News & Politics

Why Conservatives Can Crush on Kanye Yet Hate Michelle Wolf

Right-wingers’ dedication to free speech depends on who’s the butt of the jokes

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Conservatives raging at a comedian who hurt their feelings, as they did over White House Correspondents’ Dinner entertainer Michelle Wolf last weekend, is pretty much standard behavior for the folks who think everyone else is the snowflake. But the spectacle of white right-wingers rejoicing over the recent pro-Trump ravings of Kanye West may confuse you, especially considering they probably know him more for his many public self-embarrassments than for his music. Why would members of a white revanchist movement fawn over a black rapper who famously said George W. Bush didn’t care about African Americans?

Well, for one thing, conservatives conveniently abandoned Bush years ago. For another, it all makes more sense when you consider their historic lack of popularity with black people and their weird jealousy over it.

Even if you only casually follow politics, you know that since the days of Nixon’s Southern strategy Republicans have had a contentious relationship with people of color. This has only gotten worse under Donald Trump, a hyper-obvious racist whose rants about Colin Kaepernick and John Lewis, not to mention his treatment of Mexicans, Muslims, and Puerto Ricans, have helped speed the GOP’s conversion into the White People’s Party.

Thanks to gerrymanders and white rage, Republicans have so far been able to hold their majorities just fine without black support, so it’s fair to assume they feel about black votes the way James Baker felt about the votes of Jews. But the conservatives who use the GOP as a host body are more conflicted.

On the one hand, many conservatives reflexively portray blacks as violent thugs who must be subdued by militarized police, particularly right after a racially charged news story has engaged their lizard brains, or if they are Heather Mac Donald.

On the other hand, conservatives seem genuinely hurt and confused when black people call them names like “white supremacist.” You can see this most clearly in their annual aggrieved Martin Luther King Jr. Day essays in which they either try to claim MLK as one of their own (“King’s Orthodox Christianity is one of those inconvenient truths that a lot of people on the left tend to ignore” — Da Tech Guy) or tell black people to stop persecuting them with their contempt (“MLK Day proposal: Give the race card a rest” — Michelle Malkin).

Sure, white conservatives applaud when Charles Murray tells them black people are their intellectual inferiors, but in their view that’s just science (and free speech!), not anything to take personally. And anyway, it’s the liberals who are the Real Racists, keeping blacks enslaved on what conservatives like to call the “Democratic plantation,” from which conservatives only want to rescue them by ending affirmative action and food stamps, which will give them the bootstraps they need to succeed.

Yet despite this helpful hectoring, most blacks keep voting Democratic, so conservatives sulk and brood, only occasionally brightening when a black celebrity says something that can be charitably interpreted as right-wing. Bill Cosby, with his pull-up-your-pants shtick, was their go-to for years, but for obvious reasons you see much less of that now. Chris Rock is their usual backup; here’s National Review’s Kyle Smith kvelling, “When he speaks about the destructiveness of porn he sounds like Ross Douthat.” (And I thought I was the only one who found Douthat hilarious!)

So when West busted out his pro-Trump tweets last week, notwithstanding that he also said, “I haven’t done enough research on conservatives to call myself or be called one,” the brethren were juiced. Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell are all well and good, but here was a black guy ordinary people had actually heard of and could stand to listen to!

Also, West wasn’t just saying things that could be read, if one squinted and had had a few drinks, as conservative policy statements. In fact, West didn’t stipulate any conservative policies that he approved of. (I’m not sure he knows what they are.) Yeezy was just saying out loud, in a variety of peculiar ways, that he loved Trump and his dragon energy.

But, as we have seen, these days loving Trump is conservatism enough for the brethren. And they were especially pleased to have snatched a person of color from what they portrayed as the liberal camp, and treated West the way the State Department used to treat Russian defectors.

“Entertainment elites are in total freakout mode,” exulted Fox News’ Laura Ingraham, “because one of its megastars, Kanye West, announced that he’s thinking for himself!” This she characterized as a blow to the leftist entertainment industry, who “claim that they have a monopoly on tolerance and inclusion,” but who proved themselves hypocrites when they “unfollowed [West] on social media.”

This also proved, per Ingraham, that “original thought will not be tolerated by this crowd…anyone who dares to question the ideological orthodoxy of the left, particularly a black artist, must be brought back into line.” Just like they did to Paul Robeson!

In front of a banner reading “Attack on Free Thought,” Fox News’ Tucker Carlson told his audience that “progressives are almost unconscious with rage” at West, and then for some reason was joined by Canadian conservative Mark Steyn, mainly known for hating Muslim immigrants and as one of the few conservatives to leap to the defense of the no-really-I’m-not-even-kidding racist John Derbyshire when he was fired by National Review in 2012.

