Leaving the comfort of the Republican Party in the wake of President Donald Trump's takeover of the party has given some conservatives a fresh perspective on disturbing facts about their erstwhile allies.
That's the position conservative writer Charlie Sykes seems to have found himself in as writer for the broadly anti-Trump outlet The Bulwark. And in a new piece Thursday written from the perspective of a new outsider to right-wing politics, Sykes picked out a key element of the movement that has come into focus after the anti-immigrant massacre in El Paso, Texas.
He reflected on the writings of one of his colleagues, Christian Vanderbrouk, who examined the influence of novelist Kurt Schlichter and his promotion of deeply troubling strains of right-wing thought.
"Schlichter peddles white nationalist ‘replacement” theory, calls inner city residents of Chicago 'savages,' and celebrates violence with obsessive regularity," Sykes wrote. "Despite that, he remains a columnist at Townhall and fills in as a guest host on Hugh Hewitt’s nationally syndicated radio show."
Schlicter promotes destructive fantasies of racialized wars and literal violent struggles between the Left and the Right in the United States, Sykes explained. And he gets roundly praised by prominent conservatives like Hewitt and Ben Shapiro.
Unfortunately, Schlichter is not alone in his fascination with the pornification of political violence. Vanderbrouk also highlighted the Federalist’s Jesse Kelly, who warned that Trump supporters face genocide or ruin. In his essay. “America Is Over, But I Won’t See It Go Without An Epic Fight,” Kelly asks readers to “imagine themselves as native Lakota tribesmen who must choose between life on a reservation—‘in the liberal utopian nightmare of 57 genders and government control over everything’—or glorious, doomed resistance: as the Lakota who fights back and holds his enemy’s scalp in his hands.”
Much of this has been said before, as Sykes noted, but he says it's particularly relevant after El Paso.
"This can all be dismissed as hyperbole and lulz… at least until the shooting starts," wrote Sykes.
But importantly, Sykes doesn't make the connection between the right-wing inclination toward violence — indeed, racist violence — and many conservative political priorities, such as opposition to gun control. These positions in particular lay bare the centrality of the 'glorification of violence," as Sykes puts it, to the right-wing worldview. It's underrated how much the conservative opposition to infringement on the personal right to own a gun stems not from a respect for the Second Amendment or a love of sport, but from deeply racialized perceptions of a dangerous world. Indeed, as Thom Hartmann has reported, the origins of the Second Amendment can be found in fears of slave revolts. Of course, modern conservatives aren't hoping to put down rebellions of enslaved people, but their own claims and actions often reveal a deep-seated paranoia about racialized outgroups.
We cannot separate the intellectual history of conservatism in America from a particular form of racial panic. They are inseparable.