The Southern Poverty Law Center must be in a panic. A leading candidate for the Republican nomination has received the outright endorsement of a number of its “hate groups.” Some of the leaders of these groups are even working with the campaign. Judging from the lack of protest and the principle of qui tacet consentire videtur, the larger conservative movement seems to be comfortable with being aligned with these hate groups.

I’m, of course, referring to Ted Cruz.

Ted Cruz recently announced his foreign policy team, a motley collection of relics from the Bush years seemingly designed to end any rumors Cruz was actually a closet realist. One of these advisors is Frank Gaffney, head of the Center for Security Policy, which has the distinction of being labeled a “hate group” by our friends at the SPLC.

Gaffney is an interesting figure. On the one hand, he is a walking stereotype of an Israel-first neoconservative. He’s fanatically anti-Russian, anxious for interventions in the Middle East, and was by his own admission “delighted” with the second Iraq War.

Yet unlike most neocons, he supports Donald Trump’s proposed moratorium on Muslim immigration and the research of his organization has been used to defend it. Gaffney proudly hosts immigration restrictionists at his conferences. Most spectacularly, he continues to generate controversy within the Beltway Right by alleging Grover Norquist and Suhail Khan have ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and that a faction of the conservative movement itself is serving as a fifth column for “radical Islamists.”

Usually, neoconservatism is a deeply cynical and dishonest way of getting White Christians to care about bombing Israel’s enemies, while ignoring the issues surrounding immigration and cultural collapse in the West. One wonders if many so-called neoconservatives even believe their own bullshit or are simply making Straussian arguments, telling one thing to the masses, while communicating something far different to the chosen (or, Chosen).

Gaffney’s brand is a bit different. He actually confronts the issues of Muslim immigration, political subversion, and the threats posed by enemies within the West, not just those in Mecca or Baghdad. He takes his ideology so seriously, he actually endangers it.

If you are willing to go as far as Gaffney, eventually you are going to start confronting questions of race, demographics, and identity. After all, if you have a Muslim majority in London, it doesn’t much matter whether Sunnis or Shi’a hold sway over the Euphrates.

At the same time, once you start honestly examining these issues, it’s hard to think the greatest threat to American security is something like Hezbollah. You might begin to think Iran is not actually a real threat to the United States. Eventually, you’ll probably suspect the main force turning our own governments against us isn’t the Muslim Brotherhood but our “greatest ally.” And once you come to that realization, there’s no turning back.

Thus, you have to artificially limit yourself, falling back on Protective Stupidity in order to keep getting the generous donations that come with being part of Conservatism, Inc. Striking the delicate balance between truth and absurdity is the art of employment in the conservative movement.

Gaffney screwed it up recently. He interviewed Jared Taylor, warmly expressing his “admiration” for Taylor’s work and even mentioning Taylor’s book from a few years back, White Identity. When the wailing and gnashing of teeth ensued, Gaffney disavowed the interview and pretended he didn’t know who Taylor was. It’s worth noting Gaffney pulled the interview despite receiving no criticism from conservative media sources.

Gaffney is still the leader of a “hate group,” according to the SPLC, even though he was “once respectable.” However, it’s a “hate group” Cruz isn’t afraid to associate with.

And he’s not alone. Tony Perkins is the leader of the Family Research Council. He was also one of the most critical leaders of the movement to align the Beltway Right behind Cruz rather than Marco Rubio.

Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association is also campaigning for Cruz and was going to speak on the same stage as the candidate before the rally was canceled due to sickness. He’s currently calling for evangelicals to oppose Trump because Trump isn’t nice enough to women. Needless to say, the American Family Association is also a “hate group.”

We can go through this forever. And, until recently, the media was, playing the guilt-by-association game against Cruz, highlighting every time he stepped on the same stage with some “anti-gay” pastor and demanding Cruz account for everything Frank Gaffney ever said.

Of course, that same media is currently helping Cruz play the victim, moaning that Donald Trump was sooo mean to Cruz’s wife. And now that Cruz has the media on his side, he’s taking advantage of it. Indeed, as with Ben Shapiro during the Michelle Fields fraud, Ted Cruz isn’t acting like an SJW, he is being revealed as an SJW.

Cruz accuses Trump of being “afraid of strong women,” exactly the line of attack Hillary supporters are making against “Bernie Bros.” When Trump spokesperson Katrina Pierson “spilled the beans” on Heidi Cruz by talking about her record as a globalist, Bush operative, and supporter of NAFTA, these policy-based criticisms were calledsound proof that “there’s no low the Trump campaign won’t go.” If this is too much, it’s unclear how Cruz intends to confront Hillary Clinton when even Bernie Sanders’ gentle criticisms are taken as proof of sexism.

Outside the increasingly cult-like conservative movement, no one even believes Cruz is authentically outraged about the “attacks” on his wife. He called Trump a “sniveling coward” but immediately dodged the follow-up question of whether he would support Trump if he was the nominee. Cruz tried to call Trump a “ratfucker,” but botched it so badly he seemed to suggest he’s into rodent bestiality.

