“…I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay? It’s, like, incredible.”
—Donald Trump, campaign rally at Dordt College,
Sioux Center, Iowa, January 23, 2016
“Why do Democrats want you to hate Putin? Has Putin shipped every middle class job in your town to Russia? Did he manufacture a worldwide pandemic that wrecked your business? Is he teaching your kids to embrace racial discrimination? Is he making fentanyl? Does he eat dogs?”
—Tucker Carlson, opening monologue,
Tucker Carlson Tonight, February 22, 2022
“…[O]n [my website] cobratate.com, I have my ‘PHD’ program… ‘PHD’ is, ah, ‘Pimpin’ Hoes Degree.’ …That teaches, basically, how I got girls, how I met girls, how I got girls to like me, how I got girls to fall in love with me [so they would] work on webcam [OnlyFans] for me. ’Cause that’s what I did.… And that’s how I got rich.”
—Andrew Tate, interview with Tripp Kramer, January 20, 2020
Would the founders of National Review ever have feared that American conservatism’s most formidable threat might not come from Democrats, the KGB, jihad, or domestic Marxists?
In previous ages, such a thing seemed impossible. Internal squabbling over the subtlest points of policy or principle was constant and necessary, but core values and objectives were reliably shared across a firm majority. The finest and godliest of humanity’s political thinkers had designed a constitution more worthy of preservation, protection, and defense than any other. Even limited adherence to the Framers’ vision had, despite immense racial and social blemishes, made Americans the freest and most prosperous people on earth. In subsequent generations, holding to that vision even vanquished the Soviet Empire—killer of millions—and unleashed the most monumental spree of wealth creation in human history. These events were not computer model projections or academic opinions; they actually happened to real people in plain sight. Conservatism had been tried, and it had succeeded.
Why, then, would the world’s most proven political philosophy need to be gutted and redecorated in millennial drab? Why change anything; or, rather, why change everything?
Some on the right—if not now, a great many—would answer that these humane yet practical ideas have actually failed. Indeed, they say, there are better ideas to espouse instead, and far better leaders, both in politics and in thought, to articulate them.
These ideas went far beyond the long-standing, perfectly legitimate debates within American conservatism concerning the tension between liberalism and traditionalism—fluidity and solidity. Something was different.
The 21st century’s second and third decades have, to the contrary, seen a rapidly accelerating backlash against American conservatism—not simply from the usual sources, but from legions of people claiming not just to be conservatives, but “real” conservatives. The apparently unbreakable grasp such ideas, which are so far removed from conservatism, have on these massive swathes of Americans is proof of that autoimmune condition—and its lethal ramifications.
By the lead-up to the 2016 presidential election, many Americans had had enough. Both the Bush and Obama administration’s failed policies had created enormous discontent. Living in an economically anemic, re-racialized, militarily humiliated, borderless, proto-woke society, the country was ripe for a different direction. Donald Trump’s descent down a golden escalator, bereft of fashionable pieties, post-national shame, and all the aspects of politician-hood that had so disappointed Americans for years, seemed a delicious refreshment. The failure of both parties to make America great and ensure its pride, security, and prosperity—this had, genuinely, created “America last” policies, and a popular “America first” revolt was on the horizon.
The country was rumbling with talk of a new political philosophy: “populism,” not conservatism. Like Marxist socialism, conservatism, many said, had failed—even betrayed the people. Only a “populist-nationalist” president could put America back on track and restore its sense of greatness and historical optimism. America was decadent (which it was) and needed to become more Spartan, or just “stronger”—to an even more comical few, more like Russia. The excesses of feminism needed to be corrected with a resurgent masculinity unashamed of its power. All of the left’s degeneracy needed to be addressed in kind, if not copied in mirror image—with the dogma that the ends justify the means copied most fervently.
Yet, such observers and activists were wrong. They misattributed America’s horrific condition to conservatism itself, not a combination of leftism and a Republican establishment’s rejection of conservatism in favor of radical interventionist, get-along-to-go-along, big-government folly. To any knowledgeable onlooker, George Bush was not a conservative, therefore, his failures and their results had nothing to do with conservatism. Still, wiser counsel was neither to be heard nor heeded. “Anti-conservatism” was on the march.
From the beginning, Donald’s Trump’s campaign was about him, with his personality alone attracting people to his policy positions. Traditional governance had achieved nothing, his fans seemed to believe, so they yearned for an uncontrollable strong-man to make things right.
