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Tucker Carlson & “Main Street” Conservatism

The Fox News host skewers GOP mega-donor Paul Singer for destroying a small Nebraska town.

We at The American Conservative say we’re for a ‘Main Street’ conservatism. There’s perhaps no better example of what that means than this 10 minute segment from Tucker Carlson’s primetime show last night. Carlson, chairman of TAC’s advisory board, dared to go after GOP mega-donor Paul Singer for his thoroughly awful “vulture capitalism” practices—and the Republican politicians who take his money and remain silent. It was a truly remarkable segment, especially to appear on Fox News.

For the uninitiated, Paul Singer is a New York hedge fund manager who has made billions by purchasing sovereign debt from financially distressed countries. He’d offer struggling foreign governments a lifeline for their debt, then hound them with costly litigation to make a handsome profit on repayment with interest, not unlike a vulture feeding off a carcass—hence, vulture capitalism. Singer’s vulture capitalism isn’t limited to foreign countries, though; his hedge fund, Elliot Management, also racks up quite the profit by “investing” in struggling U.S. companies, often off-shoring good paying American jobs in the process.

Much of Carlson’s exposé centered around Singer’s involvement with the outdoors retailer Cabela’s. For many Americans, Cabela’s is a yearly staple for hunting and fishing gear. For residents of Sidney, Nebraska, population 6,282 and Cabela’s corporate headquarters, it was the economic engine of the flourishing town. For Singer, it was yet another way to add to his bloated net worth. Elliot Management took an ownership stake in Cabela’s in 2015, and quickly pushed the board to sell the company. Despite its relative health, Cabela’s caved to Elliot Management’s wishes, and sold to competitor Bass Pro Shops a year later. Just one week after the merger, amidst surging Cabela’s stock prices, Singer’s hedge fund cashed out—to the tune of $90 million up front.

Of course, things didn’t work out so well for the town of Sidney. With Bass Pro Shops taking ownership of Cabela’s, many good paying jobs in Sidney disappeared—and many residents were forced to move. Those who didn’t leave town quick enough were stuck, as housing prices collapsed. Sidney, once one of the rare thriving small towns surviving the “brain drain,” found itself decimated by a New York billionaire who probably never stepped foot in a Cabela’s.

Yet the story is not just about another small town fallen prey to a changing economy, because Singer is not just another hedge fund manager. He was the second biggest donor to the GOP in 2016, and has pumped millions of dollars into Republican campaigns. Accordingly, he demands outsized influence over Republican congressmen—as Carlson noted, Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse has been silent on the situation in Sidney. But a closer look at Singer’s political investments is revealing as to his brand of “conservatism”. He has bankrolled numerous neoconservative foreign policy shops, advocated for more permissive immigration policies, and has been a longtime supporter of pro-LGBT organizations and causes. It’s no surprise that he vehemently opposed President Trump’s ascendance in 2015.

If you’re not yet DVR-ing the 8pm Fox News timeslot, you should be. Last night’s segment was the latest evidence that Tucker Carlson is perhaps the only voice on cable news unafraid to call out those on his own side—even those who are very powerful like Paul Singer. For too long, conservatives have been beholden to moneyed interests that feel no obligation to the country around them. ‘Main Street’ conservatism, by contrast, sides with the people in places like Sidney, Nebraska over the culturally progressive, interventionist, market absolutists in the centers of power—regardless of which major party receives their dollars.