Steyn said West’s tweets were a threat to the “lockstep homogeneity of popular culture in the United States,” which was important because “pop culture acts as the great enforcer in America.” For example, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy voted for gay marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges because “the pop culture has told him to get onside,” perhaps in the form of an electro dance house mix. “It’s bigger than anything!” cried Steyn. Wow, such power — maybe pop culture will next try to win at least one house of Congress.

Lest you think only the TV conservatives were pumping this, the Resurgent — the oh-so-serious conservative site whose owner, Erick Erickson, recently blubbered that his old site RedState had purged all its NeverTrump rightbloggers — had no fewer than six Kanye-related posts, in one of which Erickson himself crowed, “Declaring himself a Trump fan, West dared to think for himself and the left is throwing a fit,” churning out think pieces about “how ridiculous it is to think the Democrats keep black people on a mental plantation.” (“Plantation”! Drink!)

Also, National Review had Kanye West posts by Jim Geraghty (“You can almost picture the looks of shock and horror on Democratic leaders’ faces”), Kyle Smith (“For someone as young, black and cool as West to give a thumbs-up to Trump was like an electromagnetic pulse that fried the left’s thinking circuits”; West is forty years old), and David French, who described the rich musician as a latter-day Giles Corey (“The liberal Internet piled on. He was unmoved. It kept piling on. He remained unmoved”). French also compared West to a “pastor” who had “abandoned his flock” of liberals. (It has become a thing lately for religious conservatives to compare liberalism to a church — which, perhaps for confessional reasons, they intend as an insult.)

Later West dropped a track from his — surprise! — upcoming album, a colloquy with T.I. about — also surprise! — West’s love of Trump. “See that’s the problem with this damn nation,” spat West; “all blacks gotta be Democrats, man, we ain’t made it off the plantation.”

The P word! You can imagine how that went over with the brethren. “Democrat Plantation Searches For Runaway Slave Kanye, In Bombshell Political Art,” tweeted Alex Jones, linking to an Infowars article featuring a cartoon by wingnut artist Branco in which — as Infowars described it — “an angry donkey who runs a plantation, marked with a letter ‘D,’ looks for missing slave Kanye West” (who looks more like Larry Holmes than West in Branco’s drawing). “Indeed,” added Branco himself, “The Left strokes out when any high-profile black leaves the Dem plantation.”

No one — well, almost no one — on the right seemed to consider the possibility that West had had that track in the can for some time, and had presaged it with a bunch of pro-Trump tweets not to promote conservatism, but to promote himself.

Meanwhile, Michelle Wolf did a comedy routine at Saturday’s White House Correspondents’ Dinner that mocked Trump (who was not present) as well as the Washington press corps and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders (who were). Among other things, Wolf referred to the indisputable facts that both Trump and Sanders lie constantly and that the press gives Trump lots of free media time to spread his bullshit.

Every conservative in America howled with outrage.

“Ugly, crass and at some points just flat out stupid,” sputtered RedState. “The so-called comedian really ‘bombed,’ ” tweeted Trump, who suggested next year the featured comedian should be Fox brow-squincher Greg Gutfield, who responded, falsely, that Wolf had resorted to “physical ridicule” of Sanders and that “if it were a conservative doing so, it would be called misogyny,” which Trump may have appreciated as an inside joke.

This alleged lookism became the go-to fraud for WHCD snowflakes and outrage generators. Mika Brzezinksi claimed to have seen “a wife and mother…humiliated on national television for her looks”; “it’s now courage to go after the woman,” snarked wingnut-without-portfolio Stephen Miller, who gained attention last year for announcing he would invade an all-female showing of Wonder Woman.

“My wife @mercedesschlapp and I walked out early from the wh correspondents dinner,” tweeted Matt Schlapp. “Enough of elites mocking all of us.” Schlapp is chairman of the American Conservative Union, but as a non-elite lives in a trailer out by the railroad tracks and drinks Miller Lite.

Head-table media dweebs, hoping to keep their sources moist, joined the collective huff. The New York TimesMaggie Haberman also claimed Wolf had attacked Sanders’s “physical appearance;” other high-priced journalists followed suit. (CNN’s Chris Cillizza even accused Wolf of “bullying” the press secretary, which is like accusing David of taking unfair advantage of Goliath’s height.)

So if we learned anything last week, it was that attacking the most powerful people on Earth is shameful — while sucking up to them is a refreshing expression of independent thought.

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