The first National Conservatism Conference may have reinforced the very image today’s conservatives say doesn’t define them. Though many don’t fit the labels, conservatives as a group, and especially Trump supporters, have come to be frequently categorized as racists, exclusionists, and “white nationalists.” And though conference organizers repeatedly announced that white nationalists were not welcome, the National Conservatism Conference, seeking to establish a new identity and solidarity for American conservatives, had threads of racism running through it.
The conference aimed to define and assert the existence of “Intellectual Trumpism,” perhaps attempting, in part, to distance itself from the fact that the 2016 Trump campaign appealed most to non-college-educated white males, many of whom saw immigrants and non-whites as a threat.
If there was an elephant in the room at the National Conservatism Conference, it was perhaps the spate of racist language tweeted out by Trump in the days before and during the National Conservatism Conference. First, there was the set of Tweets Trump had sent out earlier in the week, telling the four American congresswomen of color known as “The Squad” that they should go back to the countries they came from, and accusing them of “hating America.” Then, there was Trump’s fabricated claim that Ilhan Omar (one of the four congresswomen) was an al-Quaeda sympathizer.
Conference speakers avoided mentioning or dealing with these heavily reported comments by the president. The few times they did, it was with verbal eye-rolling aimed at the media or at those calling the comments “racist.” Since this “Intellectual Trumpist” movement claims to want to distance itself from the racist elements of Trump’s actions, taking a more definitive stand to denounce the tweets certainly could have helped.
Some speakers at the National Conservatism Conference were less subtle as they expressed their racist-tinged platforms (while still denying that they were racist or exclusionist).
University of Pennsylvania law professor Amy Wax, for example, during a panel on immigration policy, commented that immigrants are “too loud,” and that they are responsible for the increase in litter. Though she was quick to say she supported immigration, she also said she advocated an immigration policy favoring those from Western countries over non-Western countries (Echoes of Trump’s early 2018 “sh**hole countries” comments).
“…Our country will be better off with more whites and fewer nonwhites,” said Wax. She denies that her statement indicated racism, because, as she says, her issue with non-white immigrants is not biological, it’s cultural.
So, though “some of their best friends” may be non-white, the National Conservatism Conference will need to try harder to show that they’re not racist, exclusionist, or white nationalist, but perhaps we should ask, does that really even concern them?
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