Written By Stephen A. Crockett Jr.

Illustration by Jianan Liu, Photo: Getty Images, YouTube

Jan. 11, 2023

I’m sure there was a tipping point, you know, a moment where conservatism ― the kind that former President Ronald Reagan championed ― called the police and claimed that some egregious act was preventing it from thriving. But we missed it, whenever it was. Now, the party of fiscal responsibility and limited government regulation has turned into the oppressive party that can’t stop crying about how badly it’s being trampled on.

Because conservative white people love them some wars.

I’m not just talking about those grown men and women who dress up to recreate the war that they lost ― I’m talking about all of those who keep moaning about how they’re losing the war that only they are fighting. To hear them tell it, America is under siege. Conservative whites are at war for their guns and their freedoms and their classified documents from inside Mar-a-Lago, which is the closest America will ever come to a lair. They are at war against “wokeism” and “cancel culture” and the dissolution of the white race. They are obsessed with the idea of oppression, and they’re willing to create it when it doesn’t exist.

Take the Jan. 6 insurrectionist exhibit at the Conservative Political Action Conference in August, where a white man ― Brandon Straka, a former hairstylist turned Trumpish influencer ― was locked away in a fake jail cell of his own creation. That’s not a metaphor. This was Straka’s contribution to the movement: an artistic installment of sorts that featured Straka, barefoot in an orange jumpsuit, pacing around and weeping as onlookers prayed for his release.

“At this CPAC booth you receive a silent disco headset that plays harrowing testimony from the people arrested for participating in J6,” journalist Laura Jedeed tweeted. “Instead of dancing, you stand around and watch this guy cry.”

“What I need you to understand is that I stood here for about half an hour yesterday and this guy NEVER broke character,” she noted. “He wept sitting on the bench. He wept sitting on the floor. He tallied days on a chalkboard set up for the purpose.”

Pro-Trump influencer Brandon Straka sits in a simulated jail cell during a demonstration at the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Hilton Anatole on Aug. 5, 2022, in Dallas.
Brandon Bell/Getty Images
Pro-Trump influencer Brandon Straka sits in a simulated jail cell during a demonstration at the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Hilton Anatole on Aug. 5, 2022, in Dallas.

And what no one yelled out is, “Dude, stop crying! You aren’t in jail! What are all you people praying for? This isn’t real!” If the entire conservative movement could be summed up in one artistic expression, it would be a white man crying in a phony jail cell inside a Dallas Hilton conference space.

The reality is that Straka was at the Capitol grounds during the 2021 insurrection, he participated in the failed coup attempt to overthrow the government, and when caught, he snitched on his fellow insurrectionists as part of a plea deal to avoid jail time.

But we cannot get stuck in the truth; it will merely muddy the waters. It’s far more important to pay attention to the tears. That’s the point of all of this: white tears. They are precious like butterfly wings and unicorn horns. They are paramount to the plight. They are what “Karens” use as both their first weapon and a last resort, and don’t think for a second that the fake prisoner is not a Karen. He totally is.

Karens have the duplicitous narrative of being both perpetrator and victim. They are the people who busy themselves trying to figure out why you are existing in “their space,” and they’re deputized by their whiteness. They can stop, question, harass, condemn anyone who doesn’t look like them, and when all else fails, they call the cops and cry. They literally are the people who lock themselves in a prison and weep because they can’t get out. That’s the Karen playbook, and sadly, the game ― which used to be a battle between “Do good Democrats” and “Conservatives for Christ” ― has become a battle of “Maybe we’re moderates?” and “Magical realism.”

The Republican Party has moved so far away from reality that Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) became a rebel for merely acknowledging that then-President Donald Trump caused the insurrection at the Capitol, and for voting for his impeachment. She tried to steer the party away from the darkness, or at least from this particular form of it. Instead, the three-term congresswoman from one of the reddest states in the country lost the primary for her seat.

Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) speaks to the media after she was removed of her leadership role as conference chair on May 12, 2021, in Washington, D.C.
Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) speaks to the media after she was removed of her leadership role as conference chair on May 12, 2021, in Washington, D.C.

