But Teachout, whose natural inclination was toward equanimity and collegiality, perhaps never fully confronted the politics of his conservative peers. Unlike Didion and Wills, Teachout never stopped writing for National Review. His review of a biography of Graham Greene ran in the magazine last year — a magazine that is no longer that of the Goldwater or Reagan right but one that that seems to have settled on a position of being anti-anti-Trump. Not only that, but Teachout eschewed a larger reckoning with the question of how Trump took over the GOP so quickly. It would have been a major contribution for a writer of Teachout’s caliber to make an inquiry into how the right had gone haywire, but he never made the effort.
Why should Teachout have made that effort? He “eschewed” political controversy so he could write about the things he most cared about: the arts. Seems a reasonable decision to me, and one I wish more writers made. There aren’t enough writers who are conservative in Teachout’s mode.
(Teachout was a terrific writer in so many ways, but I must pause to note that the one great outlier in his body of work was his absurdly unfair, tendentious, and just plain hostile biography of Duke Ellington. I’ve never understood his attitude towards the Duke. Ethan Iverson’s detailed critique of the biography, mentioned in the Nation essay, is very good, and is usefully supplemented by an equally detailed response by the Duke’s nephew.)