President Donald Trump unleashed one of his most bewildering arguments ever last week, in the context of his impulsive decision to pull U.S. troops out of Northern Syria and abandon our former Kurdish allies: that the Kurds are undeserving of our help because... they failed to storm Normandy with us during World War II.
Trump lifted this nugget of stupidity from none other than the political commentator Kurt Schlichter, who has been a mainstay on the margins of the conservative press for almost two decades. In an October 8 TownHall column about Trump’s decision, Schlichter wrote that “the Kurds didn’t show up for us at Normandy or Inchon or Khe Sanh or Kandahar,” which is a pretty thin justification, considering that they are a minority ethnic group split between four countries thousands of miles away. It isn’t even internally consistent as an argument; the South Koreans, South Vietnamese and Afghanis we were supposedly trying to help in the latter three battles, which are implied to be legitimate, were also not at Normandy. (Interestingly enough, as recently as last December, Schlichter tweeted that “we cannot leave the Kurds without support,” but since this is related to Trump, consistency is irrelevant and the internal logic of an argument matters less than its congruence with whatever befuddled phone conversation the president had the day prior.)
But I am proud of Schlichter for coming this far. He represents a certain type of conservative we often forget about in the age of higher-profile Charlie Kirks, Ben Shapiros, and Tomi Lahrens. Some pundits of Schlicter’s ideological cohort — despite years of service to the conservative cause — never make it big. They see their colleagues get Fox News gigs and glowing New York Times profiles while they put in their 40 years at aging blog-era institutions like TownHall or RedState. Somehow, finally, Schlicter has captivated the pockmarked mind of the president.
Schlichter has been curdling and festering into a base sludge of aggrievement at forgotten right-wing websites for years. After a brief stint at Breitbart, in 2012 he began writing thrice-weekly columns at TownHall, a site that parades endless op-eds by conservative also-rans that are on par with your average cranky letter-to-the-editor. His columns have titles like “Liberals’ Hatred Will Inevitably Turn Into Violence,” “It Is the Sacred Duty of All Conservatives to Own the Libs,” and “Buy Ammo.” Schlicter’s pieces are incoherent, barely topical screeds about pronoun-obsessed pinko commie elites who sip “Chardonnay and Zimas” and have a visceral hatred for real Americans like him, whom he calls “Normal Americans.”
Somehow, finally, Schlicter has captivated the pockmarked mind of the president.
There isn’t much material analysis to be found here, or even attempts at policy proposals. There is only seething rage that an imagined version of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi hates you and wants to spit on you and take your guns and cut off your balls for not doing pronouns or whatever, and the only way to get back at her and her Zima-loving (more on Zima later) friends is to support Trump, even if it means contradicting your own stated positions every time you open Microsoft Word and implying a need for political violence so often you risk ending up on a watchlist.
But where Schlichter really shines is in his fictional works, which are in the violent right-wing dystopian idiom of The Turner Diaries and Camp of the Saints, Steve Bannon’s favorite book. In a series of three novels, People’s Republic, Indian Country and Wildfire — which have been praised by mainstream conservatives like Ben Shapiro, Hugh Hewitt, and David Limbaugh — Schlichter creates a wish-fulfillment scenario in which aging, perpetually aggrieved white gun nuts get to finally unleash hell on their perceived enemies. Schichter really, really likes the idea of America having another Civil War, but he doesn’t want to admit it. While the preface to Indian Country states that “this novel, like People’s Republic before it, is no volume of giddy wishcasting for violent civil unrest,” the author’s note at the end makes sure to note that “this is not an instruction manual for making bombs and improvised explosive devices.” The book’s preface also states quite clearly the self-victimizing justification for this kind of fantasy:
“[Hillary Clinton’s] hate for lesser Americans – and pretty much everyone living more than 50 miles from a coast is “lesser” in her clique’s book – plus her utter conviction in her own divine right to wield power was such that she could never, ever stop poking, prodding, and aggressing against red America. And I feared she would provoke red America to aggress right back.”
