Michelle Malkin’s Gilded Brand of Conservatism

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“Appropriately enough, the new virtue signals of tantrum-throwing young leftists stirring up trouble are safety pins — to show “solidarity” with groups supposedly endangered by Donald Trump.

Safety pins are also handy — for holding up the government-manufactured diapers in which too many overgrown dependents are swaddled.”

– Michelle Malkin, “The Slacker Mandate and the Safety Pin Generation”

Though she is certainly fun to watch, Michelle Malkin has traded rational Conservative principles for the fiery derisive talking points of the bigoted populistic hordes who masquerade under the conservative banner. True Conservatism is about the dignity of the individual and the preservation of the rights inherent to him, but in an article in the Conservative Review aimed at critiquing the mandate by which young adults may remain on their parents’ health insurance until they are twenty-six, Malkin used the opportunity to make degrading, unjustified jabs at the safety-pin movement.

In the process, Malkin preserved not the tenets of conservatism, but the smugly rugged self-righteousness of the blindly dogmatic right. In critiquing the safety pin movement without applying any kind of nuance, Malkin did away with the compassion and sympathy necessary to recognizing the dignity of the individual, and therefore creates a hollow version of conservatism gilded in a corrosive layer of “thick-skinned, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps” pretentiousness.

So what is the safety pin thing? Wearing a safety-pin is a trend that shows support for the groups who feel threatened or at least marginalized by Trump’s election. Given that Trump has mocked those with mental disabilities, degraded women and bragged about sexually assaulting them, spewed vitriol characterizing the hispanic community, and has seriously discussed a registry for Muslims (amongst other things), it is not hard to wonder why Trump would make certain groups justifiably troubled. Given the prevalence of hate crimes by newly emboldened Trump supporters who are Trump’s divisive rhetoric incarnate (just for the record, this does not apply to all who voted for him), it is understandable that certain groups feel threatened by the current tide of America’s cultural climate.

Sure, conservatives have been framed for hate crimes in some instances, some on the Left have forfeited their dignity by mishandling the current political situation, some have demonstrated a lack of emotional maturity, and the threats posed by Trump have been exaggerated. All of that being said, there are still hate crimes being committed by right-wing posers, there are multitudes of good people in the groups marginalized by Trump who are handling the situation and their emotions correctly and deserve their dignity, and Trump has made statements and threats that should concern various groups.

Now let me be explicit, I am a conservative Christian who fundamentally disagrees with the LGBT on a plethora of issues, who recognizes the complexity of Islam and that there are segments of its community which cannot be tolerated, and who does not condone illegal immigration. All of that being said, I still recognize the human dignity inherent to those in the LGBT movement, Muslims, illegal immigrants, and any other group marginalized by Trump and his supporters. Anybody in any group is capable of forfeiting their dignity, and people on the Right and Left have done so. This is not a defense of them. It is aimed at recognizing the dignity of individuals who disagree with the Right but still deserve to be treated as fellow citizens with whom we should sympathize and show compassion.

Though conservatives pride themselves in self-government and personal responsibility, conservatism does not exclude the reality and importance of emotional states and perceptions. Treating and supporting people appropriately as they experience the world around them, whether we agree with their ideologies or not, is central to recognizing their dignity as individuals which is indispensable to Conservatism.

What Conservatism does not tolerate is allowing one person’s emotional experiences to interfere with another person’s liberty. This is primarily relevant to the issue of the freedom of speech. Conservatives are right in believing that emotional discomfort is no grounds for hindering or chilling one’s freedom of speech because liberty is also necessary to the dignity of the individual. There is a balance, but Malkin’s gilded brand of conservatism misses that balance.

Broadly speaking, conservatism and (modern) liberalism both aim to recognize the dignity of the individual, but both are prone to different faults. Liberals tend to over-emphasize emotional awareness and comfort to the point that they have demonstrated a willingness to sacrifice personal liberty for emotional comfort and are therefore viewed by conservatives as the stereotypical “bleeding hearts.” Michelle Malkin’s populistic brand of conservatives, however, have grown so pompous and calloused in their pseudo-love of self-reliance and personal liberty that they have sacrificed virtues that are fundamental to our humanity, such as compassion and sympathy, to instead deride those who feel marginalized because they are marginalized.

The conservative camp is perfectly willing to raise arms and fight for those who feel threatened by Leftist administrations which they perceive to be coming for their guns, religion, and general freedom. They expect the Left to at least respect the importance of those things to Conservatives, and understand the outrage when the things important to them are threatened. But when those conservatives characterized by the rhetoric and behavior of Malkin see a group with whom they fundamentally disagree experiencing fear or intimidation due to the actions of the Right or at least extreme sects of it, the Right-leaning populistic hordes expect that group to conform or shut up and deal with it because this is ‘Merica, and if they don’t like it then they can leave.

This leaves no room for reflection on the actual merits of the Right or those who make it up, nor does it leave room for reflection on the experiences and rights of those people marginalized by the Right’s self-interest. Such a scenario presents a populistic tyranny of the kind fundamentally opposed to freedom. It then follows that the populistic hordes are not after the freedom to do as they please. Rather they desire their worldview to characterize and shape the country in its entirety leaving little to no room for consideration of the consequences on those who do not fit neatly within that worldview.

This is solipsistic tyranny of the masses at its finest and could not be further from true Conservatism. Such broad generalizations may sound overly harsh. I do not doubt the motives of Malkin and those whom I characterize by “populistic hordes.” But they do not recognize the trap of self-interest into which they have fallen in the name of returning to the image of America for which they so desperately yearn.

Leaving that trap and returning to true Conservatism which is founded in liberty and the dignity of the individual — the kind of Conservatism that defined the most fundamental parts of the America we desire — necessitates that we recognize the liberties and dignity of all individuals who have not forfeited their liberty and dignity. This requires that we do not unjustifiably discount the feelings and concerns of those who do not fit within our own ideological  ranks.

This requires the walking of a fine line between ignoring feelings and concerns altogether and therefore expecting people to suck it up and deal with the image of the way we think things should be, and the other extreme which is hindering individual liberties in the name of coddling feelings and concerns. The middle ground consists of listening to the concerns of other parties and finding constructive solutions that take into account the needs of all involved. Sometimes the middle ground merely consists of recognizing people’s legitimate concerns whether we have significant ideological differences with them or not, and letting it be known that even though we have those differences we will stand in solidarity with them if their concerns are actualized because we share the same humanity, the same liberties, and the same basic human dignity.

That is why I as a staunch gun-supporting, Bible carrying, Founding-Father-loving Conservative am going to go find a safety pin, and I encourage Michelle Malkin to do the same.


Kyle Huitt
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Kyle Huitt

Part of the multitude that has lost their faith, but part of the few that has returned to it. This blog is my attempt to describe why I returned to the faith, and to maybe prevent somebody else from leaving it in the first place. Studying philosophy and history at Hillsdale College. Member of Delta Tau Delta fraternity.
Kyle Huitt
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