Too much is never enough in the newsletter game. Political news and insider scoops don’t cut it—there’s always someone to compete with. Maybe they’ve got more information, better analysis, or even a cleaner layout. So how do you ascend in the fast-paced world of Beltway newsletters and create more engagement?
Invite a conservative hack to guest write your copy.
On Thursday, POLITICO’s Playbook featured Daily Wire founder Ben Shapiro as a guest author for the day’s newsletter, entitled “The real reason most Republicans opposed impeachment.” As you can guess, he didn’t just break down the events of the day—he offered up a conservative perspective on Donald Trump’s second impeachment, election challenges, social media deplatforming right wingers, and more. And as if to top it off with a big fat cherry, the entire post was sponsored by Energy for Progress, a national campaign for natural gas and oil launched by, wait for it, the American Petroleum Institute.
The fact Politico gave prime real estate to Ben Shapiro the day after he claimed *everyone* has zip tie restraints at home in an attempt to minimize the Capitol riots and it all being sponsored by the oil and gas lobby tells you more about DC than any newsletter scoop could.
— Hunter Walker (@hunterw) January 14, 2021
Shapiro’s post was predictably bad, and not in the mainstream Washington insider kind of way. It was all rudimentary conservative victimhood shtick, equating Stacy Abrams’ decision not to concede in Georgia gubernatorial race to Trump’s months-long baseless election challenges and the 2017 Congressional shooter’s support of Bernie Sanders to Trump’s angry mob of Capitol insurrectionists.
I got my start in news at @politico. I would quit on the spot today. Handing their newsletter to a proudly bad-faith Republican to spread this pure shit is the grossest thing I’ve seen happen there
This isn’t even part of the “is this journalism” debate. This is just sickening pic.twitter.com/vAFRi6GhKl
— Matt Negrin, HOST OF HARDBALL AT 7PM ON MSNBC (@MattNegrin) January 14, 2021
The crux of Shapiro’s post is that Democrats and liberals are establishing political double standards. He says that conservatives are afraid that Democrats are operating as a party of destruction and retribution, and that they’re demanding neutral political standards t0 hold everyone accountable for their actions. His argument might be helped if Republicans hadn’t spent the last decade actively trying to destroy things like affordable healthcare. But the real garbage lies within the phrase “neutral political standards.” It’s an idea that sounds nice in theory—after all, shouldn’t we all be held to the same account? The issue is Republicans aren’t nearly as interested in the idea as Shapiro implies. Currently, they’re crying foul about Trump’s impeachment for inciting an unprecedented mob attack against the Capitol being “too speedy”; two months ago, though, their approval of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court couldn’t have been speedy enough. Forget that 65 million people had already voted by the time Barrett was approved—Republicans were using their majorities to set a standard only to cry foul when Democrats do the same.
There are countless other examples of this type of backhandedness—how about the political party that cries about cancel culture trying multiple times to cancel the votes of 81 million Americans to achieve their desired result?—but that doesn’t matter to folks like Shapiro. He and his chud army surely have some couched response for every example, some reason pointing out why the two things are different. They’re more than happy to move the goalposts when it’s politically or rhetorically convenient for them, just as elected Republicans are eager to whine about the standards and precedent they themselves set. Once the majorities are flipped and your own words and tactics are being used against you, it makes a lot more sense to throw up your hands and tell everybody to take it easy and wait just a minute here.
There’s some value in understanding different political views, and despite the obvious sponsorship gimmick, it’s clear that POLITICO was trying to highlight someone who could convey conservatives’ frustrated perspective of the current moment. But when that perspective is steeped in bogus information and bad faith arguments (which commentators like Shapiro help spread) they don’t deserve a platform just because the people who hold them feel sad about being booted off Twitter. All Shapiro’s offering is pure unfiltered whinge. It’s the only way he knows how to communicate.