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Fox News’ announcement of the hiring of Caitlyn Jenner as its new contributor caused quite a stir within the GOP. Some viciously oppose the elevation of Jenner, a trans woman, as some type of “new” right-wing mouthpiece. Others, like El American’s Editor-at-Large Ben Kew, welcome Jenner, claiming Jenner could be “an important ally in the militant wing of the trans lobby.” Both sides have merits but; what are conservatives sacrificing when embracing Jenner as an ally? Is this the end of social conservatism as we know it? It looks like it is, at least depending on who you ask.
What Truly is Conservatism?
Barry Goldwater, the renowned conservative U.S. Senator and presidential candidate, wrote in his brilliant book, The Conscience of a Conservative, that the challenge for conservatives is not “to find new or different truths, but to learn how to apply established truths to the problems of the contemporary world.”
Based on that idea, the principle of conservatism is being violated as the GOP pushes back against radical trans activism by paradoxically affirming Jenner. While the existence of trans people, according to left-leaning media, appears to be long-established, trans issues as a political agenda are relatively new (at least, when compared to other minority issues—namely Civil Rights).
One might think that the good old conservatism would be the right answer to push back against this newly found phenomenon named trans activism. But it seems that good old conservatism à la Heritage Foundation is losing the culture war against radical leftist movements, forcing Fox News into Caitlyn Jenner.
Are Conservatives Being Pushed to the Left?
Somewhere in pre-COVID 2020, in the halls of the fancy Heritage Foundation building, I heard a fellow intern say something along the lines that modem-day conservatism is not the same as it was in the 1980s, when the Reagan Revolution took place. “The left is always pushing the right leftward,” he said. Does this assessment have any merit?
In the face of the radicalization of our schools and explicit sexual indoctrination of children with gender ideology, including transgender issues, Fox News has paradoxically chosen someone from the same community they wish to push back against. Now, to be fair. It would be ludicrous to label Fox News as the gatekeepers of conservative thought, but they are undoubtedly one of the largest platforms that advance right-wing commentary and conservative thought.
Does Caitlyn Jenner Represent the End of Conservatism?
The full embrace of Jenner as one of our own is unlikely to be the end of conservatism. Conservatives and some pre-woke Democrats (including then-U.S. Senators Biden and Barack Obama) had a clear position against same-sex marriage in the early and mid-2000s. Less than two decades later, GOP President Trump became the first U.S. President to openly support same-sex marriage in his first term. He then, for four years, lead our nation as a conservative.
Trump did indeed change the Republican Party as he was able to bring an entirely new coalition of voters to the GOP, increasing the Hispanic vote, campaigning for members of the LGBTQ community, and getting rid of old failed GOP strategies—think of Mitt Romney. But those who argue that Trump was the end of conservatism were wrong, but that point is beyond the scope of this article.
The GOP of the 2000s is no longer in place. The conservative tolerance of non-conservative issues—whether for good or bad—has increased. This was best explained by The Week‘s Damon Linker. Linker, in 2015, detailed the shift of conservatism leftward. Contrastingly, Rod Dreher, a senior editor at The American Conservative (also cited by Linker) has written extensively about the “socially liberal future” of America and the “intrinsically diabolical” nature of the left’s view on gender.
Does Jenner Speak on Behalf of the Trans Community?
Let’s pretend that Fox News is genuinely trying to be more inclusive of the trans community. Is Jenner truly the only choice? Is Jenner a real representative of the trans community? Her dislike of her own community is well documented. Aside from being partially driven by her somewhat conservative politics, I suspect that her dislike is also fueled by Jenner’s personality and confusing life story.
Jenner made her transition public in 2015, at the age of 65, and after spending decades in relationships with women. Allegedly, some of her wives had been aware of Jenner’s inner identity issues. Others weren’t. Kris Jenner (Caitlyn’s 3rd wife and matriarch to the Kardashian dynasty) had been vocal about the “rough” ride she and her family had to endure as Caitlyn transitioned.
