Against Conservatism Inc’s Grift
I commend to you heartily George O’Neill’s great TAC piece about the rottenness at the heart of Conservatism, Inc. George, who is a generous funder of conservative initiatives, writes about a meeting in Florida for donors that he attended late last year:
I was being foolish. Just as the meeting was to begin, in walked Matt Schlapp, the head of the group feasting on conservative donors at CPAC. Schlapp is the very definition of Conservatism, Inc. He provides the RNC and other establishment mouthpieces platforms to spin their views. And now, here he was purporting to offer a real alternative. It saddened me beyond words. After Schlapp’s presentation, replete with pep talks from a number of career operatives about how we could send money to a new and better organization, I realized the whole event was a head-fake to convince donors who are unwilling to support the Swamp to give money to a Swamp organization disguised as an anti-Swamp organization.
The good news is that the predators of GOP, Inc., and establishment conservative groups believe they have to pretend they are something new now, because the donors are simply walking away from their tired hustle. I and some others walked away more convinced we should not fund these grifts. More and more, people realize the futility of contributing to big GOP organizations or the fat, bloated battleships of Conservative Movement fame. They know their money goes to overhead, big salaries, lucrative consulting contracts for friends, fancy offices, and precious little actual engagement with voters or lawmakers.
More and more, people know that a “Republican Congress” for two years did nothing to stem the tide of illegal immigration invasion and endless wars. They know that Republican political operators will use the term “America First” as little more than a mantra hoping you will fall in line. But they can’t define what it means to put America first, let alone believe in it. Today we are being subjected to demands that America protect the borders of Ukraine, from politicians who have done nothing to protect our own borders and fellow citizens.
But more and more people have seen the path forward, and it does not include any of the major GOP organizations, which do not provide the promised results but only enrich their ranks. It does not include one “think tank” or advisory group. It does not include a single D.C.-based partisan organization.
You should ask yourself: why is it that the most effective opposition to the racist, anti-American, destructive Critical Race Theory infesting American educational institutions and others is a young guy from the Pacific Northwest, Christopher Rufo, and not any Republican Party politician or DC think tank or activist group. Why is it that it took a self-organized coalition of parents in Northern Virginia to stand up effectively to arrogant CRT educrats, while Conservatism Inc. fiddled and fundraised? Why is by far the most important voice for conservative beliefs a broadcaster, Tucker Carlson, than anyone affiliated with the GOP establishment and Conservatism, Inc.? Donors, if you want to see real change, donate to people like Chris Rufo.
I was stunned this week to read that Matt Schlapp, one of the most important and successful conservative operators of his generation, writing sympathetically about Lia Thomas, the male-to-female transgender athlete who is destroying women’s athletics under woke NCAA rules allowing biological males who identify as women to compete against females. It is an outrage, not only against women athletes, but more broadly as an acute manifestation of a civilization-destroying madness sweeping our country: gender ideology. Don’t look to Washington Republicans for resistance. If GOP-led resistance is happening, it’s happening at the local level, with politicians like Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has directed the state’s child protection agency to investigate parents pursuing hormonal and surgical alterations of their minor children as child abuse. The case is tied up in court now, and Abbott might not prevail — but at least he’s fighting against this horrible phenomenon.
Similarly with Gov. Ron DeSantis in Florida and his various initiatives, especially the controversial (to liberals) bill that prohibits discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in schools up to the third grade and limits it to age-appropriate in higher grades. Liberals are screaming that it punishes LGBT children and their families, but what it really does is protect the rights of parents to prevent their children from being propagandized by gender-ideology activists. Contrast that with the useless Republican Gov. of Utah, Spencer Cox, who plans to veto a bill passed by the state’s legislature that would prohibit transgender student athletes from sports competitions.
Anyway, here’s what Schlapp tweeted:
Now look, certainly young people suffering from gender dysphoria deserve our compassion, but that’s not the meaning of Schlapp’s tweet. It signals that the head of CPAC is opening itself to affirming gender ideology; notice that Schlapp uses female pronouns for this man. What about compassion for the young female athletes who are being dispossessed by this man and his powerful institutional allies? What about the young women who are, and who yet will, have to endure this penis-haver in their dressing rooms? What about what this normalization is doing to our society, with the destruction of gender norms?
