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Deplatforming Ronna McDaniel Won’t Deradicalize Anyone

Canceling even milquetoast figures won’t make conservatives feel more heard.

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Greater injustices have been perpetrated in the media world than the premature conclusion to Ronna McDaniel’s punditry career at NBC News. 

By the end of her tenure at the Republican National Committee, no wing of the party was entirely pleased with her performance and it was not clear which constituency she best represented. But whatever McDaniel’s faults, the revolt against her brief broadcast news star turn was motivated by the belief that a majority of the Republican Party does not deserve representation. At most, very watered down versions of what they want should be granted a place on the 2024 ballot or platformed at major media institutions this side of shortwave radio.


When Donald Trump first took his magic escalator ride nearly nine years ago, his support was so thin even within conservative media that the cable networks had to go out and hire new pundits to speak favorably about him on air. 

Sometimes while working at night, I would see the televisions playing in the background of the newsroom with the sound off. If I did not know any better, I would have assumed Kayleigh McEnany was being surrounded by her mother and aunts, who were all yelling at her for failing to clean her room.

That was essentially the most favorable treatment a political operative could expect to receive for appearing on a television channel with a liberal or politically mixed audience and explaining their preference for one of two major-party candidates for president. When nearly half the country voted for Trump, including pluralities in the battleground states that sent him to the White House, the problem got worse rather than improving. 

It worked out much better for McEnany’s career than McDaniel’s, even if both experiments were relatively short-lived; other pundits found they had to switch sides to keep theirs going. But the gradual increase in ideological diversity on the networks that once hosted liberal monologues rather than debates was increasingly ghettoized, with each cable behemoth identifying which market segment they existed to outrage and then outraging them all day long.

POLITICO’s Jack Shafter nevertheless published a lengthy, if not quite exhaustive, list of people with resumes similar to McDaniel’s who made the jump from politics to punditry. The greatest pundit of a generation worked for and largely defended Richard Nixon during the height of the Watergate scandal and wrote some of Spiro Agnew’s most famous media-bashing speeches


Yet not even at the apogee of liberal domination of the media did the network heads and newspaper editorial pages imagine they could indefinitely silence perspectives that were winning 49-state presidential landslides. 

Partisan political operatives often lie, or, more charitably, repeat without careful examination suspect claims that are good for the party. This includes things that are of far greater consequence, and come with less public ability to scrutinize, than inaugural crowd sizes, such as weapons of mass destruction before going to war and a family’s ability to keep their doctor under new healthcare laws. Many operatives once involved in that type of spin currently grace the airwaves of MSNBC.

Those airwaves are also routinely full of assertions about the 2000 and 2016 elections that are as dubious as Trump’s nonsense about 2020. It is true, thank goodness, that no one responded to those conspiracy theories and lies as violently as the mobs at the Capitol on January 6 did. A sincerely held belief that the Russians manipulated or altered the 2016 vote totals easily could have provoked such a reaction.

Is Trump the only reason some election conspiracists behaved worse than others, such as the Russigate maximalists or those who believed George W. Bush was “selected, not elected”? Trump certainly insisted on pressing his case far beyond the point of legal or constitutional plausibility, sparking a dangerous and violent national embarrassment that but for the grace of God could have been much worse. 

But Trump also appealed to some voters who were already more radicalized, and believed themselves to have less effective representation from the political class and its media allies, than the people who thought Al Gore, Hillary Clinton, and Stacey Abrams got robbed on Election Day

A few Ronna McDaniel cable hits probably wouldn’t have made these voters less radicalized. But her banishment won’t make them feel better represented, either.