In the end, Trump triumphed, both over his Republican rivals and the Democrat favorite Hillary Clinton. But the reason for his victory lay in his marked departure from the traditional, Constitution-based conservatism his chief rival Ted Cruz represented. As Matt Lewis wrote in The Daily Beast in 2017, “Trump [was], in many ways, the right-wing overreaction to Obama. Rather than scaling back Obama’s executive overreach, there’s a sense he would use the presidency to get our things done… to make the trains run on time.”
Yet, the Trump presidency—genuinely excellent in many ways—was marred by much more than the endless, unconstitutional leftist attempts to destroy him. The messianic cravings of so many who felt abandoned, let alone betrayed, by secular authority caused them to turn to Trump for salvation. The same conspiratorial fanaticism with which the left battled Trump was equaled in his followers, from often anti-Semitic “Christian nationalist” zealots to fevered militiamen ready to die for their leader. For everything from “chemtrails” to 9/11 being the work of George Bush and Israel, Trump somehow was the answer. The “QAnon” conspiracy theory—a delusional (and fraudulent) web of blood-thirsty intrigue involving UFOs, “lizard people,” the Titanic, a living John F. Kennedy, Jr., cabals of evil Jews, and much more—was, in fact, a new religion with Trump as its lord and savior. Trump, like a god, would triumph over all his enemies and restore light and order to the cosmos, they believed. His failure to do any of that in the 2020 election did nothing to quench their belief. Because “the plan” stated that Trump must be president to destroy the forces of darkness, president he had to be. While it is unclear how much Trump knows of the details of his worshippers’ beliefs, he has openly encouraged them. In 2022, he went so far as to proudly re-share a post on TruthSocial comparing him to Jesus.
Thus, to his worshippers, Trump’s horrendous post-2020 behavior is not a negative but a positive—who is man to expect that a god should show restraint in vanquishing his enemies? Trump and no one else has a “right” to the presidency, and anybody who challenges him is just wasting his or her time. A serious conservative with a proven, muscular record like Ron DeSantis, Trump says, is a “RINO GLOBALIST,” while Nikki Haley, his exemplary former U.N. ambassador, is a “Birdbrain” (to whom Trumpers sent a real birdcage and birdseed). Conservatives, regardless of their actions, are somehow actually “establishment” RINOs. Trump is the only truth. “MAGA” or else.
Perhaps Donald Trump’s most influential supporter in the media is former Fox News host Tucker Carlson. Once a reasonable and somewhat measured conservative, Carlson has moved far from his roots in recent years, becoming a full-throated bugle for anti-conservatism.
The best example is Carlson’s long-standing and ever more explicit admiration for Russia and its dictator Vladimir Putin. “Could any of these people actually tell you what makes Vladimir Putin so bad?” Carlson asked in 2019. Documented atrocities aside, for example, that Putin, as part of his unjustifiable invasion of Ukraine, allied himself with Razman Kadyirov, the ruler of Chechnya. It was Chechen Muslim terrorists who carried out the deadliest jihad attack after 9/11 when they besieged an elementary school in Byeslan in 2004 and murdered 331 people, including 186 children. The very same Vladimir Putin who met with those children’s weeping mothers and spearheaded brutal (and controversial) counter-terrorism efforts in response is now using those same vicious terrorists to murder Ukrainian civilians—yet it is Ukrainian self-defense measures that Carlson calls “terrorism.”
Americans can have a perfectly reasonable debate about how much the United States should involve itself in Ukraine’s war, but Carlson believes that America should not support Ukraine at all. Yet, taking this position as a defense of “nationalism” is, as Rich Lowry writes in National Review, ridiculous:
Putin’s nationalism trespasses against a pillar of true nationalism, which is that the nation belongs to the people, who deserve to govern themselves and not see the national wealth plundered by a ruling elite.
…So, Putin can’t teach us anything useful about how to honor America’s national tradition. Likewise, just because Putin is pursuing his self-interest in Ukraine, it doesn’t mean we can’t pursue ours.
Putin is not a conservative hero, and Russia is not America’s friend; but, in the name of anti-conservatism, Tucker Carlson will say so.
Yet, perhaps anti-conservatism’s greatest and most emblematic act of barbarism is its normalization of accused sex trafficker, predator, and rapist Andrew Tate.
Tate, a former kickboxer, first achieved fame in 2016 as a contestant on the British version of the reality TV show Big Brother, from which he was ejected after a video surfaced of him whipping his then-girlfriend with a belt for texting another man. (Tate claimed that the video was merely a “kinky sex video and we’re acting out a role play [sic].”)
