Some Advice for the Young Conservative Gender Warrior

Dear Generation Z gender warrior,

So you've realized that American culture has lost its mind when it comes to gender and sex.  Welcome to the club.

The left's crusade to redefine sex and gender has spawned a new generation of dissenters.  This new crop differs vastly from the libertarian Millennials who dominated the conservative movement before.  Think of Chaya Raichik, the person behind "Libs of TikTok."  The new social warriors are savvy about social media and committed to social issues that Republicans shied away from.

Since the USA is exporting its gender ideology as aggressively as the Soviets sought to graft their class ideology, those who resist American exceptionalism see matters more clearly.  When criticizing Charlie Kirk, young critics blasted him for highlighting Trump's promotion of pro-sodomy laws in Africa.  These strains depart from lazy generations like my own (I am in my fifties), which mindlessly invoked patriotism, supported "the troops," and recited anticommunist pieties steeped in American double-standards.

Whether they want advice from an aging "get off my lawn" crank or not, I'll offer a few words of encouragement and experience.

The Lost Generation of conservatives

First, let me explain where I am coming from.  I entered the political fray with a wonderful career as a professor.  I got tenure ten years ago in California.  Because I spoke out on conservative issues, I lost it all.  Without belaboring details, left-wing activists mercilessly shredded my career, and conservative Christians abandoned me en masse.

A lot of this reflected generational experience.

Many people my age wanted to protect the family unit because of how we grew up.  As kids in the 1970s, we were raised in a largely divorced America.  We did not have helicopter parents.  Nor did many of us have dads who took us out fishing or moms who made lunch for us every day.  The people who raised us maintained the tough love of earlier up-by-your-bootstraps generations, except that they neglected us, so we didn't have bootstraps.  I heard someone describe us as "feral," and that's fair.  Whenever I join '80s fan groups, I am struck with how rugged, tattooed, pierced, and crazy all the middle-aged profile pics look.

Generation X got squeezed: on our right, between the country-club Boomers and the frat-boy chic of the Millennials; on our left, between the pot-smoking hippies of our parents' world and the whining snowflakes of those fifteen years younger.  If we aren't wild about legacy conservatism, that is partly due to the raw deal we got in our careers.  Boomers refused to retire, so we got stuck in middle management at best, while the Millennials' cancel culture exploded underneath us.

We didn't have great conservative allegiances to choose from.  The well heeled Reaganite orgs romanticized William F. Buckley and Phyllis Schlafly.  We had no hope of resurrecting the wholesome domesticity on which such conservative visions depended.  Economically, the men in my generation reeled from the collapse of wages beginning in the 1970s and the outpacing of income by the costs of health care, housing, and education.  The breakdown of unions and shift to a service and information economy meant that we did not have the job security or basic means to support a stay-at-home wife and children.  Saddled with debts and embattled by a family court system that threatened to destroy us if we got out of line, men in my generation could not fuse the capitalist and family ideals that Buckley and Schlafly took for granted.
Folks my age had some tension with Millennial conservatives like James O'Keefe, Ben Shapiro, and Charlie Kirk.  These entrepreneurs adapted well to an internet economy.  Their survival instincts allowed them to pivot, tweak, and rebrand as one cause became taboo and another took its place.  One day, Trump is the worst person ever, and the next day, Trump is their best friend.  One day, their whole movement is about exposing big-government socialism and forging alliances with LGBT celebrities to flex their coolness; the next day, they are economic populists and organizing flash mobs against Drag Queen Story Hour.

You will be happier if you don't trust the "movement"

The left's absurdity created a fertile market for common sense.  Real money and fame await whoever reaches out to the disaffected masses.  You can sell books and conference tickets.  You can start a group and register for student activities funding.  Maybe a wealthy person will donate to your cause.

Where there is a profit to be made, you will find profiteers and grifters.  The bigger their grift, the less you should trust them.

In my fight against redefining marriage and parenthood, I worked with all the big conservative organizations, or at least interacted with them.  True believers reveal their sincerity in how they treat comrades.  Profiteers turn advocacy into an industry.  This is what Steven Crowder has been exposing finally as "Conservative, Inc."  Once it's all about profits, individual advocates (in other words, you) are products that can go in and out of style.  You may be fashionable one day because of an article that went viral or a specific point in your personal story.  When you're fashionable, you will attract the grifters, who will want to use you and then eventually transfer your funding and following to themselves.

By the time Trump became president, the grift grew so deep that grifters posed as anti-grifting, convincing donors and consumers that they fought a good fight against RINOs or Conservative, Inc. when they were in fact highly compromised, especially when it came to social issues.  By now, when someone decries RINOs, a safe guess is that the person speaking is a RINO from top to bottom.

