In the latest episode of American conservatism’s descent into sheer craziness, it was reported that former President Donald Trump hosted Kanye West for dinner at his Mar-a-Lago resort. West, who now goes by Ye, dined with the former president alongside Nick Fuentes — an open white supremacist, antisemite, and Holocaust denier — and Milo Yiannopoulos, a so-called “provocateur” (translation: a person who uses intentional stupidity and crassness to gain notoriety).
In reliable fashion, Trump’s series of excuses left much to be desired, eventually blaming Ye for bringing Fuentes.
“So I help a seriously troubled man, who just happens to be black, Ye (Kanye West), who has been decimated in his business and virtually everything else,” Trump wrote in one post on his social media site, Truth Social, “and who has always been good to me, by allowing his request for a meeting at Mar-a-Lago, alone, so that I can give him very much needed ‘advice.’”
“He shows up with 3 people, two of which I didn’t know, the other a political person who I haven’t seen in years,” Trump continued. “I told him don’t run for office, a total waste of time, can’t win. Fake News went CRAZY!”
First, can we quickly acknowledge that if it’s this easy to gain access to the former president, then his security detail leaves a lot to be desired.
Of course, this excuse is cut from the same cloth as Trump’s usual retroactive and panicked form of damage control in which further fuel is thrown on the fire. Either Trump knew who Fuentes was — in which case he willingly met with one of America’s most notorious white nationalists — or Trump didn’t know who he was and his team demonstrated a new level of utter incompetence by failing to conduct even the most basic Google background search.
And all while Trump provided the Democratic Party with priceless campaign fodder with his apparent failure to criticize Fuentes, which will, fairly or not, be presented as Charlottesville 2.0 in 2024.
However, while the Democratic Party’s response to this is predictable and arguably fair, much of the conservative response is in danger of, yet again, missing the point.
Yes, Nick Fuentes is a revolting character whose entire platform consists of grinning his way through obtuse bigotry in pursuit of attention.
Yes, Milo Yiannopoulos is a British clown who squeezed every drop of figurative blood from his flamboyant homosexual persona before redefining himself as “ex-gay” in his increasingly radical search for a new audience.
And yes, Donald Trump was (at best) spectacularly stupid for hosting these figures in his home.
But in the context of broader American politics, Fuentes and Yiannopoulos still live on the fringe. Frankly, they’re still politically irrelevant. And at this point, Trump is clinging onto the edge of relevance as well and doing himself no favors as we trudge our way toward the Republican primaries in the shadows of 2024.
Kanye West, on the other hand, is far from irrelevant.
While conservatives should certainly reject Fuentes, Yiannopoulos, and Trump’s bizarre pseudo-embrace of the two, they shouldn’t be overly distracted by the fringe sideshow and miss the true threat: the continued prominence of Kanye West.
After all, West is one of the most culturally influential figures in the United States, if not the world. His audience can be counted in the millions, and it only continues to grow. And as a figure of such overwhelming notoriety inserts himself into the political sphere, it’s no surprise that parasites such as Fuentes and Yiannopoulos have swarmed to feed on West’s presence.
This behavior, however, is far from limited to the fringe.
Multiple conservative commentators have been guilty of the same parasitic adoration of Kanye West in recent months, either through celebration of West or absurd defense of his blatant antisemitism. And while Fuentes and Yiannopoulos are professional parasites, they’re also professional sideshows — sideshows designed to help distract us all from the real threat to mainstream conservatism: Kanye West and those who continue to choose fame and fortune over principle.