” and “one of the leading voices of Republicans in Virginia.” Lest any doubts remain about their GOP pedigree, they profess dedication to upholding the state Party’s “Republican Creed.”
Last December, several weeks after the Muslim terrorist attacks in Paris, the Roanoke Times carried a Bearing Drift column asking all Republican and “center-right” Virginians to join Bearing Drift authors in “condemnation” of Trump’s statements calling for restrictions on Muslim immigration.
For many Virginia voters still unacquainted with Donald Trump as a politician, this forceful condemnation referencing the Constitution by prominent Republicans likely helped define the candidate very early in the process. It was an unfortunate role for an ostensibly “Republican” website to take, since U.S. law gives the president authority, literally, to keep out of the country anyone he wants to keep out. It’s all right there in 8 USC §1182. The Bearing Drift attack was based on a misreading of the Constitution and the law.
Along with the Roanoke daily, Bearing Drift fell in line with Left-wing propagandists who had been lambasting Trump for many months over Trump’s opinions about immigration and about the existence of “no go” areas in European cities.
Now, of course, following a year of Muslim-dominated crime and terrorism in Europe, Trump’s claim appears to be borne out. This is not surprising, because researchers documenting the impact of Muslim immigration have been reporting the reality of European cities – before Cologne, Brussels, Nice, and generally declining security throughout Sweden and many other countries.
But Bearing Drift, true to the #NeverTrump kindergartner pattern of allying with the dog, has a tendency to throw in with the Left against Republican opponents.
And the Left is happy to return the favor.
Earlier this year, when Virginia voters were still learning about the candidates, Bearing Drift provided more fodder for Democrat attacks defining Trump.
In February, in one of the local city news outlets, a prominent Arlington Democrat gleefully trumpeted Shaun Kenney’s post torching Trump and Trump’s “jackbooted” supporters.
Here’s what Shaun Kenney, the respected former Executive Director of the Republican Party of Virginia, recently declared he would do if Donald Trump is the Republican presidential nominee:
“I will work actively against him to ensure his defeat in the general election should he obtain the Republican nomination. In this, I am not alone. Millions of Americans will not pull the lever for Trump. Millions more are absolutely sickened by the jackbooted tactics of a militated few.”
This is an uncommonly blunt declaration for a prominent party operative to make about his own party’s likely Presidential nominee.
Yes, it certainly was uncommon, and you can bet that Republican and center-right voters who normally might not have read the Bearing Drift blog took notice when Kenney’s educational lesson was published by the city paper.
At the other corner of the state, in a September story reprinted in the Washington Post, the major daily noted Bearing Drift’s “deluge of anti-Trump postings” to support the paper’s claim of “damage Trump has wrought in Virginia.”
When one of America’s most vocal NeverTrump Republicans, Liz Mair, was building the case for Republicans to vote for the Libertarian candidate for president, Gary Johnson, she invoked a Bearing Drift poll which actually only comprised a paltry 207 responses – but goes to show how Bearing Drift’s anti-Trump message spread through the force multiplier effect of other web channels.
The Bearing Drift poll in question, by the way, purported to show that Johnson at nearly 30 percent support. Johnson’s final vote total in Virginia was less than 3 percent.
Kenney was also the Democrats’ hero when Virginia’s most influential progressive blog, Blue Virginia, featured two Bearing Drift columns to paint the picture of decent Republicans turning against Donald Trump.
- With Trump as the Presumptive GOP Presidential Nominee, Virginia Republicans Face a “Time for Choosing”: Is Donald Trump a “national socialist,” aka a Nazi, as Shaun Kenney argues?
- Great Stuff: Former VA GOP Executive Director Rips Trump, Conservatives Who Support Trump: Is this post by former Republican Party of Virginia Executive Director Shaun Kenney the greatest thing I’ve ever read in the Virginia political blogosphere?
The Democrat blogger was referring to this Shaun Kenney post tearing into colleagues at Bearing Drift for having the temerity to suggest there might be rationales for voting for Donald Trump and for insisting on the quite traditional belief that Party membership requires a certain degree of loyalty to its candidates over non-Republicans.
And this latter example of giving aid and comfort to the enemy illustrates why we think Bearing Drift occupies such a dubious role in the Republican community: We believe that Bearing Drift lost Virginia on November 8, 2016. But it was a greater offense – a worse act of sabotage, in our opinion – that a prominent, “respected” Republican was so bitterly critical of other Republicans who were attempting to follow the Party rules in good faith.
In our view, that is execrable behavior within the Party, albeit called “heroic” by Leftists.
To wit, when the mainstream media needed a “Republican voice” to discredit the Trump campaign in September, they turned to Bearing Drift founder Jim Hoeft.
Throughout 2016, Bearing Drift produced a constant stream of articles denouncing Trump and Trump’s supporters, feeding the narrative that Trump would lose, and most importantly, giving voters reasons not to vote for the Republican presidential candidate.
