Today is Giving Tuesday, and that means it’s time for me to bid you, dear reader, to get in touch with your inner philanthropist, and give a bit of your bounty to good old TAC.
The American Conservative depends on its donors. We’re a 501(c)3 entity, meaning that we are not for profit, and your donations to us are tax-deductible. Without your support, we couldn’t do the things we do. It really is that simple. As you know, I live in an actual swamp, not the metaphorical swamp of Washington DC, but I have been to the TAC Mothership in DC, and can say without fear of contradiction that it’s a lean operation. Your donations don’t go to paying for lavish offices or editorial perks. They go into producing this magazine.
A reporter for a national magazine last year interviewed me for a piece he’s doing on conservative magazines in the age of Trump. His questions caused me to think, probably for the first time in the six years I’ve been working here, what an exceptional institution TAC is. Not once have my bosses at TAC ever told me what I could or could not write. They have only been interested in smart takes—and, on the occasion that I have published really dumb takes, have never taken me to the woodshed. They know that publishing a magazine that prizes unconventional and challenging right-of-center opinion journalism requires allowing its writers to take risks. As a writer, you can’t imagine how great that is. And, if I may say so, as a reader that means you’re going to get journalism that delights you, that ticks you off, and everything in between—but not journalism that follows a party line.
The reporter’s questions also brought to mind the circumstances that gave birth to TAC: the Iraq War. As you may know, Pat Buchanan (who has not had a hand in running the magazine for many years) and others founded TAC in principled opposition to the coming Iraq War, which all respectable conservatives supported back then. I was a writer at National Review in those days, and I remember feeling awful that Buchanan (for whom I once voted in a GOP primary) had fallen victim to antiwar hysteria, and had let down the side.
I suppose you would have had to have lived through it to really appreciate how hard it was, within the conservative media bubble, to have taken the stance Pat did. As I told the reporter interviewing me, in my recollection, nobody had to tell anybody in our NYC-DC conservative circles that we had an obligation to support the war. We just did it, and felt in all sincerity that it was the right thing to do. I honestly believed that antiwar people were either dupes or cowards. In what was its final cover story before I left for The Dallas Morning News, my own magazine infamously called Buchanan and this magazine’s founders “unpatriotic,” and attempted to read them out of the conservative movement.
Well, Pat was right about the war, as has become quite clear, and the war brought a great deal of discredit to the conservative establishment. As I type this, I’m thinking of a friend of mine, an Iraq veteran, who recently started psychotherapy. He’s been sliding into deep depression, and can no longer keep suppressed memories from the war, including having to pick up pieces of one of the men under his command, blown to bits by an IED. Writing this post, and thinking about the suffering he’s enduring, and has been living through for years, all for the sake of handing Iraq over to Iran, I find myself all the more grateful for this magazine and the brave, lonely stand it took back in 2002. It wasn’t just about internecine intellectual conservative combat. Ideas really do have consequences.
I say this not to bash my 2002 self or my erstwhile colleagues, but only to point out how I had to learn the hard way how important it is to have a forum for the airing of contrarian views—and how important it is to be willing to hear them yourself (as I was not in 2002). This was the spirit in which TAC was born, and in which we still run it. Again, sometimes we delight you, sometimes we infuriate you, but we always want to engage you and give you something to think about.
This blog, and my interaction with its readers, has given birth to my last three books: The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option. If you have benefited from any of those books, please consider donating to TAC. I don’t know what my next book will be, but chances are it will emerge from this blog.
More than a few of you thank me for book recommendations you’ve discovered here. Your kind words are appreciated, but we’d also love a small donation, to keep me reading and writing about what I read.
One unique feature of this blog, or so readers tell me, is that the comments section is actually worth reading. This doesn’t just happen. I have to curate it constantly to keep the tares from growing among the wheat. Bad, bullying, abrasive conversation drives out good, and I spend a lot of time trying to keep the comments threads on track. That takes time, and time is money. If you like the comments threads, will you consider a donation?
As I talked with the reporter who interviewed me, I reminisced about how when I was younger, we identified with magazines in ways people don’t often do now. For example, you had Commonweal Catholics and you had First Things Catholics. When I came to Washington in 1988 on a college internship, I was a liberal, and was a New Republic liberal. Four years later, when I returned as a conservative, I was more of an American Spectator conservative than anything else. And so on.
Do people still attach themselves like that to intellectual magazines? I’m not sure. If so, though, I think a TAC conservative would probably be non-interventionist in foreign policy. They would be inclined to be socially conservative, in a Kirkian vein, and to question the once-settled consensus about market economics. They would be more likely to be nationalist rather than globalist. Many would support Trump; others would back Trumpism, broadly, but wish Trump himself would go away. Above all, they would be eclectic conservatives who are tired of and frustrated with the conservative status quo, and eager to hear new voices, and gain new perspectives.
And yes, there are TAC liberals: readers who are left-of-center, but who come to this magazine looking for interesting things to read from the right, and sometimes as a respite from the droning virtuethink on their own side.
I’m grateful for all of you.
We’ve been together here at TAC for over seven years now, and without meaning to, have developed a little community. It pleases me to go out giving speeches, and to have strangers come up to me and ask about certain people they only know from the comments section here. (Most common question: “Is Uncle Chuckie for real?” Answer: No, he’s hyperreal!) Any scratch you could throw our way to keep our ragtag band of brethren and sistren going would be greatly appreciated.
I didn’t intend to get this personal about TAC when I started writing, but, well, here we are. The magazine is my employer, yes, but it has come to mean a lot more than that to me. So have you, even you readers who put a burr under my saddle most days. I enjoy being with you all, and hope we have many more years together. You can make that more likely by donating as generously as you can to The American Conservative.
Most of this post was the same one I used last year for Giving Tuesday. I re-upped it because it is still true. I want to add, though, how much I have enjoyed reading Matt in VA, who over the past year has emerged as an ornery SOB whose comments always challenge and enlighten me. I’m grateful that he posts here, and I bet at more than a few of you agree.
I am also grateful for all you Catholic readers who have e-mailed me over these past months to thank me for the writing I’ve done and continue to do about the Church crisis. If you can, please tithe a bit to TAC in gratitude.
So that was me being nice. Now comes the hard sell: if you don’t, I’m going to set Uncle Chuckie about ye!