Neoconservative pundit Max Boot made a very important announcement last week: he’s checking his white privilege.
In a column for Foreign Policy, Boot said he reconsidered his past disdain for the concept of white male privilege, thanks in large part to the rise of Donald Trump.
“[I]t has become impossible for me to deny the reality of discrimination, harassment, even violence that people of color and women continue to experience in modern-day America from a power structure that remains for the most part in the hands of straight, white males. People like me, in other words,” Boot writes. “Whether I realize it or not, I have benefitted from my skin color and my gender — and those of a different gender or sexuality or skin color have suffered because of it.”
The foreign policy hawk argues Trump’s “racist” campaign for the White House laid bare these supposed facts and “revealed that racism and xenophobia are more widespread than I had previously realized.”
Boot also believes that misogyny is another whole problem and now finds himself agreeing with radical feminists that we live under an oppressive “patriarchy.”
He ends his column with a claim that he’s a moderate on the issue of white male privilege and insists he doesn’t want to zealously regulate “microaggressions” — he just now believes racism and sexism are far worse problems than political correctness.
Boot’s column was greeted with a great deal of mockery by conservatives. As Tucker Carlson, who famously humiliated Boot on his Fox News show in 2017, put it, “Max Boot will say anything if they just let him invade Iran.”
Carlson’s underlying point and that of many conservatives who laughed at Boot’s sudden acceptance of white privilege is that it’s a cynical appeasement to the neoconservative’s new left-wing allies.
Boot is one of the lucky number of anti-Trump conservatives who have found strange new respect from liberals. Along with The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin, annoying former presidential candidate Evan McMullin and a few others, Boot receives praise and MSNBC hits from his former opponents on the Left who love his shrill denunciations of Trump. (RELATED: GOP Leaders Calling Their Voters ‘Racist’ Won’t Win Elections)
But that strange new respect from the Left for these ardent Never Trumpers has led many of their old conservative friends to hold them in contempt. The vast majority of the conservative movement opposed Trump during the Republican primary and still skeptically viewed the future president when he was the Republican nominee.
However, two different sets of Trump-skeptical conservatives have emerged since he has become president: those who try to remain neutral on the president and those who oppose his every move.
Both sides accuse each other of being disloyal to conservative principles and selling out. Prior to Boot’s embrace of white privilege drawing ridicule from Trumpists and Trump skeptical conservatives alike, the two sides of Never Trump were in a war of words just the week before.
At first glance, it looked like writers slap fighting over whose stance on Trump is the bravest, but the battle revealed much about conservatism’s current state.
It all started with National Review Online editor Charles Cooke writing a devastating critique of Jennifer Rubin. Cooke’s essential argument is that The Washington Post’s token conservative has ditched many of her old stances in adopting vicious opposition to Trump as her guiding principle.
From moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to the Iran deal, Rubin has dramatically changed her opinions to be more consistent in hating Trump, according to Cooke, who was a fervent Trump critic throughout the election. In the opinion of the National Review writer, this blind hatred makes Rubin awfully similar to the Trump supporters who love everything the president does.
That critique drew a bitter response from The Atlantic’s David Frum, a staunch Never Trumper. Frum accused National Review of selling out on its principles by not attacking the president vigorously enough and lionized his own side’s supposed courage in endlessly denouncing the president.
It is very silly for Frum and his cohorts to claim they’re incredibly brave for taking a stand that has earned them much praise among liberals (something desired by all respectable conservatives), numerous TV hits, lucrative speaking gigs and tens of thousands of new fans on social media.
Most of these Never Trumpers work for outlets that don’t cater to conservatives, so there is zero risk to their employment in constantly criticizing the president.
However, Frum did bring up a salient point in his article. He admitted that Trump was forcing the ardent Never Trumpers into positions they wouldn’t have taken in the past, while at the same time also changing those conservatives who are willing to defend the president.
“Conservatism is what conservatives think, say, and do. As conservatives change—as much through the harsh fact of death and birth as by the fluctuations of opinion—so does what it means to be a conservative,” The Atlantic conservative writes.
That’s a sharp contrast in thought from National Review’s Cooke, who insists conservatism can survive the Trump years without any fundamental change. Frum believes conservatism is becoming more Trumpist, while Cooke argues otherwise.
The hardcore Never Trumpers have the edge in this argument. Trump is not a blip whose departure will inaugurate the return of Bush-era conservatism. Trumpism has already left a permanent mark on conservatism.
This explains why folks like Max Boot now embrace the idea of white privilege, a ridiculous concept in the eyes of the conservative base. The strident Never Trumpers know there is no place for them in contemporary conservatism — that’s why they move closer to the Left.
As long as liberals will support America being the world’s policeman, these ex-conservatives will be happy with their new coalition partners.
All they have to do is check their white privilege.