It is best not to judge Conservative, Inc., or complain about them, because their flaws and dominance will not change.  The best tack is simply never to say or do anything that they pressure you to say, if it will compromise your reputation and relationships, or if it is not what you believe.  Even if they come on strong and imply that they will support you in a coming backlash, navigate every discussion with the assumption that they won't be there to help you and may stop returning your calls altogether.  Whatever risks you take are yours and yours alone.

Show special caution if conservative activists expect you to take positions that will strain relations with your kin.  As someone who was repeatedly encouraged to deliver testimonials about my late mother, I mean that point with all my heart.  Ultimately, in the eyes of Maggie Gallagher, Mark Regnerus, or Ryan Anderson, I am expendable, but in my eyes, the siblings and cousins who hated what I wrote are not expendable.  I regret that at one point I became so focused on being a Stepford conservative that I overlooked important personal relationships.  Denise McAllister once wisely told me, "Remember, you don't actually know any of these people, and they don't really care about you."

Be wary of wild goose chases: free-market capitalism, Critical Race Theory, Christian victimhood

Let's say for argument's sake that  you think biological sex matters, families need the heterosexual model of mother and father, and children should not be groomed.  Focus on that if that's your thing.  Don't jump on other bandwagons, of which the conservative movement has an oversupply.

When I went to Politicon in 2018, "Socialism Sucks" was the trademark slogan for Charlie Kirk's Turning Point USA.  Some young people recruited into his organization told me I was a bigot for caring about natural law and traditional family roles.  I sat on a stage next to a popular "conservative" radio host who stopped me when I spoke about gender roles and said, "I don't care.  I'm just here to talk about low taxes and freedom from regulation."

 Nearly every issue that conservative organizations bring up turns eventually into a call for small government, local control, free enterprise, low taxes, low liability, and the rest.  This trend has a clear history going back to the Cold War.  Wealthy corporate dynasties provided a lot of the seed money for conservative organizations.  They built an intelligentsia based on Hayek, Friedman, and other staunch capitalists.  During the Cold War, a massive Marxist empire worked internationally to undermine the United States.  Ronald Reagan perfected the rhetoric to counter communism and had a successful presidency, so his rhetoric stuck.

Times changed.  That original context no longer exists.  It's wise to keep a safe distance from the right's capitalist messaging because capitalism does not care about social issues in the slightest, and neither do people whose primary political project is free markets.

Also, the right's economic philosophy remains deeply unpopular.  We have to separate the Cold War context from realities facing American families.  Obamacare was a disaster, but remember that the Democrats based it loosely on a model from Stuart Butler of the Heritage Foundation.  The destructive parts of Obamacare came from its having been structured to simulate market competition in insurance rates while also forcing citizens to buy policies on the market.  And let's not forget that when the vaccines first came out, sites like the Spectator called them "a victory for the free market."  

The conservative message on health care, school lunches, student loan debts, public education, and evictions all amounts to "life's not fair, you suck, all the cool people don't have these problems."  Regardless of social media censorship and ballot fraud, the running loop of "screw you, worthless loser!" explains why everything endorsed by mainstream conservative groups loses to liberal utopianism, no matter how wacky the latter gets.

Even worse is the enduring reality that capitalism does not square with sexual morality.  Corporations know that sex sells.  If we are going to "let the market decide," "let the people decide," "leave it to local communities," or "privatize the issue," we will get more porn, drag, sexual adventurism, and abortion.  Avoiding the conservatives' fascination with capitalism does not only serve to protect your traditionalist message from toxically unpopular clichés — it keeps your message coherent.

The same cautionary note applies to some groups' obsessions with Critical Race Theory and Christian victimhood.  I got involved in the debate on sex and sexuality because I had come out of childhood abuse and I felt that the LGBT community needed to deal with the abuse going on in its own backyard. My position on sex and sexuality had nothing to do with denying that racism exists in America.  I did not set out to oppose students learning about oppression in history classes, or Christian business owners not wanting to bake cakes.

It is hard to steer clear of the racial and Christian angles because many people who agree with you on traditional gender roles happen to be Christian.  Many of these groups tend to think of sexual mores in biblical terms, which they also equate to the white pilgrims who founded the United States.  Their blending of the sexuality and race issues happened naturally as a reaction to the left's intersectionality, which falsely equated the Stonewall rebellion of 1969 and the civil rights movement of Martin Luther King, Jr.

But if your main focus is traditional gender roles, resist the impulse to map your cause onto the racial and religious landscape.  Debates about race will derail your discussion and will force many minorities who agree with you to distance themselves.  Likewise, Christian organizations can turn any issue into selfish demands for tax breaks and protections for themselves while ignoring the larger costs to society.

Good luck!

I'll be watching you from a distance, since I'm an old retired soldier by now.  My generation flopped.  I hope yours doesn't.  The Lord is faithful, so you'll always be in my prayers.

With love…

The Gadfly

Image via Pxhere.

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