“America’s growing political and cultural divisions have finally split the United States apart,” the description of People’s Republic begins, and the only people who can rescue the Constitution are big, tough, ex-military guys who impress everyone they meet by dryly reciting the specifications and history of different firearms. Protagonist Kelly Turnbull, who is as devoid of actual character traits as the guy behind the gun in Call of Duty, mainly just says gun numbers at a rotating cast of conservative hate-figures (pronoun demanders, gangs of thugs, government bureaucrats) who enter the frame solely to be very impressed with and frightened by Turnbull’s stoicism and military knowledge. The plot is secondary; 2016’s People’s Republic shows this happening in the medium future, 2017’s prequel Indian Country shows this happening in the near future, and 2018’s Wildfire shows it happening in a future Germany overrun by migrants from the Middle East. It is as bad as it sounds.
People’s Republic, Indian Country and Wildfire take place in a world in which a 2016 election victory by Hillary Clinton led to the creation of an authoritarian police state led by President Elizabeth Warren and “Rationalization of Production Minister” Bernie Sanders. The descriptions of this post-apocalyptic scenario, which in no way resemble Clinton’s actual platform of maintaining the status quo, are mostly of culture war-tinged everyday annoyances meant to trigger a base reaction from the conservative-male id. In Schlichter’s People’s Republic of America, recycling is mandatory, there are more diversity training seminars at work, you have to use everyone’s preferred gender pronouns, and you can be arrested for having an American flag sticker on your truck.
This, evidently, is what happens when people who have spent their lives at or near the top of the social pyramid try to imagine oppression, and it is laughably mundane compared to, say, the conditions in ICE detention centers. You can no longer watch “red-state porn,” which is not defined but sounds absolutely terrifying, and, even sadder, the selection at Army-Navy Surplus stores is comparatively scant. Due to President Warren’s initiatives, one can no longer purchase “all the sugary cereals that kids actually like” and “there is simply one deodorant, called ‘Deodorant,’ which smells like wet cardboard and stains your shirt, blouse, or burqa.” Schlichter is very afraid of how the grocery store might change under a Democrat.
Schlicter’s pieces are incoherent, barely topical screeds about commie elites who sip “Chardonnay and Zimas.”
While the frenzied descriptions of stores being out of certain things or people forcing the FBI to use “xie” pronouns are funny, the true gold of Schlicter’s fiction is in the dialogue. At one point, Kelly Turnbull hears a young man on a plane listening to the fictional rapper “D-Yazzy” and shuts him down by telling him “his rhymes are lazy and derivative.” Later on, Turnbull encounters a gun-toting thug named “Do-Rag” and disarms him by explaining the now-illegal practice of deer hunting and giving a play-by-play of a West German military exercise from 1972. When the “thugs” finally tire of this, Turnbull reuses the same line, possibly by accident of the author: “No, you’re a punk with an AK and a stupid D-Yazzy concert tee. I’m a warrior. By the way, Yazzy’s rhymes are lazy and derivative.” The thugs drop their weapons and scurry off, at which point Turnbull looks over the guns he just got for free and gets mad that the thugs failed to clean them properly.
Schlichter’s fiction is informative of how besieged Trump voters feel by even the most minor impositions or cultural shifts. Everything in Schlichter’s world is engineered to be a life-or-death event, from hearing rap music on an airplane, to being aware of the concept of gender pronouns, to getting an irritation on your armpits because they changed the formula of the deodorant you like. This is part of the wish fulfillment, along with the violence — these mundane slights feel incredibly important to Trump voters, but in real life there are no gun battles afterward to bring that feeling to climax.
After all, Trump and the right-wing media regularly encourage their base of comfortable suburbanites to overreact to insignificant or nonexistent threats of this sort, and they eat it up; he says “you don’t hear Merry Christmas anymore” even though you do, conjures a vague culprit responsible for taking this phrase you love away from you, and then puts himself between you and the big fictional Other, in the way Kelly Turnbull defends Real America from the cackling villains who want to tear the flag stickers from your truck and take Honey Smacks out of the grocery store. Whether it bears any resemblance to reality is beside the point.
This may be Schlichter’s moment, having been recognized by our dear leader as one of the few supporters of a new Syria policy that has even Sens. Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell feeling uneasy. Trump is also newly interested in the prospect of a Civil War if he is ever removed from office, a notion he received from Pastor Robert Jeffress on Fox News, and of which Schlichter is perhaps the biggest booster for on the right. If someone other than me and a few hundred confused septuagenarians were ever to read these books, we could be in trouble.
....If the Democrats are successful in removing the President from office (which they will never be), it will cause a Civil War like fracture in this Nation from which our Country will never heal.” Pastor Robert Jeffress, @FoxNews— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 30, 2019