In the ensuing years, Tate, often under the self-granted title “Top G,” built a social media empire averaging billions of views geared toward “dating” advice, which frequently took the form of helping men live lives of maximum promiscuity. He also monetized this wisdom in the form of the online “Hustler’s University,” where he sold exclusive access to video lectures of himself teaching young men how to get rich. How they were to get rich was his “PHD program,” an acronym for “Pimpin’ Hoes Degree,” where he detailed how to procure vulnerable women and then emotionally manipulate them into producing paid solo pornography on OnlyFans. Tate would scour Instagram and Tinder to procure and groom the women who later became his harem of online prostitutes. He would then use the so-called “loverboy” technique of manipulation to win the women’s hearts and then entice them to move to his adopted country of Romania to “work” in the hope of one day marrying him. According to Tate, he became a “self-made trillionaire” by having “75 women working for me in four locations” and making “$600,000 (£480,0000) a month from webcam.”
In 2022, Romanian police arrested Tate, along with his brother Tristan and two female Romanian associates, on multiple counts of rape, human trafficking, and running a criminal organization. The organization in question was his touted “webcam” business.
Why, then, would anti-conservatives love Andrew Tate? Because master manipulator Tate had noticed the legitimate, global social ill of young men feeling lost, unappreciated, and unsure of how to forge fulfilling lives for themselves. And because conservatives, both real and not real, have rightly taken up the cause of young men against all the leftist socio-political obstacles they endure, some fooled themselves into thinking that Tate was somehow a conservative, too—if a bit “rough” for their personal taste.
What followed was a blizzard of grotesque fascination and adulation, simply because Tate was telling young men to be “strong”—and nobody seemed to care that what he actually meant was turning lost boys into sexual criminals like him.
The crowning infamy began in the summer of 2023 with arch-anti-conservative Tucker Carlson’s two-and-half-hour interview with Tate shot under house arrest in his mansion in Romania. Carlson introduced Tate purely as a kind of youth guru to young men in need of confidence and direction without outlining the Romanian prosecutors’ damning indictment, which, if Carlson is a true journalist, he or his research team must have read beforehand. Carlson then spent the whole interview indulging Tate’s endless lies and deflections, particularly Tate’s absurd assertion that his arrest was actually due to his supposed efforts on behalf of young men—blaming “the Matrix”’s conspiracy against him but never himself. Carlson crossed a line in interviewing Tate, and not a thin one.
Then, not long after, The Daily Wire’s Candace Owens—already a borderline anti-conservative for her reprehensible defense of Kanye West’s anti-Semitism—released her own three-hour interview with Tate. Only, this time, it was worse, as Tate successfully manipulated Owens into believing his lies, and even into abandoning some of her own conservative beliefs regarding the dignity of women. They even discussed the evils of pornography—even though Tate made his fortune through producing it, and is charged with coercing women into appearing in it under false pretenses.
As with Carlson, it did not matter that Tate had spent years boasting of his crimes in public, (nominally) converted to Islam because its attitudes toward violence and misogyny appealed to him, that he left a woman a voice message detailing how much he enjoyed raping her, or that both Tate brothers had boasted of grooming and raping underage girls. The genuineness of the problem Tate was exploiting outweighed his own personal evil. In fact, so much did this unforgivable moral soul-selling outweigh Tate’s criminality that Owens, in response to real conservatives’ fury, proceeded to attack one of the women accusing Tate of rape. How? By parroting the lies of multiple sex offenders accused and convicted of raping the woman in question—when she was a minor.
In conclusion, what else can be said? In all aspects—from Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” to Carlson’s anti-conservatism—the Republican Party teeters on the edge of no longer being the party that freed the slaves, made America rich, and crushed Soviet communism.
Some of this impasse’s root causes, of course, are legitimate: America needs good-paying middle-class jobs, a sense of national pride, and strong, productive young men who believe in themselves. Yet seeking to mirror the left’s savagery is not the way to transmute America back into Ronald Reagan’s shining city upon a hill.
The disgrace of Tate’s normalization is symbolic not only of anti-conservatism’s final triumph but also of its bitter, inevitable end. The political madness Trump and Carlson have wrought and legitimized has found its true abyss. Seeking to beat the left by becoming an equally brutal inversion of it will always destroy the godly traditions, individual freedom, and human dignity true conservatism exists to conserve. And, as always, the innocent will suffer either way.