“I will do whatever it takes to ensure that Donald Trump is never anywhere near the Oval Office, and I mean it,” Cheney said as she conceded the race. “I love my country more.”

Showing up without a hat in a room full of people wearing tinfoil fedoras doesn’t make you a martyr. It doesn’t even make you just, or right. It only makes you the woman at the foil-chapeau meetup who forgot her headgear. But that’s how far the Republican Party has fallen off the grid. Never forget that before her groundbreaking pivot to being a person who acknowledges the obvious, “Cheney voted with Trump 93 percent of time. And when she broke with the former president, it was often to take more extreme positions,” John Nichols noted last year in a piece for The Nation.

Nichols continued: “As a political operative and more recently as a leading Republican in Congress, Cheney established herself as a neoconservative warmonger whose crude attacks on immigrants, Muslims, and progressives carried the same venom as those of the most extreme members of her caucus — and of the 45th president, whose election in 2016 and reelection bid in 2020 she enthusiastically supported.”

So she’s been ousted for Harriet Hageman, an attorney who was heavily supported by Trump and all those who believe in his evil brand of governing. This is the Republican Party, where rational thinking is suspended for disbelief.

When you say things like “They’re coming for our guns!” it makes a way better rallying cry than the truth, which is: “Too many guns are getting into the wrong hands, and we’ve got to create better gun laws to prevent this.”

Conservatives have turned the push for commonsense gun laws into a war against the Second Amendment. Oh, how they yell and scream about their right to bear arms and how they won’t let America stop them from carrying their assault weapons. After a number of mass shootings, President Joe Biden failed to ban the AR-15, a weapon created for times of war. Instead he “signed into law the first major gun safety legislation passed in decades,” which “failed to ban any weapons, but… includes funding for school safety and state crisis intervention programs,” as CNN put it.

For those keeping score, it looks like this:

White Tears - 1

America - 0

Remember when COVID-19 came through, ruining everything like a parent home early from vacation right when the party you weren’t supposed to be having was in full swing? Well, one of the restrictions was that we had to wear a paper-thin mask over our faces or we’d run the risk of keeping this disease around longer than it needed to be. Conservatives made a joke out of the whole “science” thing. Professional full-time antagonizer and ostensible Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) showed up on the House floor wearing a gas mask. Conservatives pounced on Dr. Anthony Fauci, only the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, as if he were spouting conspiratorial misinformation. Ultimately, America loosened the mask mandate early because conservatives didn’t like it. Hell, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and state Attorney General Ashley Moody filed a lawsuit claiming that Americans should travel without masks. In the end, white tears won, again.

Currently, conservatives are at war against what they call “critical race theory” – or as I like to call it, “the fallout from all that hate that is left behind” – being taught in schools. It makes Karens uncomfortable to hear that systemic racism, woven into our country’s approach to things like housing and the criminal justice system, plays a huge part in the disenfranchisement of Black people in America today.

Karens would have you believe they’re currently at odds with a large group of minorities who don’t get much sleep, and who keep talking about the ill effects of slavery. The Karens call them “woke.” Conservatives hate woke people. They want them admonished and persecuted for the crime of pointing out injustices in the Black community. Basically, conservatives are an all-white dinner party, and CRT and woke folks aren’t their kind of conversation. It’s trite and passé. And whatever you do, don’t get them started on cancel culture. Oh, they will wax on about how they’re unafraid of being canceled. They will stand up to the mythical tribe ready to unsubscribe to their brand of thinking. They will paint themselves as rebels willing to fight against the campaign to remove them from the American memory.

What is conveniently missing in all of this, in all of these trumped-up “Wag the Dog″ scenarios, is that there would be no talk of critical race theory or wokeism or cancel culture if there had been no slavery, or if the U.S. justice system didn’t lean so far to the right that it’s a mystery how it stays up at all. But that would be like telling the white man who snitched on his Jan. 6 compadres, and then locked himself in a fake jail cell so he could play the role of the imprisoned, that he could simply walk out at any time because none of this is real. That would be breaking the illusion of injustice and the cosplay of oppression, and if that happens, then what would a Karen have to cry about? And more importantly, who would they fight against?