There has been a move among well-known figures on the left in recent weeks to see Tucker Carlson, of all people, as a potential ally on a couple of key issues. Carlson, the longtime Republican who founded The Daily Caller, a website that seems to exist mostly to post sexist clickbait and regularly publishes the racist maundering of Ann Coulter.
Then again, with his recent dip into the guise of a class warrior, it is easy to see the appeal. Carlson has lately adopted the mantle of an anti-elitist fighting for the working class. He uses his primetime perch at Fox News to rail against a mercenary ruling caste that has destroyed the middle class in America. When he sneers at that caste for hurting the long-term interests of “the people they rule,” or he hollers about the neocons who have kept America trapped in hopeless foreign wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, he could pass for Bernie Sanders, if Sanders had graduated from Choate.
You just have to ignore the racism. Of which there is a lot.
First into the pro-Carlson chute was Ro Khanna, the progressive California congressman who was just named a national co-chair of Sanders’s presidential campaign, and who last week was plumping for a piece Carlson wrote for The American Conservative:
@TuckerCarlson offers a devastating critique interventionism and shows how much of the foreign policy establishment has failed the American people. There is an emerging, left right coalition of common sense for a foreign policy of restraint. https://t.co/fwP90EKN4e
— Ro Khanna (@RoKhanna) February 15, 2019
Then this past Wednesday, Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks went to bat for Carlson over the Fox host’s screaming meltdown after Dutch professor Rutger Bregman called out the hypocrisy of performing an anti-billionaire shtick on a network owned by billionaires and serving as a propaganda arm for the Republican Party.
Uygur was mostly complimentary of Bregman. But he also thought that Carlson was open to Bregman’s critique of big businesses that pay almost no taxes, and sees the Fox host’s anti-big business attitude as something that needs to be cultivated and spread on the right. So he was disappointed that the conversation devolved into a shouting match after Bregman pointed out that, by working for an outlet that constantly advocates for lowering taxes on the wealthy, Carlson is part of the problem.
But Carlson is part of the problem for other reasons, ones that Uygur and Khanna are certainly aware of: he is a nativist, xenophobic, racist-conspiracy-addled loon. And there is no justification, no matter how much he opposes the war in Yemen or pays lip service to taxing the world’s billionaires, for the left to align with him in any way.
What Carlson is really pushing under the guise of populism is the prevailing ethos of conservatism in the Age of Trump: owning the libs. Liberals oppose the harsh immigration crackdowns of the Trump administration? Then Carlson will lustily smear immigrants for making America “dirtier,” then double down when the left gets mad. Liberals make anti-racism a key part of their platform? Carlson will happily announce that in modern America, the most virulent and common racism is that which is directed at white people.
Shoot, the same night that Cenk Uygur was admiring Carlson’s anti-big business stance, Carlson was accusing Elizabeth Warren’s universal child care proposal of being a stealth effort to bring more immigrants into America and push whites further towards minority status.
Even Uygur’s belief that Carlson wanted to talk to Bregman about taxing the rich is wrong. What Carlson wanted was for Bregman to sneer along with him at liberal billionaires who advocate for a more equitable world while flying in private jets and paying low taxes. He wanted some televised back-slapping bonhomie with a conservative ally, not someone who would point out the hypocrisy of his hollering about low taxes while cashing checks from Rupert Murdoch.
Tucker Carlson’s loyalty is to the right, to a conservatism that prizes opposition to liberalism and multiculturalism while returning America to a time when its white majority was front and center. He is not interested in economic justice for anyone besides the Tucker Carlsons of the world. And as a talking head on television, he should not be mistaken for someone with influence with conservative policymakers. What he is is a rodeo clown keeping his white audience distracted with tales of liberals selling them out so immigrants and black people can have jobs and health insurance. All the while hoping they don’t notice that he also works for the rodeo.