Cruz has been reduced to blaming Trump for a National Enquirer report on his alleged infidelity, even though Rubio operatives have been shopping around the story for months. And since Trump’s spokeswoman, Katrina Pierson—who has denied any affair—is the main focus of the story, Cruz’s line of attack makes no sense. Would Pierson not have confirmed the affair (even if it didn’t happen) if this were a carefully planned smear originating from Trump? Yet the conservative movement is still managing to work itself into a frenzy about dastardly Donald’s latest “sleazy” scheme, even though it’s precisely the Beltway crowd who were pushing it on the mainstream media back when it was called #TheThing.

Ted Cruz looks like a monster from a 1980s video game, who will burst into a group of dangerous slimy creatures if you hit him. Circumstantial evidence notwithstanding, I find it hard to believe this pile of melting dough had an affair. Not because I don’t think he’s capable of it, but because I find it amazing Cruz had sex with his own wife, let alone someone else’s.

But Cruz is a typical greasy example of a definite “type” found in the conservative movement, the devious Christian conservative who is useless when it comes to defeating leftists but is a master of sleazy tactics, lawyerly rhetoric, and political schemes designed to secure absolute ownership of his little niche. And ultimately, that is what the conservative movement is all about.

Acting like his wife is the victim of a sexist attack against women does seem to be working for Cruz in the polls. It’s not surprising. Playing the victim works for people generally. After all, our culture will bestow a generous living on a feminist who can get some people to call her mean words on the Internet. And the main reason Hillary Clinton got into the Senate to begin with was because Rick Lazio made the mistake of approaching her during a debate with a piece of paper. Feminists were able to spin this as constituting rape.

But now that Cruz has accepted the legitimacy of this line of attack, he’s already lost the general election, if he somehow becomes the GOP nominee. His surrogate Glenn Beck can call Melania Trump a “lesbian porno model” without being called to account now, but Mormon Jesus help Cruz if Beck says something about Hillary Clinton’s hair in the general.

More broadly, Cruz’s entire candidacy has been reduced to being the “acceptable” alternative to Donald Trump, as determined by the mainstream media. But that same media will quickly and easily marginalize Cruz as an extremist, a sexist, and a man deeply “linked” to “hate groups” if Trump is ever removed. And one suspects both Conservatism, Inc. and the so-called Republican Establishment knows this. As they’ve been increasingly forthright about expressing lately, it’s the responsibility of the American Right to lose politely.

Consider the position of the religious conservatives who have been at the forefront of the #NeverTrump movement. Original cuckservative Erick Erickson is pitching a third party if Trump gets the nomination. But he’s spending his days trying to get the state of Georgia to defend “religious freedom,” i.e. the ability to allow discrimination against homosexuals. His biggest opponents, as you’ve probably guessed, are those wonderful free-market corporations he loves so much and whose taxes he wants to cut.

Perhaps religious conservatives really believe they can make a separate peace with the hard Left, and that their fate will be different from that of identitarians and racial realists. Presumably, Erickson believes his form of anti-business populism is different than Trump’s “fascism” because, well, Jesus. And at the end of the day, all Erickson will do is give more money to those secular corporate executives who (rightly) consider him a useful idiot, whereas Trump might actually confront them.

The same conservatives who constantly babble about “principle” will never actually defend freedom of association; they will merely seek the unprincipled exception. They might not even want that. It’s hard not see the “religious freedom” campaign as simply an exercise in signaling rather than serious political or cultural activism.

What is the purpose? Defending market share. The Christian Right knows it has lost the culture, but it still has the power to defend its hold on those White Christians (and non-believers who still identify as “Christian”) who are opposed to the more extreme forms of leftism. As late-stage American Christianity grows more deracinated, it becomes more apocalyptic and hucksterish. The people warning us about Donald Trump’s threat to the Republic also tell us the world is about to end, that Israel is about to be attacked, and that this means we are running out of time to buy their giant buckets o’ survival food.

The nominally secular “movement conservatives” are operating in the same way. Ted Cruz would not even still be a candidate for President had Donald Trump not shifted the Overton Window on so many issues. And Trump is important because he’s shifted the debate more in six months than the conservative movement did in 60 years. Instead of being happy or grateful, movement conservatives are outraged. And now, by relying on the Left to do the hard work of destroying them by whining about feminism, Cruz and the conservatives are confessing their own ideological impotence. But Cruz’s cowardice ensures he is seen as the leader of the Republican Party, he signals his virtue, and he protects his market share.

Conservatism is trapped in a closed loop. It has lost the ability (if, indeed, it ever had it) to shift the culture or even the policy debate. Rather than bringing in new activists and ideas, it is desperately trying to hold on its current followers by guilt tripping and moral shaming them via leftist premises. Intellectually exhausted and proudly ignorant, it’s getting harder to portend that those involved, even the followers, are simply misguided rather than malevolent.

At a certain point, gullibility becomes a moral failing. Conservative voters are like the man who blew a fortune on a “psychic” because he couldn’t get a girlfriend. It doesn’t make them evil, but it makes them contemptible. They are suckers, and nothing besides. And if the “grassroots” keeps falling for the scam, the Beltway hucksters will keep right on profiting as they run out the clock on Western Civilization.