Kris slammed Caitlyn as a liar when she published her memoir The Secrets of My Life, claiming that “None of it makes sense. Everything she says is all made up.” “All through the book [it says] ‘Kris knew. Kris knew before I even made love to her’. I’m like, ‘What!?’,” Kris said about Caitlyn’s implications that she [then Bruce] did not fool her by marrying her.
Beyond that, is Caitlyn truly the only trans person that could speak out against trans activism? It would be unfair to expect trans people to be a monolith. The struggles and discrimination of these individuals differ greatly from those experienced by gay people, for instance.
Identify Politics and “Tokenism” in Right-wing Media
‘How about her popularity,’ you may ask. This was the point by The Hill‘s Joe Ferullo, who argued that Jenner “could reshape the future” of the GOP. Let’s take these claims at face value. In the recall election of embattled CA Gov. Gavin Newsom, then a GOP candidate, Caitlyn earned a mere 1% of the vote. Rather than campaigning, she apparently spent her time doing reality TV shows in Australia. Her disconnect with GOP voters is also well documented.
Her on-screen presence is rather mediocre, often looking away from the camera and sounding incoherent at times despite her years of TV experience. Her presence is likely to be weaponized by the right as some form of counter-analysis to trans or LGBT issues—which is okay, I guess.
This would not be the first time cable news uses a conservative minority person to dunk some of the left’s ludicrous claims. (Yes, I know Caitlyn is a white trans-woman). Think of Venezuelan-born Daniel Di Martino on cable news to speak about (yes, you guessed it) socialism; or Black media personality Candance Owens speaking against the Marxist-inspired BLM.
Kudos to Jenner for recently speaking out against identity politics by claiming she was not a “trans activist” and there was “so much more” to her than being trans. The sad truth, however, is that she will be the token trans person to speak about LGBT issues. But isn’t identity politics an issue that conservatives are fighting against?
Caitlyn Will Be Alright
Of course, trans individuals deserve equal opportunities, but to argue that Jenner is some form of a victim, as Ben Kew argues, is just a hilarious argument. Let’s not fall trap to the perils of victimhood and oppression. With a book deal worth $15 million, multi-million dollar mansions, and luxurious cars, it is not far-fetch to say Jenner is no victim. She will be fine with or without Fox News.
This piece is not a critique of Jenner as a trans woman. Trans folk, as I argued last week, should be listened to and respected. Somewhere on my social media, I applauded Caitlyn Jenner for living her true self when she first came out.
Some GOP figureheads have failed terribly at making the conservative case against Jenner, solely relying on her gender identity to fuel attacks against her. Others have been more tactful in their defense of Jenner. The “thought police” would like for everyone to quickly embrace trans issues or be politically correct. Some will get it right, others won’t. And that’s completely fine.
It is hard to see what the endgame of trans issues and conservatism will be. It is also unfair to expect some individuals to always get it right when speaking about trans issues. What is true, however, is that conservatives will soon have to determine whether to give up “traditional” or “social” conservatism to fight the ever-growing wave of leftist activism.
Luis Cornelio is the English Editor-in-Chief at El American. After graduating cum laude from the Colin Powell School for Civil and Global Leadership, he went on to intern at the Heritage Foundation. Most recently he served on President Donald Trump's re-election campaign, writing research articles on topics including law and order, immigration, and the Supreme Court. He also currently works as the Director of Communications for Got Freedom and researcher for the election integrity watchdog Amistad Project. A Dominican-American, he was granted U.S. citizenship in February 2020.
// Luis Cornelio es el English Editor-in-Chief de El American. Después de graduarse cum laude de la Escuela Colin Powell de Liderazgo Civil y Global, pasó a ser pasante de la Heritage Foundation. Recientemente, participó en la campaña de reelección del presidente Donald Trump escribiendo artículos de investigación sobre temas como la ley y el orden, la inmigración y la Corte Suprema. Actualmente trabaja como director de Comunicaciones de Got Freedom y es investigador para el grupo de integridad electoral, el Amistad Project. Un dominicano-americano, se le otorgó la ciudadanía americana en febrero de 2020.