Why “Closet Conservatives” are Dangerous, and How to Spot Them

Kurt Löwenstein Educational Center International Team from Germany / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

Anyone else starting to think that it’s the “closet conservatives” that pose the most danger during our current constitutional and health crises?

With the “out” Trump supporters, for example, you can see them coming from a mile away. Confederate flags waving, no face masks, stupid, misspelled signs, support for the border wall, and hatred for women and minorities–it’s all on full display.

The visible Trump loyalists are impossible to miss–they want you to see them. Their life’s ambition, such as it is, is intimidation of the “other”, and they thrive on creating and stoking fear. To be sure, they are nothing more than bullies, and they fold like a cheap suit at the first sign of strength–like a smart, confident woman governor, or an intelligent, poised Black president. But subtlety is not their stock in trade.

The “closet conservative,” on the other hand, plays a stealth game, trying never to show their cards. While they are harder to spot, there are some telltale signs:

  • They claim to hate social media, and insist it only be used to post pictures of your kids, pets, or meals…
  • …and yet their timelines seem to be crammed with passive-aggressive reposts of conspiracy theories about Barack Obama, or Hillary Clinton, or Gretchen Whitmer
  • They are experts at “tone-policing”, and the first to make claims of “incivility” about any words critical of the current inhabitant of the White House…
  • …but are strangely silent about any of Trump’s own insults or lies about his opponents
  • They pretend to be “apolitical” when it comes to partisan political issues…
  • …but will frequently lob a highly-partisan political “grenade” into a discussion, then retreat at the first sign of pushback, hiding behind false claims of “neutrality”

You probably know plenty of these folks…

  • The kindly, sweet elementary school teacher who smiles and coos endlessly about her “kiddos,” but refuses to join her teachers union and seems to send only the kids from “that part of town” to the principal’s office.
  • The financial planner who hates “all that political stuff,” but refers to urban communities as “ground beef” and the tony suburbs as “steak.”
  • The IT guy who claims not to really follow politics, but always seems to find time to retweet a sexist or racist post from InfoWars or Alex Jones, insisting he just wants “to hear from both sides.”
  • The engineer who attends all the local town council meetings just to make sure that his neighborhood gets their streets repaved, even as he votes against the town’s budget, saying–loudly–that he’s “a social liberal but a fiscal conservative” (Narrator: You can’t…).

So what do you do when you encounter one of these “closet conservatives” in the wild west of today’s social media environment?

Call them out.

Push back.

Provide the facts and evidence that are the antidote for the “alternative facts”, lies, and conspiracy theories that form the intellectual core of today’s conservative politics.

And do so firmly and clearly–don’t mince words, and don’t insult. There’s no need.

Let them know that you “see” them, and that they can’t hide.

Let them know that you’re watching.

And in the words of President Obama…