“Cuckservative”: noun, a portmanteau of cuckold and conservative, pejorative internet slang. A conservative is not conservative enough for some other conservatives, with implications of cowardice and sexual impotence, and/or deviance. The term “cuckservative” caught the eye of puzzled observers this week amid the froth of commentary floating around the race to become the Republican nominee for president in 2016. It has been dubbed a sign of a “raging civil war” tearing the Republican party apart, “the GamerGate” of white supremacists, and a meme expressing “a certain kind of contempt.” But the dictionaries have yet to step in, leaving readers to take it apart from more or less on their own. The basics are simple: cuckold, a man with an adulterous wife or partner, and conservative, which in context means someone on the spectrum of 21st-century Republican thought.
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The insult’s most general gist is conservatives accused of bowing to one non-conservative idea or another, e.g., immigration reform should feel humiliated, their ideology adulterated. Former Florida governor Jeb Bush is thus accused of conservatism for supporting a path to citizenship for immigrants, rather than the “big, beautiful wall” to enclose the United States, as endorsed by Donald Trump in last week’s GOP debate.
Radio host Rush Limbaugh alluded to the meme in praise of Trump on Wednesday, saying that “if Trump were your average, ordinary, cuckolded Republican, he would have apologized by now” for criticizing Fox News host Megyn Kelly. In this sense, as it’s used to criticize mainstream Republicans, the insult is an update on the “Rino” (“Republican in name only”). Mostly, the word is used to belittle conservatives for a perceived weakness, for instance, as an emasculation of Fox host Bill O’Reilly for “daring to question” Trump.
But “cuckservative” also draws from darker currents of thought on the far, far right. Beyond its plain meaning of infidelity to the cause, the word sounds like an anti-gay slur; the insulter accuses the insulted of sexual insecurity in addition to everything else. Then there’s racial antipathy. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups, links the word to white supremacists and nationalists. The insult is usually thrown to suggest that white people should only support policies that benefit white people, e.g., stringent immigration (if any) and drug sentencing laws.
Popular conservative commentator Erick Erickson has called out the racist elements who use the word, saying it is “a slur against Christian voters coined by white supremacists.” Writing at the Daily Beast, Matt Lewis argues tribalism in the dark corners of the internet is the source of the phenomenon – the idea that anyone who’s not an explicit racist or a liberal enemy earns the label.
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A minority is explicit about the racist impulses behind the word. For instance, far-right blogger Alfred W Clark wrote last month that “human biodiversity terrifies the cuckservative, as deep down he has bought into blank-slates and egalitarianism. The cuckservative would rather just have a Herman Cain or Clarence Thomas poster on his wall than actually have to think about race honestly.” Other bloggers similarly preach a philosophy of victimhood. In the American Renaissance, Gregory Hood writes that true conservatives have been “deceived, cheated and [sic] exploited” and that the term has ascended in response to “a perfect storm of anti-white aggression by minorities and the media.”
Blogger Mike Cernovich meanwhile gives a recursive bent to his definition of the term: “A cuckservative calls people who use the term ‘cuckservative’ racist.” Clark and others go farther, averring that white, Gentile support for Israel qualifies a conservative for the label. Because of a shared identity with Israelis, Jewish people cannot be “cuckservatives,” Clark declares, but “the cuckservative cares more about Israel’s borders than his own”. The word even has a bit of pornography in it. This week, the New Republic noted that “cuckold” could allude to a genre of pornography involving husbands who watch their wives have sex with black men. Intentionally or not, the genre plays to fears of black men preying on white women – anxiety perhaps most associated with the Ku Klux Klan.