Culture War

A Good Start

by Jim Swift
November 19, 2019
Featured Image
(Gage Skidmore / Flickr)

Unless you’re extremely online, you probably didn’t notice that Young America’s Foundation severed ties with Michelle Malkin over the weekend. While a lot of her contributions are still on the YAF site, her speaker’s page has been 404’d.

And the organization released a statement, not naming Malkin:

As regular Bulwark readers may recall, dropping Malkin (among others) from the YAF speaker’s roster was something I suggested back in July to incoming YAF President Scott Walker. Frankly, it should have been done a long time ago.

But while YAF’s decision is a good first step in the right direction, it didn’t come out of right field. A series of events forced them to make the decision. And strangely, we have Charlie Kirk of Turning Point USA to thank for this. Bear with me for a moment, since understanding what happened will require a little background on competing right and alt-right factions, reminiscent of the intense (yet juvenile) internecine squabbling of twentieth-century socialist “splitters” and “grouplets.”

Charlie Kirk’s organization is a sort of FourLoko to YAF’s Michelob Ultra. And recently TPUSA has been targeted by alt-right racists and disaffected former supporters who have some sick, stupid allegiance to Nick Fuentes. Fuentes—you can look up his greatest hits—and the so-called “Groypers” (think of the people who like the Pepe the Frog meme, but on steroids) have been attending TPUSA events and asking Kirk and the speakers questions about, well, a wide variety of topics that TPUSA doesn’t want to focus on.

Matthew Sheffield wrote about one such event, where Kirk and President Trump’s large adult son and his girlfriend refused to take questions. It didn’t end well. Nor are a lot of events that TPUSA is hosting nowadays ending well. You hate to see it.

As a result, TPUSA is pushing back on the Nick Fuentes types, the Groypers, and others.

And here’s where Michelle Malkin comes in. At recent YAF events at Lock Haven University and UCLA, Malkin went all-in on her support for Fuentes:

Malkin has been a mainstay of campus conservatism through YAF for nearly two decades. She’s been given safe haven by the group despite some very questionable judgement calls. These two talks and the tweets that followed it blew up that safe haven.

In the course of her defense of Fuentes, Malkin criticized Ben Shapiro, a fellow prominent YAF campus speaker (who also happens to run her columns on his website, the Daily Wire).

So Malkin attacked a fellow YAF star and defended a bunch of real-deal white nationalists. And then, when the shirt hit the fan, she took to pleading with Twitter readers to not take her out of context and read her full remarks. As if the full-scope of her arguments made things better, and not worse.

And then Malkin more or less conceded the case after the news broke that YAF no longer wanted anything to do with her:

So . . . she was defending a bunch of white nationalists after all? Good to know. Malkin’s tweet set off a number of reactions within Conservatism Inc.—and also a good deal of strategic silence. It was interesting to see who came to her defense.

Ned Ryun, CEO of American Majority and a senior fellow at the MAGAmag American Greatness, had this to share:

https://twitter.com/FaithGoldy/status/1195370088045699072

This is the fringe of Conservatism Inc., not the main body. So it’s good to know that, for now, the people eager to #StandWithMalkin for her defense of Fuentes, the Proud Boys, and the Groypers aren’t running the show in the movement. At least not yet.

But the entire episode underscores the reality that while Conservatism Inc. quickly made its peace with Trumpian nationalism, the peace is one-sided. The existing structures of the conservative movement thought they could co-opt this movement over time. They can’t. All of the ideological pathways of Trumpism eventually lead to white nationalism. And if the old-guard conservative institutions don’t cut ties, then they will be the ones who eventually get co-opted.

This is what YAF said as it broke ties with Malkin: “There is no room in mainstream conservatism or at YAF for holocaust deniers, white nationalists, street brawlers, or racists.”

That’s a good ethos and YAF deserves a lot of credit for taking a stand.

The only problem is that it isn’t true. Mainstream conservatism continues to harbor quite a few people who accommodate holocaust deniers, white nationalists, street brawlers, and racists. The movement seems to think that, once the Trump fever breaks, these people will melt away and conservatism can return to its roots.

Maybe. Maybe not.

Jim Swift

Jim Swift is a senior editor at The Bulwark.