If conservative leaders like Schlapp cannot even conserve the idea of the gender binary, a fundamental basis of human civilization, what the hell good are they? Seriously, what is the point? My guess is that Schlapp has looked at the demographic data and observed that Generation Z is far more accepting of transgenderism than its predecessors. He’s protecting the brand. If so, then he’s not about defending and advancing conservative principles, but about defending and advancing his brand. To hell with that.
But there’s more. Check out this thread by a pro-life activist:
CPAC claims to be the largest annual gathering of conservatives in the nation.
— Alison H.Centofante (@AlisonHowardC) March 9, 2022
Grift. Obscene grift. More:
— Alison H.Centofante (@AlisonHowardC) March 9, 2022
This autumn, everybody expects the GOP to retake Congress. I certainly hope it does. But you watch: the right-wing Blobsters will probably end up satisfying itself with Owning The Libs instead of doing real things that help ordinary people, and bring the fight to the Left over substantive issues. It is not enough to be Not The Democrats, though my fear is that’s exactly the calculation the GOP is making. The main reasons conservatives like me have been trying to get my American confrères to pay close attention to Hungarian PM Viktor Orban is first, because he offers a different model of conservative governance, one based on prioritizing sovereignty and family values, and second, because he demonstrates what can be done if you fight for principles, not just relying on the Trump approach of prioritizing lib-owning, and making substantive policy and legislative accomplishments a sideshow.
In some ways, Chris Rufo is the Howard Jarvis of our time: a grassroots conservative who prioritized a particular issue (in Jarvis’s case, tax revolt) and ended up leading the conservative movement and the GOP in his direction.
CPAC remains enormously influential, but it has to be asked: has it lost its way? Has Conservatism Inc.? Do conservatives stand for something substantive, or do we simply want to hold power and amuse ourselves by pissing off liberals? I can’t believe that the grifters are going to prevail, in the end. The sooner they are shown the door, the better for us all. George O’Neill advises:
So, live local, give local, act local, and refuse to support the destructive designs of the tired hucksters.
The future of conservatism is happening outside of Washington, and beyond the decadent precincts of Conservatism Inc. George O’Neill represents the donor class. When and if they start redirecting their tithes away from the institutional “church” of conservatism to those that actually believe in something, and are willing to fight effectively for it, we will see real change. But not until.
UPDATE: A reader writes:
I would like to make two small points regarding your latest piece in AmCon (on Schlapp and Con inc.):
1. I think you failed to focus on what is to me the most problematic part of Schlapp’s tweet – asking how it will all look in 30 years. I believe that the meaning implied in this is something like – thirty years ago gay marriage seemed inconceivable and now it’s normalized, so in 30 years a biological male dominating women’s sport will seem normal. It’s a relativist view of such issues, basically arguing that right and wrong are fluid, and a Conservative is simply a gradualist liberal, one who wants to get to the same place as the radicals, but in 30 years rather than 3 years.
2. The division between DC Con inc. people and the conservative activists in Oregon or Virginia or Florida, reflects an older division that can go back even to the Court and Country division of British politics of the 17-19th centuries, but certainly reflects an ongoing struggle of the conservative (mostly northwestern) establishment and the insurgents from out there, like Goldwater and Reagan. Few remember today how much the conservative establishment, of people like Rockefeller and Bush Sr. resisted and resented Reagan for years until he became a success and Con inc. started to claim they were insurgents all along…
UPDATE.2: Earlier this week, Raheem Kassam at the National Pulse posted a federal tax document showing that a George Soros-linked left wing group gave over $183,000 to American Conservative Union, the parent organization of CPAC, for “civil rights, social action, advocacy.”
This is before Schlapp began softening the line on trans, and kicking pro-lifers to the CPAC curb. More:
Why did @mschlapp want to go onto @RealAmVoice this morning to trash me, but when he found out I was watching, he panicked and refused to answer our questions? Oh well, I had my say after his appearance. #CPACpic.twitter.com/Z39i7yFtQq
— Raheem J. Kassam (@RaheemKassam) March 9, 2022
These 4 seconds are what made Schlapp’s interview this morning. Asked why he’s been taking money from far left dark money funds, he first denied knowledge, then admitted he’d have taken that money even if he’d known. Which is it? pic.twitter.com/AS6gNpUST5
— Raheem J. Kassam (@RaheemKassam) March 10, 2022