The 2016 election planted a nationalistic, populist battle standard reminiscent of the one that the pitchfork-wielding legions of the Old Right had once marched beneath. Now it appears at risk of being diluted and neutralized, as populist right-wing movements have been in the past. Consider the fate of Michelle Malkin.
Malkin, a conservative columnist and author, has long opposed the GOP establishment on the grounds that it is toothless and favors unchecked immigration nearly as much as the Democratic Party. She recently took up arms with a nationalist youth group—the so-called “Groypers”—that has risen to challenge two conservative campus organizations, the Young America’s Foundation (YAF) and Turning Point USA (TPUSA). YAF, whose events have been besieged by Groypers asking hard, politically incorrect questions, had booked Malkin for speeches across the country for nearly two decades.
By expressing support for these young nationalists, Malkin crossed the Rubicon. YAF announced in late November that it would be cutting ties with her. “There is no room in mainstream conservatism,” read an official statement, “or at YAF for holocaust deniers, white nationalists, street brawlers, or racists.” Malkin suggested that the real rub was her defense of Nicholas Fuentes, an irreverent 21-year-old YouTube host and Groyper, against the attacks of conservative A-listers. “Ben Shapiro,” said Malkin in one of her final speeches organized by YAF, “repeatedly denigrated an entire movement of young men who watch a YouTuber named Nick Fuentes, and [who] are seeking answers to tough questions about where America is headed, as masturbating losers in their basements who share memes.”
Shapiro isn’t the only one who has it out for Groypers. Enter Charlie Kirk, founder of TPUSA, and Fuentes’ elder by just a few years.
Kirk launched his “Culture War” tour in October, though it is unclear what he means by “culture” or “war.” Whatever else can be said of Groypers, they have thoroughly exposed the hijacking in progress of national conservatism in the Trump era. TPUSA, for example, professes “conservative” values to the public, but its student chapter handbook warns against “talk about abortion, gay marriage, etc.” At a stop at Ohio State University during the tour, one attendee asked Kirk: “Given that your interpretation of ‘traditional conservative values’ stems from 1965 on immigration and 2015 on race, I’d like to know, how long do we have to wait until child drag shows are pushed as American traditional conservatism?”
This is a fair question, considering that Kirk recently posed grinning ear-to-ear beside “Lady Maga,” a man who styles himself America’s conservative drag queen superstar. Kirk deferred this question to his cohost, Rob Smith, a proud homosexual and recent convert to conservatism, who proceeded to demean his interlocutor. During the course of the questioning, Smith accused another attendee of being a closeted homosexual for asking a similar question and insisted that anyone taking issue with his lifestyle was “behind the times” and as such, “doesn’t really have any place in the conservative movement.” Yet another attendee pressed the question, how is it possible to reconcile LGBTQ ideology, which Kirk advocates, with Christian morality without diluting the conservative movement? Kirk and Smith again responded with belittling and bullying comments.
Kirk’s stated stance on same-sex marriage amounts to: “I don’t care what two consenting adults do.” But Kirk does care, and he has praised efforts by the United States to impose homosexual institutions on sovereign countries by the sword; that is, without their consent. The “blessings of liberty” come not without a little coercion.
But the even bigger issue that the Groypers pressed, and which Kirk wants to avoid, is restricting legal immigration.
It’s easy enough to oppose, or claim to oppose, illegal immigration. Democrats, for example, oppose the concept entirely—so they want to abolish it by “decriminalizing” border crossing. Kirk plays the same game. It might otherwise be illegal to offer a bribe in exchange for a green card, but because the practice has been formalized as the EB-5 Immigrant Investor Program, Kirk sees no problem with it.
Notoriously rife with fraud, EB-5 is a visa program designed to attract capital investment by foreigners and offer them a path to lawful permanent residency. In other words, it imports a foreign elite, primarily from China.
“There should be no limitations on EB-5 visas,” Kirk said during a stop on this tour. Limiting the number of EB-5s available is “one of the most backwards, stupid things we could possibly do,” said the neoconservative boy wonder. Kirk thinks limiting legal immigration at all is contrary to those “conservative,” “American” values he has yet to define or defend. In fact, if you hold an F-1 foreign academic visa, Kirk wants to “staple a green card behind your diploma.”
The F-1 was designed as a sort of goodwill program. Foreign students would study here, then return to their country of origin. The F-1, however, has become a conduit for U.S. companies to import laborers at the expense of American citizens. There is virtually no way of knowing how many people illegally overstay their visas and morph into those illegal aliens Kirk claims to oppose. Visa over-stayers are the largest source of illegal immigration.
Though Kirk says that he doesn’t want to dole out citizenship, his stance would necessarily mean creating a path to citizenship. That’s probably fine anyway because, he claims, these illegals, unlike those other illegals, embrace our “American cultural identity.” In a recent column for American Greatness, Malkin reminds readers that the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 9/11 attacks, the Times Square bomb plot, and the Boston Marathon bombing were all acts of terrorism involving student visa violators. Kirk’s claim, then, is so beyond the pale of fact, that it can only amount to meaningless word salad. Even his own followers have begun to take note.
The Kansas State University chapter of TPUSA saw a mass exodus of its leadership after officers accused Kirk’s organization of “fair weather conservatism.” Among the reasons for dissolution was TPUSA’s avoidance of authentic social conservatism, their essentially leftist stance on immigration, and the “culture of censorship.” Jaden McNeil, the former president of the KSU chapter of TPUSA, told me he objected to Kirk’s treatment of the Groypers, who were merely “showing up, politely sitting through a speech, and asking questions.”
What, then, is behind this reaction against authentic American nationalism? Before YAF cut her loose, I spoke to Malkin about what she called the “cancel culture” promulgated by the “virtue-signaling lemmings in Conservatism Inc.”
No one in the mainstream conservative establishment is seriously concerned with American nationalism as a force of moral order in a gravely destabilized society. Instead, they are trying to capture, redefine, and ultimately dilute it. Genuine dissidents, as Malkin told me, must be “unjustly smeared and defamed” by the hitmen of “respectability.” More than anything else, this is the greatest threat to the spirit of true American patriotism.
“We have met the enemy,” Malkin told me, “and it is the Keepers of the Gate.” Few feel the weight of those words as she does now.