In the wake of the Donald Trump moment, conservatism is up for grabs: white identitarians, “Catholic integralists,” paleocons, and American nationalists all sense an opportunity for greater representation. But the bigger story is that the globalist, anti-nationalist, progressive “conservatism” that came before Trump isn’t yet quite dead, and it’s fighting for survival.
The degree to which this is true has become apparent over the past few weeks as a civil war within campus conservatism has raged on between Charlie Kirk of Turning Point USA and paleoconservative activists who follow the nationalist podcaster Nicholas Fuentes.
As Kirk and his allies see it, the Fuentes fans, who call themselves “groypers,” have been trying to “hijack” campus conservatism by injecting “white nationalism” into the debate. But this so-called sabotage has been accomplished with extraordinary simplicity. The groypers have been showing up to Kirk’s events to air their grievances about the failures of mainstream conservatism and its wholesale embrace of the LGBT+ agenda and mass migration.
Rather than talk to these activists in good faith, though, the gatekeepers have decided their ideas are not worth debating. They have instead pursued a campaign of denigration and suppression. Leaving aside personalities, they have dismissed candid, important questions about demographics and the liberalization of the conservative movement as “bigoted” and “racist.”
The elephant in the room is demographics. Not even progressives any longer pretend that mass migration won’t, at the rate we’re going, transform America into a majority-minority nation within our lifetimes. The implications for the nation and the Republican Party because of this shift are profound, and any conservative movement that is not willing to engage with it seriously cannot be taken seriously.
Demographic Realism Vs. Demographic Hypocrisy
In his opening essay for this symposium, Kirk acknowledges that the demographic shifts concerning the America Firsters are real and that leftists are celebrating those changes. But Kirk ends up backing the leftist premise that such demographic shifts are inevitable and that the Republican Party’s only hope is to embrace this growing and diverse reality.
Kirk rejects without explanation putting a moratorium on immigration. Rather than restrict immigration to reverse the trend, Kirk endorses the survival “strategy” endorsed recently by Yoni Applebaum at The Atlantic: Republicans must reject “anti-immigrant” stances and instead do more to reach minority demographics. Only then can the GOP remain viable in a majority-minority future.
The premise is based on an obvious double-standard, one which is becoming more and more difficult to simply ignore. As Michelle Malkin and other America Firsters have pointed out, the Left operates on a premise of demographic hypocrisy. If we’re talking about the interests of “natural Republicans” from El Salvador and “MAGA drag queens,” then Kirk and Conservatism, Inc. have no issue with appealing to demographics. But when it comes to talking about the interests of white Christians it’s a different story altogether. That’s “racist.”
Leftists who celebrate demographic shifts simultaneously attack as racists conservatives who dare to notice their joy. As Democrats hail “flipping Virginia blue,” as national newspapers gloat about how demographic shifts will “doom Republicans,” the gatekeepers join the Left in insisting that anyone who confronts this trend candidly is not a “real conservative” and must be a “bigot.”
The leaders of the conservative movement must be able to answer these questions: why are white Christians, and only white Christians, prohibited from acting in their rational self-interest? Why must Republicans, given the prospect of a dim future in which it can only survive by pandering to the Left, respond by pandering to the Left now, just to win over people who hate and want to persecute them anyway?
In the end, this “strategy” is nothing more than a capitulation to the Left, the same surrender that has laid the country, and the party, so low for decades. By all means, the Republican Party must never waver in its support of the traditional family, of life, and of the Constitution. But it’s also not clear how exactly, or why, appealing to minority groups, and only minority groups, is the best way to do that.
It is disingenuous, not to say illogical, to say that the Republican Party must, for some unexplained reason, not think in terms of demographics when it comes to its most reliable voters—and join the Left in attacking any of those voters who may feel besieged by our liberal monoculture—and instead seek to recruit and celebrate other, reliably liberal groups, such as gays and Latino immigrants. With the exception of evangelicals and Cubans, Latino voters as a group are reliably Democrat, and they have been for decades. They support gun control, the welfare state, and even gay marriage by some margins. Their mythic social conservatism is not as solid as some Republicans would like to think. What does Conservatism, Inc. imagine it can do to change that in short order?
Whether our of sincere conversion or opportunism, Kirk is moving toward more hawkish views on immigration. But if he’s going to adopt some of the positions of that America First crowd he has been too ready to denounce, how can he continue to say that they’re not worth debating? Why doesn’t he just take demographics seriously, instead of rejecting it the examination out of hand and criticizing those who want to ask questions about it as bigots?
Kirk says that he supports the RAISE Act and its goal to cut legal immigration in half.
If he is willing to take reducing legal immigration more seriously, then that’s something that the America Firsters and Turning Point USA can agree on. But his continued refusal to talk about demographics in good faith does little to inspire confidence that his movement has a plan for an American future.
The Gatekeepers Work with the Left
The intellectual heft of Conservatism, Inc. can be summarized in the Turning Point slogan, “socialism sucks!” Socialism, of course, does suck, but for an organization geared to a young population that is struggling to pay off college debt, find good jobs, and start families, this is not a self-evidently appealing message. Young people today are inclined to find socialism appealing precisely because conservatism, under its current leadership, sucks.
Conservatism, Inc. can offer no assurances that Americans may expect to raise their children in a decent, moral society that cares about family, community, and faith. It does not seek to build a world where Americans may live free and prosperous lives without bearing false witness to the same idols that the Left, and the controlled opposition of Conservatism, Inc., worship. Americans are provided not the least guarantees of job security, or that America will even speak their native language in thirty years time.
Conservatism, Inc. isn’t a movement but a corporate enterprise. Its self-styled “dissent” is all part of a shallow brand of rebellion that begins and ends with “triggering” blue-haired gender studies majors.
Kirk says that the Right must resist “excommunicating” those with different opinions on important issues, but that is exactly what Kirk and his allies are trying to do to the America Firsters. He complains of being subjected to an ideological “purity test” by the America First crowd while simultaneously, and arbitrarily labeling them “fake conservatives,” “white nationalists” and “anti-Semites.” This is nonsense.
The truth is that the groypers, however weird the “groyper” brand might be, are closer to the mainstream of how the American Right actually feels than the Beltway types who wear the conservative label while behaving exactly like leftists. They should be applauded for challenging Conservatism, Inc. and its bankrupt ideology. Their “trolling” is more effective activism than the totality of the establishment’s pathetic kowtowing to the gods of Diversity and Progress.
A growing number of young people on the Right are waking up to the reality that a vast number of pundits, news outlets, and institutions that fall under the umbrella of “conservative” are just careerists who lack sincere convictions. These people have nothing to offer the movement, and in fact pose a greater obstacle to making this country great again than the Left, who are at least, comparatively speaking, open about their intentions.
Why don’t establishment conservatives like Kirk, who have also been smeared by the Left, ally with the conservative “trolls” who actually want to conserve something instead of pandering to the people who hate them?
If Conservatism, Inc. refuses to engage candidly with serious, legitimate questions about its priorities, then it deserves to be called out for its hypocrisy and emptiness.
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