Twitter’s Right-Wing Civil War

For a not-insignificant portion of the online right, a new form of white nationalism is taking root—and it coincides with the rise of Donald Trump.

Photo Illustration by Emil Lendof/The Daily Beast

The newfangled slur “cuckservative”—a portmanteau which combines the word‬ “cuckold” (which has both sexual and racial overtones) with the word “conservative”—has been gaining steam online these last few days.‬ So much so that, the other day, it‬ reached a threshold where I felt it warranted comment. So I did, and that’s when the fun began.

Who knows when these things reach a tipping point? But this new term—typically employed in defense of Donald Trump—was especially seedy. The danger is that otherwise well-meaning grassroots conservatives might mistakenly think‬ this term, which, at best, is meant to be emasculating, was merely an‬ anodyne synonym for RINO. Instead, it’s a rallying cry for white supremacists and “neoreactionaries” who, for whatever reason, seem to back Trump.

At least, although I had seen it bandied about in the‬ fever swamps of Twitter before, its mainstreaming (to the degree it has been mainstreamed) seems to have coincided with the rise of ‬ Trump as a political force. I’m not suggesting he’s behind it—just that his comments about Mexicans being rapists might have awakened an unsavory crowd, and that they’re falling for him in a major way.

And there were two mentions by prominent‬ conservatives that led me to believe this was about to start trending.‬ First, on Wednesday, Rush Limbaugh averred‬ that “If Trump were your average, ordinary, cuckolded Republican, he‬ would have apologized by now.”

The next day, conservative blogger and‬ talk radio host Erick Erickson noticed the term, which he, to his‬ credit, dismissed as “a slur against Christian voters coined by‬ white supremacists.”‬

In any event, it was after posting my Daily Caller blog about this‬ that the white supremacists came out in force. It seems that, according to several‬ bloggers and people on Twitter (many of whom have Confederate flag‬ avatars),‬ by virtue of writing this piece, I had outed myself as a…cuckservative. (And‬ so had Erick Erickson for speaking out against the slur.)

I also began to learn some‬ interesting facts about who is and who isn’t a cuckservative. Did you know that a Jewish conservative cannot‬ be a cuckservative? Neither‬ did I. Gentile support for Israel, on the other hand, is a defining‬ trait. It turns out that supporting Israel (or immigration reform, or probably criminal justice reform) is tantamount to your wife getting pregnant by another man—and then you‬ supporting that child.

If this all sounds very base and evil and‬ primitive, that’s because it is.

But I don’t want to stop with just discussing the etymology of the‬ term, and the story of how I was personally impacted. I think it’s‬ worth digging a bit deeper and exploring why this became a “thing”—and why it’s important to confront what it represents.

The fundamental worldview behind the slur, it seems, is one of‬ tribalism. I suspect this is a reaction to the economic displacement and riots and‬ chaos and the general unease and malaise that has permeated America‬ for what seems like an eternity now. Sadly, we’re seeing the rise of‬ this on both sides of the political spectrum. And on the fringe right, we’re seeing a philosophy that says whites‬ should stick together.‬

As a conservative who believes in such quaint things as the rule of‬ law—and a colorblind and a pluralistic society (I know, I’m such a‬ rube!), this all disgusts me. Here’s an insight into the thinking of these anti-cuckservatives, which comes from an open‬ letter to yours truly: “It’s‬ perfectly okay for every race and ethnic group on the planet to look‬ out for their own interests, love their own people, have their own‬ borders (or at least wish for independent statehood), and want to‬ perpetuate a better future for their children…except Whites.”‬

As far as I’m concerned, conservative ideas are the best ideas for‬ helping everyone flourish—regardless of race or religion. But, then‬ again, I’m not a white supremacist—I’m a cuckservative!‬

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I also think Erickson is on to something when he talks about his‬ faith. This kind of cynical tribalism doesn’t just thrive in a world‬ based on scarcity and fear (which is the opposite of faith), but it’s‬ also contrary to all the teachings of Christ. As a rising leader of‬ the conservative movement, kudos to Erickson for demonstrating moral‬ courage here.

Sometimes people rise to the occasion, and I think it’s notable that we now have people who made their names as big RINO-hunters—that is, the bloggers and pundits who made their name attacking Republican moderates and movement sellouts—are now, for the first time I’ve seen, actively trying to police the far right. Conservatives are waking up to the fact that the racists on our side need to be killed with fire.

The other positive thing is that, in response to this, several mainstream‬ conservatives have begun appropriating the term, embracing‬ it for comedic purposes, and thus, taking away the power of using it‬ in a derogatory manner. We are all cuckservatives now.‬

I think it’s fair to say that we on the center-right have been defending ourselves and our movement against charges of racism for so long that we’ve forgotten that, well, our side has some racists. “The truth is, there are always racists in the movement, or, not even in the movement, actually, as they tend to be outside of the movement, but there are racists adjacent to the movement, always hoping and pushing the conservative movement to become what they think it really should be, a champion of the White Race and Protector of Peoples of European Descent, or whatever they’re calling it this week,” is how the conservative blogger Ace of Spades put it last week.

So these‬ people have always been around. But whereas they were once confined to‬ the nether regions of the Internet, now Twitter allows them to spread‬ their pernicious message, and Trump has given them a candidate to get behind. This might make them seem more powerful than‬ they really are, but I do worry that this white nationalism business is starting to take off—that‬ it’s not just the term “cuckservative” that’s being mainstreamed.

I‬ fear that more people on both ends of the political spectrum are‬ embracing what should be fringe‬ views in America. I can’t police the left, but my hope in writing this‬ is to sound the alarm on the right. And message is simple: Be‬ optimistic about America. Embrace our pluralistic society. And don’t let these vile goddamn racists pollute our message. They are not our friends, they are not on our team, and conservative leaders must roundly condemn them.