In recent weeks, there has been an ideological battle within the right-wing. A political civil war has broken out within conservatism, with two similar yet oh-so-different factions. While not immediately apparent to those outside right-wing circles, conservatives following politics in recent weeks will likely be aware of the undercurrents and sharp disagreements within conservatism. These disagreements lead to the Groyper war: the battle for conservatism.
On one side of this conflict is the self-dubbed “Groypers” – named after a Pepe the Frog meme. The Groypers are a reactionary and nationalistic faction of the right-wing, with populist views. Many of them are rebranded alt-right nationalists from the 2015-16 election, now emerging under a new label and with a more cautious public relations campaign. They are led by Nick Fuentes, a 21-year-old podcaster with a YouTube show called “America First”. Many across the political spectrum have criticized Fuentes, calling him anti-Semitic and a white nationalist. Fuentes himself has tried to refute these allegations, branding himself “traditional, Christian, [and] conservative.” However, despite these allegations, Fuentes has been at the center of many controversies: he attended the infamous Unite the Right Charlottesville rally in 2017 where 1 person was killed and 19 injured. Fuentes also called a conservative commentator a “shabbos goy race traitor” for denouncing the El Paso shooter and has also repeatedly made disparaging comments towards Jews, African Americans, and women. He has also claimed that only about “200,000 Jews” were murdered in the Holocaust, and criticized President Trump for condemning white supremacy. Despite these controversies, Nick Fuentes has demonstrated intellectual cunning and is not to be underestimated.
On the other side of the divide is mainstream conservatism–dubbed “Conservative Inc.” by Groypers–with famous faces like Ben Shapiro, Charlie Kirk, and Rep. Dan Crenshaw. Charlie Kirk, the founder of huge conservative organization Turning Point USA, found himself caught in the middle of the Groyper war. Turning Point USA has been criticized by the Groypers for its pro-Israel, pro-legal immigration, and pro-LGBT stances. Thus, many critics have taken to Turning Point USA’s events to ask awkward questions on Israel, foreign policy, and immigration. Kirk has notably floundered when faced with such questions, while others like Shapiro have refused to engage with Fuentes and his followers. During Donald Trump Jr.’s book tour with Kirk, Kirk cancelled the Q&A event and was booed off the stage by the Groypers.
In addition to Trump Jr. getting heckled by the Groypers, there have been several ideological clashes between the Groypers and mainstream conservatives. Turning Point USA ambassador, Ashley St. Clair, was fired after appearing in a photo with Fuentes, and some analysts claim that was the catalyst for Fuentes’ vendetta against the organization. Another conservative organization, Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), also disavowed author Michelle Malkin after she openly supported Fuentes. On the other hand, many Groypers have repeatedly appeared at conservative events. For example, they organized a group to attend a trolling Q&A sessions of Rep. Dan Crenshaw, gay conservative Rob Smith, Donald Trump Jr., and of course, Charlie Kirk.
Ultimately, as Shapiro stated in his speech at Stanford University, the battle is a battle for the future of conservatism. In 2016, Trump pulled off a surprise win due to a coalition of mainstream conservatives, Bible Belt voters, populists, disenfranchised Democrats, and others, narrowly defeating Hillary Clinton. While it remains to see if he can pull off another win in 2020, the fight involves the future of conservatism as a whole. Groypers prefer the brash, reckless, seemingly populist Candidate Trump, who ran an “America First” campaign. On the other hand, more mainstream conservatives prefer the more moderately tempered, traditional President Trump. Groypers lampoon mainstream conservatives, since the previous two mainstream Republican candidates–John McCain and Mitt Romney–lost handily in the presidential elections. On the other hand, conservatives note that the white nationalist, edgy and offensive style of the alt-right is even more likely to alienate voters and lose elections. Ultimately, the battle for conservatism’s legacy persists, and as the future is uncertain, it remains to see which side will prevail in the struggle.