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Conservatives Are Holding a Conversation About Race

An ugly term—“cuckservative”—crystallizes a Republican Party crisis.

Richard Ellis/Getty Images

The neologism cuckservative isn’t quite onomatopoeic, but it is a fine example of how the sound of a word can reinforce its meaning: abrasive on the ears, cuckservative appropriately enough has an ugly origin and meaning. The term has emerged out of the white supremacist movement as a term of abuse for white conservatives deemed race traitors unwilling to forthrightly defend the interests of white America. Borrowing shadings from porn (“cuck” is a genre where husbands, often white, watch their wives have sex with other men, often African-Americans) and geek culture (“cuck” is a much-deployed sneer on 4chan the imageboard website), cuckservative used to be a fringe bit of jargon but is, this weekend on conservative blogs and Twitter, having its moment. As Tommy Christopher noted on the Daily Banter,  “the term is blowing up on Twitter right now.” Matt Lewis of the Daily Caller and Erick Erickson of Red State have both expressed alarm at the spread of the word and have tried to alert their followers of its unwholesome genesis.

The bizarre popularity of cuckservative is intimately connected with the startling rise of Donald Trump, with many of his fans contrasting him with Jeb Bush and John McCain, who they brand as exemplar cuckservatives.

Gregory Hood, writing in the white nationalist website American Renaissance, offers both a useful definition of cuckservative as well as inadvertent clues as to its psycho-sexual appeal. “Grassroots Republicans who thought they had retaken the government are confused, angry, and powerless,” Hood writes. “They worked for Republicans in good faith, but get only scorn and contempt. They’ve been deceived, cheated, and exploited. In short, they’ve been ‘cucked,’ or cuckolded.”

Yet for Hood, it’s not just political and policy defeats that make mainstream conservatives cuckolds but the fact that they seem to take a perverse pleasure in losing. “Cuckservatives glory in advocating positions that hurt their own supporters and humiliate themselves,” Hood writes.

They are like a man who tries to appeal to a woman through acts of submission; they inspire not desire but disgust. Each new conservative surrender inspires only further contempt in the hearts of leftists, which of course encourages conservatives to capitulate even more eagerly the next time.

There’s also the variety of cuckold who gets a thrill from watching another man mount his wife. Such a creature possesses the illusion of control. He can tell himself that he is directing this obscenity and thus remain, in some way, the dominant figure.

American conservatism is perhaps best summarized as maintaining a posture of command even as the reality of control is lost. Thus conservatives cheering on the demographic transformation of the country tell themselves they remain leaders in the new America. The cuck in the corner begging to be degraded is still technically the ‘man of the house,’ for all the good it does him.

Hood’s porny polemic, with its talk about wives being mounted and begging from the corner, is proof of how the term cuckservative is popular because it pushes psycho-sexual hot buttons. Racism and sexism have always been connected, with one of the prime justifications for racial hierarchy being the supposed need to protect white women from black men and also, more implicitly, to keep black women sexually submissive to white men. A cuckservative thus conjures up one of the supreme nightmares of the white supremacist imagination, the fear that white men will assume a submissive role (or position) in the sexual hierarchy.

The far rightists who find it natural to throw around the term cuckservative feels that the mainstream GOP has betrayed them, so it’s not surprising that they see Donald Trump, who is willing to hurl manly insults at his rivals as well as denigrate undocumented Mexican immigrants, as a savior.

On Twitter there are many tributes to Trump that celebrate him for not being a "cuckservative":



While avoiding explicit use of the word cuckservative, Rush Limbaugh alluded last Wednesday to its implicit ideas when he noted, “If Trump were your average, ordinary, cuckolded Republican, he would have apologized by now, and he would have begged for forgiveness, and he would have gone away.”

The anti-cuckservative movement and Trumpism both grow out of the same fracturing of the Republican Party: Going back to the Southern Strategy of the early 1960s, the party has used racial dog whistles to appeal to bigoted voters. But after losing two elections in a row to a black president, one who is increasingly shaping up to be a transformative figure, those voters are no longer content with dog whistles. They feel that the party they support hasn’t been vocal enough in advocating for the interests of white Americans, so they are searching for a champion. So far, Donald Trump looks to be the hero white nationalists have been waiting for. Cuckservative might be a niche term, but the attitudes it represents are all too common.