Tucker Carlson is certainly a force to be reckoned with in today’s political landscape. His no-holes-barred, anti-establishment rhetoric has drawn the ire of democrats and republicans alike since 2016. And yet, despite such minuscule institutional support for his rhetoric, his show is the most watched program in cable history. Carlson’s frequent critiques of unfettered capitalism, mass immigration, and never-ending foreign wars, among other things, have elevated to the status of conservative icon.
Perhaps more importantly, he is not afraid to criticize those within his own party when they cling to bygone libertarian or neoconservative dogma, even criticizing Trump himself. It is known that his show has influenced important decisions the President has made. While Tucker Carlson Tonight is not the most ‘pro-Trump’–nobody can beat Sean Hannity in that field–he is arguably the most ‘Trumpian’ figure out there, pushing and refining the message which Trump ran on in 2016: an America First message. His popularity has made pundits question if he will pursue the Presidency in 2024 and, furthermore, if Trumpism will remain ascendant in the Republican Party even if Trump loses in November.
It should come as no surprise that many Republicans are working against Tucker Carlson, just as they work against Trump. Not only do Never-Trumpers like Jennifer Rubin disparage him, but his attacks on Senators, national think tanks, potential 2024 republican nominees, major GOP donors, and even members of the Trump Administration have made him enemies of many in the party already. Beyond that, Carlson’s populist messaging is viewed as a threat by DC insiders and more importantly, their donors, just as Trump was seen as a threat four years ago.
Despite this, his ratings are amazingly high. Actually, it is probably because of his willingness to speak truth to power that his ratings continue to soar. His viewers eat up his blistering, occasionally snarky, monologues and interviews. Speaking of viewers, his show differs from other Fox News shows in a very important way: it attracts millennial and Generation Z conservatives, not just old Pop-Pop sitting in his Laz-y-Boy. And this is no mistake; Tucker has repeatedly invited notable younger conservatives with populist messaging on his show, including head of the San Diego State College Republicans Oliver Kvaric, pundit and former US House candidate Pete D’Abrosca, and author Ryan Girdusky.
The popularity of Tucker Carlson and his rhetoric sends a clear message: if the GOP wishes to win over younger voters and remain viable into the future, it must embrace Carlson’s message of American patriotism, economic populism, immigration restriction, isolationism, and cultural conservatism. There must be a clear and permanent break from the party of bank bailouts and the military industrial complex which existed before Trump, in exchange for an America First message which will help the American people.