You may be familiar with the concept of otherkin — people who identify as at least partially nonhuman. For example, if they believe that, spiritually, they are part cow, they might call themselves “cowkin,” and take to chewing on grass while they are writing the latest chapter in their fan fiction epic. A “dogkin” might wear a false tail, or punctuate their speech with dog-like sound effects, which would be funny behavior in a 5-year-old, but tends to be disturbing in an adult.
My suggestion is that modern American conservatives are engaging in this activity in a similar, more mainstream way with their adoption of a conservative identity. They are conservakin, and you can find them in large numbers contributing to hashtags like top conservatives on Twitter or in the comment sections at websites like Free Republic.
Conservakin love to do things like:
- Praise the constitution.
- Worship pretty, clean-cut looking women posing with rifles, like suburban Athenas.
- You also see this in some more recent contexts with wild, semi-chaste praise for the (disastrous for the IDF) female Israeli soldiers and female Kurdish fighters.
- They are more fond of Israel and Jews than most reform Jews themselves, despite being Christians of indeterminate denomination themselves.
- Hold more radically integrationist and equality-minded positions about Civil Rights than Malcolm X.
- Build group cohesion by criticizing minor democratic politicians vehemently.
- Take their cues from the agendas set by the producers at Fox News, whose agendas are in turn set by the wire services like the AP, Reuters, the NYT, the ones operated by different government-bureaucratic organs, and other liberal institutions.
- Becomes very engaged in national primaries and elections, and on occasion more local ones.
- Develop strong feelings about the current president, along with various marginal figures in the president’s administration.
- They become fascinated by the relationships between various minor functionaries of the American government, along with what they perceive to be scandals and abuses of power.
Now that some of the snide contempt is out of the way, let us praise the conservakin as being a better person than the typical American. They will generally be more affluent (it’s what gives them time to post all those patriotic material and photos of themselves posing with expensive outdoor gear), harder-working, and more oriented towards family than the typical internet liberal.
What makes conservakin harder to reach with a more substantive message is that they are less involved in politics for the substance, and more for the surface appearance — they do it for social reasons. There is also the character-driven pageant aspect to their pseudo-political enthusiasm.
Much like a pigkin can never actually become a pig, a conservakin can never possess an authentic conservative essence, because the American political form is a profoundly liberal one.
Since their chosen political methods are entirely based on a sort of pantomime, entirely outside the actual structure of government, their political influence can be sealed off within the world of speech, prevented from influencing the actions of the state.
Further, the political leaders who were more authentically conservative were systematically suppressed in multiple waves coinciding with World War I, the New Deal, World War II, the Civil Rights / Great Society era, and then in repeated suppression actions leading up to the contemporary practice of the social-media-witch-hunt.
The Old Right left behind only vestigial supporters because the old right was successfully removed from influence, and replaced with a more docile, controlled opposition.
It is, in fact, common to find American conservatives who believe that President F.D. Roosevelt was a conservative, and that everything that happened during the New Deal ought to be praised by conservatives. It’s nearly universal for conservatives to venerate the socialist Martin Luther King. Some of the leading conservakin may venture to attack Woodrow Wilson, but in a piecemeal fashion.
The great progressive projects of the 20th century tend to be praised almost universally by modern conservakin. To the extent that liberals of today are criticized, it is that they are threatening the great progressive programs instituted by Wilson, the later Roosevelt, and Johnson. It is not that American conservakin oppose the idea of the Great Society — they just become incensed when the implementation of the Great Society isn’t matching up to the ideal.
Conservakin experience tension when their emotions contradict the political commitments required by their chosen identity. Emotionally, they may oppose open immigration. But they are politically committed to the idea, affirmed by the Johnson administration, that America is a proposition nation. Intellectually, they’re disarmed, because of their beliefs about universal availability of full citizenship. They can only counter new immigration initiatives with a mass emotion-driven outburst, threatening to unseat politicians.
Unfortunately for the conservakin, most legislators have minuscule authority. The party leadership is entirely subordinated to the permanent bureaucracy, which has real legal authority, whereas the legislators only have the legal pretense of the right to perform oversight. Despite the oversight pseudo-powers, legislators have limited capability to actually bring down consequences upon the bureaucrats.
This method of rage-voting is easily countered by just violating the law, ignoring the Constitution. Most Americans have a broken mental model of the American state. This model mostly ignores the enormous, disproportionate power accorded to the permanent bureaucracy. This broken model is only reinforced by the media companies which generate the conservakin identity and reap profits from it each day.
To the extent that conservakin tie their identity and feel a sense of control from their ability to rally votes and shift public opinion is the extent to which they are politically neutralized by the progressive state. To the extent that they focus on personalities rather than institutions is the extent to which those institutions can be preserved and nurtured, despite being inimical to broader conservative goals.
Since the conservakin identity is downstream from the political marketers who manufacture it, it’s better to run interference on the latter, smaller, professional group than it is to try to argue with the masses. Shouting at the crowd is like punching the ocean in the hopes of knocking Neptune unconscious.
The pitch is ultimately to convince more local leaders to swap the pretense of power over the world for real power over a smaller territory and population.
For the average conservakin, it is the return of authority to their household at the cost of the vicarious feeling of being part of a political ‘superpower.’ For more local politicians, it’s swapping access to the national pig-trough for real authority over their own patch.
Until this changes, the 125 million Americans who identify as conservative will remain wedded to a manufactured identity which is as deluded as those of Tumblrites who believe that they share a soul with a neon-colored pony.