It makes sense that Masters and Vance would subscribe to national conservatism. Their former boss and patron, Thiel — who has donated millions to super PACs supporting each candidacy — is a NatCon, giving the keynote address at last year’s conference. And they come by the ideology honestly. They are products of elite institutions — Vance graduated from Yale Law School, Masters from Stanford Law — and claim to have been radicalized by the experience. Their populism is a form of contrarianism and rebellion. “Dominant elite society is boring, it is completely unreflective, and it is increasingly wrong,” Vance recently told The Washington Post Magazine. “I kind of had to make a choice.”
The challenge is turning that choice into votes. Trump created a constituency on instinct, but thus far there has been no way for politicians to signal affinity with it apart from pledging personal allegiance to Trump. Now that NatCons are trying to solidify that constituency ideologically, it seems freshly possible to align instead with Carlson, whose lead Masters and Vance have followed on everything from opposing vaccine mandates to sympathizing with Vladimir Putin’s geopolitical worldview. (Since the invasion of Ukraine, all three have recalibrated on Putin, with varying degrees of success.) Like Carlson, they go out of their way to troll liberals. Masters recently tweeted footage of a truck hauling lumber with the message: “I guarantee the guy driving this truck is conservative. Imagine a progressive dude driving a logging truck. You can’t.”
It’s in Masters’s videos, though, where the alignment with Carlson is most awkwardly apparent. They employ the same issues, the same cadences, even the same words as Carlson’s monologues.