Rise of the Barstool conservatives

Rise of the Barstool conservatives. By Matthew Walther.

Like many observers, … I believe that Trump brought the conservative movement to an end. But what its destruction means is something very different from the prophecies of permanent Democratic supermajorities issuing forth from the former president’s critics. …

What Trump recognized was that there are millions of Americans who do not oppose or even care about abortion or same-sex marriage, much less stem-cell research or any of the other causes that had animated traditional social conservatives.

Instead he correctly intuited that the new culture war would be fought over very different (and more nebulous) issues: vague concerns about political correctness and “SJWs,” opposition to the popularization of so-called critical race theory, sentimentality about the American flag and the military, the rights of male undergraduates to engage in fornication while intoxicated without fear of the Title IX mafia.

Whatever their opinions might have been 20 years ago, in 2021 these are people who, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, accept pornography, homosexuality, drug use, legalized gambling, and whatever GamerGate was about. On economic questions their views are a curious and at times incoherent mixture of standard libertarian talking points and pseudo-populism, embracing lower taxes on the one hand and stimulus checks and stricter regulation of social media platforms on the other.

I have come to think of the people who answer to the above description as “Barstool conservatives,” in reference to the popular sports website, especially its founder and CEO, Dave Portnoy. …

I fully expect the future of the Republican Party to belong to Barstool conservatives, which is to say, to a growing but so far almost invisible coalition that could very well carry the White House. The Barstool conservative movement will not have institutions in any recognizable sense, certainly not think tanks or highbrow magazines, but it will be larger, more geographically disparate, younger, and probably more male. It will also, I suspect, be more racially diverse, much like the portion of the electorate that gave Trump 74 million votes in 2020.

Where will Barstool conservatism leave what remains of the old conservative movement? In the case of free market dogmatists, I believe there is almost zero daylight between them. … Meanwhile, a small number of earnest social conservatives will be disgusted. But I suspect that a majority of them will gladly make their peace with the new order of things. This is in part because while Barstool conservatives might regard, say, homeschooling families of 10 as freaks, they do not regard them with loathing, much less consider their very existence a threat to the American way of life as they understand it.

Yep. It’s not the 1980s any more. The new left emerged in the 1990s, as did the Internet. Fighting the new left with the ideas and tactics of the Reagan-worshipping establishment right is like bringing a knife to a gunfight.