Matt K. Lewis doesn’t mind stacking up affiliations. He has served as a senior contributor at the Daily Caller and a political commentator for CNN and has written for TheWeek.com and the Daily Beast. He also wrote the book “Too Dumb to Fail,” which inveighs against the brand of anger-driven populism that helped to vault Donald Trump into the presidency — and along the way manages to include a nod to walkable neighborhoods under the banner of abandoning “cultural identity preferences that have nothing to do with conservatism.”
Lewis will be taking this mix of politico-cultural commentary full-time to the Daily Beast, as the site is announcing today. He starts the new assignment on Jan. 16 and will write several columns each week for the Beast. Adding Lewis to its ranks is part of an initiative by Daily Beast Editor in Chief John Avlon to ramp up its work in covering the Trump administration. “We’ll need to offer a roster of reporters and columnists with credibility on both sides of the aisle instead of predictable partisanship,” wrote Avlon in a piece titled “Our Murrow Moment.” “Reflexive criticism” of Trump, argues Avlon in the piece, is no way to handle Trump, as it will only contribute to declining media credibility.
Months before Trump gained the presidency, “Too Dumb to Fail” delivered this verdict on him and his ilk: “This is the dirty little secret of the conservative movement in America today: everyone knows that it has lost its intellectual bearings. Empty-headed talking point reciters, rookie politicians who’ve never managed anything in their lives, media clowns such as Donald Trump, dim bulbs in tight pants or short skirts, professionally outraged shout-fest talking heads, and total political neophytes dominate conservative airwaves and the Right’s political discourse.”
Lewis is excited to take those ideas from a conservative outlet — the Daily Caller — to a more mainstream outlet. “My tack is going to be to do two things: One, to present conservative ideas to a mainstream audience that is compelling and explanatory and the other is to hold Donald Trump accountable,” said the 42-year-old Lewis in a chat with the Erik Wemple Blog. After six years at the Daily Caller, Lewis views the change of audience as a grand opportunity and cites New York Times columnist Ross Douthat as a parallel example. “You can argue that he is more important in terms of winning converts than somebody like Rush Limbaugh, where there’s a lot of preaching to the choir. I think it’s sometimes fun to write … to an audience of people who don’t inherently agree with you on some fundamental worldview questions.”
Lewis’s departure from the Daily Caller comes just a couple of months after longtime Editor in Chief Tucker Carlson moved to a prime-time slot at Fox News, relinquishing editorial functions at the site. Asked about the timing, Lewis responded that it was “coincidental.” He lauded the range of viewpoints that Carlson allowed to thrive at the Daily Caller. “The ideological diversity ran the gamut, which, I think, is really cool,” says Lewis. “There were people like me, obviously very critical of Trump and other people much more optimistic about him.”
In a chat with this blog, Avlon said he’s seeking to make his site a place for “reform Republicans” to hash out their views. “Center-right reform Republican is the opportunity for us because those folks have been RINO-hunted [Republican in name only] out of so many conservative outlets,” says Avlon, who also cited Daily Beast columnists Stuart Stevens, a former top Mitt Romney campaign aide, and media consultant Rick Wilson as filling out this niche.
A CNN contributor for years, Avlon is most assuredly approaching Trump world in the spirit of the round-the-clock cable network, which went on a hiring spree of pro-Trump voices during the 2016 campaign. “People who are looking for Trumpkin confirmation bias probably aren’t going to look to the Daily Beast first,” says Avlon.