- Chief among these posts that in our opinion served as powerful Republican vote suppressors was Brian Schoeneman’s argument that fear of Hillary Clinton’s Supreme Court appointments was no reason to vote Republican. If there were any dominant argument proffered by the GOP to vote for Trump, nationwide, it was to raise the specter of a liberal Supreme Court for the next 30 years. In approximately 5,000 words, Schoeneman basically says: There is no proof a Clinton Supreme Court would be terrible.
- Shaun Kenney was the booming voice of the anti-Republican-ticket movement in Virginia: Besides emphasizing the bad news for Trump, such as discouraging polls on seemingly every opportunity, he was a one-man demolition crew wielding Democrat talking points and his own soapbox fulminations (on which more later) with equal ferocity. He boosted the Khan controversy and the “locker room” tape. He wasn’t just NeverTrump – he argued NeverTrump was the GOP’s salvation. Often counterintuitive as well as counterfactual, Kenney may have been weird and wrong a lot, but he is nevertheless considered an influential and authoritative voice in Virginia political circles.
- Less loud but equally fervent, and possibly the most influential of the Bearing Drift anti-Republican activists during the 2016 presidential election, Jim Hoeft did not couch his plea to vote against the Republican ticket in complex or lengthy rhetoric. Yes, he promoted the bad news for Trump but he mainly stuck to the simple argument that: The 2016 election was NOT actually a binary choice – for the Godly conservative – voting for a third-party was both defensible and righteous – and therefore the “only two options for president” were Gary Johnson and Evan McMullin. Published exactly one month prior to the election, the column by Hoeft probably sealed the deal for a number of Virginia voters who were worried a third-party vote was a wasted vote.
Amid the flurry of biased news reports and amazingly inaccurate polling analyses prior to the presidential election, Schoeneman, Kenney, and Hoeft gave Virginia voters numerous rationales not to vote for the Republican presidential ticket. These recognized conservative voices with decent (we admit) persuasive writing skills undoubtedly swayed voters – and we believe made a crucial difference in the final vote.
Here is the arithmetic from Virginia on November 8:
Total third-party and write in votes:
Hillary Clinton vote margin over Donald Trump:
Some may argue that the third-party total includes votes – especially for Jill Stein, and write-ins – that may have had nothing to do with Bearing Drift’s pleas to Republicans. We would agree we can’t blame all defections on Bearing Drift.
But we have not addressed the additional important, but murky, area of Republican voters persuaded by Bearing Drift not to vote third-party, but to positively vote for Hillary Clinton.
Because, yes: Although implicit in much of Bearing Drift’s 2016 anti-Trump writing, the all-knowing, all-powerful, self-assured Godly Republican premiere conservative web site of Virginia did go precisely there to explain why a vote for Hillary was justified.
So who really lost the state for the Republicans? We believe Bearing Drift lost Virginia.
And Corey Stewart might invite the Godly conservatives to take a hike up Old Rag to seek a vision or burning bush or other such humbling encounter.
In any case, we think it’s laughable to lay the blame on Corey Stewart, who actually supported the Trump ticket – although we understand why Shaun Kenney would wish to do so. When one is supposedly an influential Republican and a more-righteous-than-thou conservative in the commentary and consulting world, being proven devastatingly wrong, is a Very Bad Place To Be. The fault must be deflected, pronto.
In fact, judging by both pre- and post-election commentary at Bearing Drift, our entire Kindergartner post probably could have been constructed with examples from Schoeneman, Kenney, and Hoeft.
Rude, thuggish, debased, self-absorbed: Bearing Drift has shown it all in 2016.
But one more bit of weirdness they demonstrate which also seems endemic to NeverTrump “conservatives” is a bizarre degree of self-regard.
Minor provocations, it seems, are all it takes for Kenney and Hoeft in particular to break out their own renditions of the superiority dance. Whether as “conservatives” or “Republicans” or Godly men after the old, old – and by “old” we mean in the “Testament” sense – fashion, they can hold forth like nobody’s business.
We’re not ready to say they are completely full of themselves, but most Bearing Drift columns give the impression of being written under the watchful gaze of a painting of the Bearing Drift writer.
You can often sense a geyser of self-righteous fulmination bubbling just beneath the surface.
In what seems like every third post, the bloggers launch into tirades in an authorial style we call “Vomit of Pharisaical Cliches,” a word salad composed of digested truisms, catch phrases, essays, and sermons, coming back up all over your screen, along with spittle, bile, and unctuous fluids of self-anointing.
Don’t look too hard for meaning or even logical sentences, because the discharge is mainly self-serving sophistry predicated on the writer’s own righteousness. Words pour forth with heavenly fury that neither reason nor Fowler’s nor Strunk & White shall hinder.
While Kenney appears to have scaled back his blogging since the election (but is still listed as an editor), we will continue to follow Mssrs Schoeneman and Hoeft in the coming year as the Virginia race for governor takes shape. A cursory review of Bearing Drift indicates they are not overly friendly to Corey Stewart, the Trump supporter, although that stance may change as the Trump administration becomes a reality.
We would hope to be able to report, in the future, that despite the fact Bearing Drift lost Virginia in 2016, the writers learn something from the failure besides doubling down in self-defensive self-righteousness.