The Trouble with Charlie Kirk

Few faces have become so identifiable with support for President Trump as Charlie Kirk's. Frequently found grinning like a Cheshire cat beneath the gilded wing of this or that member of the Trump family, Kirk brags in his new book that he was "MAGA before it was cool." Trump has even given Kirk’s book the presidential seal of approval on Twitter. There is, however, a small problem with Kirk’s latest claim to fame: it's a lie.

In an interview with Newsweek last April, Kirk asserted that "he's been a supporter of Trump's presidential ambitions since at least 2011." A few months later, he contradicted himself in an op-ed: "Yes, it's true, a year before the 2016 election," he wrote last November, "I was still skeptical that a billionaire from New York City with no real political record was going to be as conservative as some of the other candidates." The diehard pro-Trump Kirk of 2011 would like a word with the snarky anti-Trump Kirk of 2016. 

His go-to response, when called on his contradictions, is some variation of complaining he has been misunderstood, misinterpreted, or “falsely accused.” But can he blame his critics? Even as he beats his chest in the president’s name now, it seems like only yesterday that Kirk was on Fox News, calling Trump "laughable," mocking him for standing his ground on pro-life issues when pressed during a town hall meeting. Kirk scoffed at a representative of Student's for Trump who defended Trump on that and other points.  

Most importantly, however, is that Kirk's dishonesty goes beyond fabricating a "MAGA before it was cool" origin story. He is the political used car salesmen of the hour, selling a broken-down neoconservative ride with a new paint job as America First nationalism. Consider what he wants to sell as "traditional American values." 

During a speaking event on his "Culture War" tour, Kirk was asked, "how long do we have to wait until child drag shows are pushed as American traditional conservatism?" Indeed, amid the proliferation of LGBTQ ideology, Kirk doesn't seem to have a problem with warming up to Lady Maga, "America's conservative drag superstar." He deferred on that note to his cohost, Rob Smith, a gay man who recently came out as conservative.

Before prefacing that “what he’s saying is crap,” Smith belittled the questioner, calling him a “troll” and insisting conservatives “need” people like Smith. Later, Smith accused another man of being closeted for asking how the promotion of heteronormative sexuality helps win the culture war. “You seem to be really interested in gay sex,” said Smith, “I’m pretty sure if you’re into that you can go find somebody to do it with.” Smith reminded America First nationalists that their values -- which some might even call traditional America values -- are "behind the times" and, as such, "doesn't really have any place in the conservative movement." Kirk sat smiling beside Smith in apparent agreement.

It is on immigration, however, that the paint on Kirk's heap wears thinnest.

On another tour stop, Kirk smugly condemned a bronze-skinned, black-haired, brown-eyed student wearing an America First hat of harboring a “racist idea” for asking how we can maintain our conservative ideals when immigrants, and the attendant demographic changes, overwhelmingly favor the Democratic Party. It is a hallmark of the Left, which Kirk is ostensibly at “war” with, to accuse people of racism for asking tough questions.

Elsewhere, Kirk speculated that there are anywhere between 30 and 40 million people worldwide who "should be given a chance to come to America." The idea of importing enough people to populate a second California doesn’t faze Kirk. "Fly from Chicago to Reno and tell me that we're full," he said, chastising those of us reluctant to surrender our spacious skies and amber waves of grain for smog and urban sprawl. But just in case he didn’t sound inclusive enough, Kirk also declared his support for "unlimited merit visas."

America, he insisted, ought to hand out an "unlimited amount of 'genius' visas," and there "should be no limitations on EB-5 visas." 

The EB-5 Investor Program is a legalized bribe-for-green-card scam that is rife with fraud, with the added negative of importing a wealthy Chinese elite to America -- people who Kirk called “adversarial” at a recent Florida State University talk. From 2012-2018, around 80 percent of these visas went to people from China, according to the Center for Immigration Studies (CIS). "America can benefit from genuine 'Einstein immigration,'" writes Mark Krikorian, Executive Director of CIS, "the arrival of world-class talents who are at the top of their fields. But there's not that many people like that, and we currently pretend that many ordinary workers are best-and-brightest immigrants." An analysis of data from the Program for International Assessment of Adult Competencies by CIS found that “immigrants with foreign degrees perform substantially worse than U.S. degree holders on tests of literacy, numeracy, and computer operations.”

It’s not uncommon for immigrants with foreign college degrees to have skills that are in reality on par with those of Americans holding a high-school diploma. Nevertheless, this is Kirk's idea of "merit-based" immigration. To limit or eliminate fundamentally flawed programs like the EB-5 visa, said Kirk, is “one of the most backwards, stupid things we could possibly do.” The Chinese couldn’t agree more.

The pushback against unlimited visas for the “best and brightest,” and millions of more immigrants in general, has since come like a mighty river -- from Kirk himself. "I believe in less legal and illegal immigration," he told Ben Shapiro in an interview recently. But how to square that with his other recent declaration: “I don’t believe that the conservative movement, and some people believe this,” he said, “should become an anti-legal immigration posture.” Evidently, “some people” includes the most recent, anti-legal immigration iteration of Charlie Kirk, for however long that lasts. My guess is not very long.

In his new book, reviewed in Spectator USA, Kirk yearns for the "day when the entire apparatus of the modern welfare state has been turned into private and voluntary services, the United States can afford to let in everyone -- everyone who abides by the rules of the marketplace and pays their own way." Kirk does not envision a real place that is home to a real people with real culture, but an open-air multicultural bazaar in a territory formerly known as the United States of America.

The idea that America is or ought to be "an economy with a country, not a country with an economy,” is a Cato Institute talking point that would put a smile on the face of the Koch organization, which pays to keep their lights on. Unfortunately for Kirk, America is, as Teddy Roosevelt said, "a nation -- not a polyglot boarding house" or a mere marketplace. 

Dishonesty and inconsistency wouldn't be a problem for anyone but Kirk, were it not for the fact that he is a self-declared fixture of the "intellectual foundation" of the America First movement. The real trouble, then, is that Kirk and his associates effectively function as gatekeepers. They have co-opted a movement they, in fact, had no part building.

Now they’re restraining the America First anti-establishment direction by accommodating what is essentially the status quo on important issues such as immigration, while denouncing dissidents as racists and bigots -- the same slurs hurled by the Left. The policies favored by Kirk are fundamentally flawed, hurt American workers most of all, and fuel support for candidates like Bernie Sanders. It was, after all, the disaffected Middle American, working-class demographic feeling left behind by big business GOP policies that carried Trump to the White House. What Kirk is offering is the same bad deal against which they revolted in 2016.

If America First nationalists intend to put some real miles on this movement, it ought to send the junker Charlie Kirk is trying to sell them back to the scrapyard where it belongs.

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