The Cuckservative, I

On October 16, 2016 by Josh Vandiver

 

Peace is a great maker of cuckolds.

– Shakespeare, Coriolanus

Shaming and debasing mainstream conservatives delights the alt-right.  They revel in it as much—if not more—as they do trolling liberals and progressives.

We now see fierce ideological warfare within both the American Left and Right. The Bernie brigades waged a long struggle against Hillary.  That battle appears lost—or at least postponed to another day—if only because its general has called for a truce.

On the Right, in contrast, you might think we are seeing full-scale ideological civil war continue.  But you would be mistaken.  That overstates the power of the Establishment.  Trump is clearly in the dominant position—and has been for some time.  Note, just this week, how quickly most Republican elected officials re-endorsed him after they faced revolts among their constituencies (who remain, at least in the Republican base, staunchly pro-Trump).

No.  We are not seeing a civil war on the Right.  Trump penetrated the inner sanctum of the Grand Old Party when the party nomination was effectively secured in May.  Harvard historian Jill Lepore put it exactly right this week in the New Yorker: “Donald Trump leads the Republican Party the way the head of a rebel army holds a capital city.”

 

Trump Rebel Army

 

The rebel general, after taking the citadel at the heart of the GOP, then proceeded to do an astonishing thing.  Most pundits expected him to rally Republicans against Hillary and the Democratic Party.  Astonishingly, while he has been doing that—in fits and starts—he continues to also wage war against the remaining Establishment forces in his own party.  In this respect, he mirrors the alt-right.  They even share a favored target: the Republican Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan.

The two-front war waged by Trump and alt-right—and the unenviable position of Speaker Ryan as Establishment figurehead to both—leads us to our present subject: The Cuckservative.

Trump himself hasn’t invoked the figure of The Cuckservative.  On the alt-right, however, it is the favored term of abuse for an Establishment conservative.  And they often use its against Paul Ryan.

The Cuckservative is a new word, a neologism, a concept invented by the alt-right as a tool in its ideological warfare.  It references the figure of The Cuckold, “the husband of an adulteress, often regarded as an object of derision.”  The Cuckold has fascinated at least since Plato’s Republic, in which Socrates tells of the famous Ring of Gyges—the ring made its possessor invisible and thereby able to sneak into his king’s palace, have sexual relations with the queen, and then conspire (with her help) to kill and replace the king.  So too Shakespeare, in whose plays the noun and its attendant verb, “to cuckold,” appears 28 times across 16 different plays.  To cuckold is something one man does to another man (with the help of the second man’s wife).  To cuckold is to “make (another man) a cuckold by having a sexual relationship with his wife.”

In its ideological warfare with the Establishment, the alt-right aims to corrupt the term “conservative” itself by injecting it with all the scorn and opprobrium associated with the The Cuckold.  It remains to be seen if the effort will succeed.

The Cuckservative—or The Cuck, as it is sometimes abbreviated—functions as a political figure and concept precisely because it can be used as a tool in ideological warfare.  Clearly, its inventors and users on the alt-right must think it is a good tool.  Otherwise, they wouldn’t use it as frequently as they do in their war with Establishment conservatives.  The concept has certainly proven to have legs.  The Washington Post wrongly, as with so many predictions by the punditocracy this cycle, called it the “the conservative insult of the month”—back in July 2015.

Below are the top two definitions of Cuckservative on Urban Dictionary as of today:

Cuckservative Definition 1 Urban Dictionary

Cuckservative Definition 2 Urban Dictionary

Needless to say, the figure of The Cuckservative will continue to be of interest to the History of Masculinity Project.  Its force as a political concept and ideological weapon arises from its innovative use of anxieties involving the male sex—that is, anxieties about what one member of the male sex can do to another (with the help of a woman).  Specifically, The Cuckservative accusation tries to exploit anxieties some men have, anxieties built into a certain kind of masculinity which places high value on exclusive heterosexuality, for political purposes.

Of course, some think of the Republican Party as the “daddy party.”  Voting and polling patterns show American men disproportionately support Republicans, including Trump (see map below, notably based on polling up to 11 Oct 2016, nearly the lowest point Trump’s polled since securing the nomination).  It was easy to see from the 2016 Republican Primary that the party is heavily invested in certain kinds of masculinity.  Interestingly, it is the alt-right, rather than the Left, which has conceived a political stratagem to exploit those investments.

 

What If Only Men Voted For President?

 

Ultimately, we ought to note that The Cuckservative accusation exploded across the political Right due to the rapidity in which ideological warfare is waged in the era of social media.  Ideological warriors like those on the alt-right can readily invent and quickly deploy concepts on social media.  Indeed, the movement is itself primarily a creature of social media, its birthplace and continued source of strength.  Furthermore, social media also allows the rapid testing of concepts—and the host of memes which give concepts visual and auditory life across our various devices—in real time.

The history of The Cuckservative will take some time to write.  And so long as ideological warriors on the alt-right continue to deploy the concept in American politics and culture, that history will continue to grow.  And that is not even to mention the fact that it now appears to have spread to places like Australia.  The Sydney Traditionalist Forum, which bills itself as “part of the Australian independent or non-aligned right,” invoked it earlier this month in response to alt-right angst, centered at Radix Journal, over the banning of prominent Twitter avatar Ricky Vaughn:

 

 

A quick Google Image search revealed hundreds, if not thousands, of memes on The Cuckservative.  The following is noteworthy for its masochistic redeployment of an earlier flag in American history:

 

Cuckservative "Oh Please Tread On Me" Flag