From the Ground Up: The Grassroots Movement Against Political Correctness

The Republican National Convention marks a victory for Trump and a conservative provocateur.

CLEVELAND – In the space of just a few hours on the second day of the Republican National Convention, the GOP nominated Donald J. Trump as its presidential candidate, and Twitter permanently banned Milo Yiannopoulos — a controversial and outspoken conservative — from its site. Although the two events may seem to be at odds given these men's overlapping fan base, make no mistake: Tuesday night was an against-all-odds victory for both Trump and Yiannopoulos, outsiders in worlds where they have become prominent.

Trump's and Yiannopoulos' fan bases comprise a grassroots movement fueled by an exasperation with political correctness and increasingly codified social norms and identities. Though the men occupy opposite spaces, for both, the 2016 Republican National Convention marked a moment of historic victory for populism over the status quo.

The latest FEC reports disclosed that Trump had barely $1 million of cash on hand at the end of May. At that point in the 2012 election cycle, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and the RNC reported having $107 million. Yet despite a glaring lack of field offices and discombobulated campaign strategies — just look at the rollout of his VP nomination — Trump still fills arenas, his supporters proudly don "Make America Great Again" hats, and both ignore cries of racism and bigotry from the left.

Because of the deep chord he has struck, Trump has been successful without an organized ground game or polling. His campaign is instead a grassroots movement rooted in public sentiment.

Yiannopoulos amassed a large following from early, media-critical coverage of Gamergate and college tours lambasting political correctness. As a gay conservative, he had well over 300,000 Twitter followers at the time of his suspension this week — which came after he instigated a campaign against actress Leslie Jones that prompted her to leave the site — and became international news without ever having an employer more "establishment" than Breitbart News.

The two movements came together at Tuesday night's "Wake Up" party at the RNC, hosted by Yiannopoulos and LGBTrump, which exemplified this flagrant disregard of social justice. Dozens of protesters and twice as many police officers lined the entrance of Cleveland's Wolstein Center, interrupting party-goers with chants and signs reading "Queers Against Racism." Rather than trying to pass through quietly, attendees loudly jeered at the protesters.

"Build the wall!" they cried. The motto was so ubiquitous at the convention that it simply became a rallying cry against any sort of social policing, warranted or not.

Corrin Rankin, who attended the convention as a California delegate, has supported Trump from the beginning, citing his business acumen. Rankin is one of the rare African-American women who also supports Trump, though she believes, like Yiannopoulos, that viewing demographics in that way detracts from a larger point.

"I keep hearing reporters talk about these African-American polls, but do African-Americans want something different? Do we not want jobs? Do we not want a glowing economy? It's not a black or white issue. It's an American issue," Rankin said. "Why are we even segregating black people for polling? They're the same as the rest of America."

This rejection of identity politics echoes throughout the Yiannopoulos fan base. Yiannopoulos, as a conservative gay man, has proudly professed himself the leader of a movement rejecting liberals' hold over the LGBT community.

"I'm not the only person to recognize that after a few decades of good work, these people have thrown us under the bus," Yiannopoulos said about the so-called liberal media during a speech at the Gays for Trump party. "I'm not the only person to recognize that Donald Trump is the most pro-gay candidate in American electoral history."

Most of the delegates I spoke with agreed that Trump has a long history of being socially liberal and that his recent social statements have been mere acts of pandering to the base, as evidenced by blunders when pressed to voice pro-life opinions.

"One of the most interesting things I read leading up to the convention is that Caitlyn Jenner might be coming here," Charlotte Blakemore, a 21-year-old delegate from Texas, told me just a few minutes before the convention officially began on Monday. She stood out clearly from the rest of the much older, predominantly male Texas delegation, which was seated behind her, waiting to take a photo in their matching Lone Star uniforms.

"On the Kardashian Snapchat stories, they're always hanging out with Hillary Clinton. Well, their stepfather who transitioned into a woman is supporting the GOP nominee and might be coming here," Blakemore said. "To show that we accept and celebrate transgender people would be an incredible thing."

Blakemore, a Kappa Alpha Theta at the relatively conservative Texas A&M, not only accepted Trump's likely neutrality toward social conservatism, but actually embraced it.

"Being a college Republican, you notice that we're losing people every day because they don't believe we can keep up with social progress. The older generation needs to embrace the youth movement," Blakemore said. "I feel like you hear all the time, you have to prepare for the next generation; we're already here."

The second and more latent rationale behind Yiannopoulos' estimation of Trump is the candidate's immigration and refugee policies. Yiannopoulos sees Muslims as hostile to LGBT and women's rights, so Trump's stated desire to block Muslims from the U.S. gives him solace as a gay man, and many of his followers agree.

"I believe — no, I don't believe — the government's first responsibility just is to ensure the safety of its people," Rankin told me on the floor of the convention hall. "So when I hear a candidate say he wants to make America safe, then I know he understands the job he's applying for."

Despite calling Trump's proposed Muslim ban "rubbish," a prominent British editor who agreed to speak to me on condition of anonymity asserted, "I hate Trump but Hillary is the worst."

"I genuinely think Hillary destroyed Libya and is responsible for causing the refugee crisis in Europe," the editor said.

Still, he believes that Clinton will win, forcing Trump's grassroots movement to evolve into something more sinister, reacting more strongly against at least four more years of the same political correctness and status quo.

"After four years of Hillary Clinton, it won't be Donald Trump you're scared of. It'll be some actual lunatic who's waiting in the wings," the editor said.

Commentators often criticize Trump for fear-mongering, but Yiannopoulos and the editor echo a sentiment deeply seated in modern Europe — one that stems from a genuine threat of terrorism and a frustration with unresponsive government, and one that may have created the very beast it seeks to destroy.

Reach Contributor Tiana Lowe here, or follow her on Twitter.