During her speech in Nevada on Wednesday, Hillary Clinton did more to defend conservatism and the Republican Party than have many Republicans during this election cycle. Delivering remarks which some expected to broadly smear conservatives with the taint of a racist few, Clinton showed restraint. Describing the racialist alt-right, which has embedded itself within the Donald Trump campaign, Clinton was surgical:
Alt-Right is short for “Alternative Right.”
The Wall Street Journal describes it as a loosely organized movement, mostly online, that “rejects mainstream conservatism, promotes nationalism and views immigration and multiculturalism as threats to white identity.”
The de facto merger between Breitbart and the Trump Campaign represents a landmark achievement for the “Alt-Right.” A fringe element has effectively taken over the Republican Party.
At the beginning of the year, few outside the political wonk class were familiar with the alt-right. Consisting primarily of social media trolls and a handful of personality cultists, there was little reason to take the fringe movement seriously.
Then Donald Trump began to steamroll his way through the Republican presidential primaries, and this little known movement of neo-reactionaries grew exponentially more relevant. Today, as Clinton points out, the alt-right has successfully staged a coup within the Republican Party. Leveraging partisan loyalty, the alt-right has drawn tacit support for their horrific worldview from people who would never otherwise condone it. If you don’t want Hillary to win, you must support Donald Trump, the argument goes. The only problem is that, by doing so, you also support by proxy the alt-right which his candidacy has come to represent.
Here are 6 chilling facts about the alt-right:
1. They Are White Nationalists (a.k.a Racists)
Adherents of the alt-right often deny their racism. They scoff at the label “white supremacist,” quick to correct critics and instead claim the label “nationalist.” They do not necessarily believe that white people are better than others, or at least they try not to say so explicitly. Instead, they believe that white people hold a collective right to exist in a majority white nation.
It’s a distinction with some difference, but proves equally immoral. Whether white supremacist or white nationalist, the underlying premise is that race has inherent value and properly ought to define social structure. They believe that the identity of a nation is defined, not by its culture, philosophy, or values, but by its racial purity.
“Make America White Again,” read one billboard for an independent congressional candidate in Tennessee named Rick Tyler. Citing the candidacy of Donald Trump as an inspiration, Tyler told a reporter that “the white American super majority” stands as a “great bulwark against statist tyranny.” The white race is the chief value among the alt-right, not ideas, not principles, not philosophy, but race above all.
2. They Reject America’s Founding Principles
The alt-right rejects mainstream conservatism as known and pursued by the vast swath of traditional Republicans. Using familiar-sounding rhetoric, evoking lofty images of American greatness, they nonetheless reject the ideas upon which this nation was founded. Alt-right leader Richard Spencer makes this explicit in remarks chronicled by The Nation’s Joan Walsh:
When I [Walsh] try to argue that equality and pluralism are central to the nation’s founding documents, [Spencer] looks disgusted. “When I look at Thomas Jefferson’s writings, the Declaration of Independence, it makes me want to vomit. The idea that a ‘creator’ made all human beings equal? That’s ridiculous. The idea that all human beings are equal is such an appalling sentiment. We’re here on this earth for such a short period of time. The idea that we would dedicate ourselves to something as stupid as ‘equality’ or ‘democracy’ is morally insulting to me.”
Spencer’s comments are not an aberration. This is the man who coined the term “alt-right,” a recognized thought leader within the movement, saying that the Declaration of Independence makes him nauseous.
It’s critical to note Spencer’s meaning here. Some conservatives may be tempted to join Spencer in a criticism of democracy. The United States is a republic, after all, and that is a meaningful difference. However, that is not the point which Spencer is referencing. For him, democracy is bad, not for the reasons which the Founders articulated, but because it threatens the nation’s racial identity.
3. While Vaunting “Western Civilization,” They Reject Its Philosophical Basis
The alt-right rejects the philosophical accomplishments of the Enlightenment, which led directly to the creation of the United States. They seek a return to a pre-Enlightenment paradigm defined by tribalism and brute rule. Ian Tuttle expounds, writing for National Review:
“The Dark Enlightenment” is the name, first and foremost, of a fuzzily argued manifesto of sorts, penned by Nick Land, formerly a lecturer in continental philosophy at the University of Warwick, and another of [Breitbart writers Allum] Bokhari’s and [Milo] Yiannopoulos’s go-to “intellectuals.” Land is a more sophisticated thinker than [Jared] Taylor or [Richard] Spencer, but his “neo-reaction” is rooted in the same fundamental rejection of egalitarianism.
One might read “rejection of egalitarianism” and think it a good thing. After all, the concept of equality has been perverted by the left into an abomination that Enlightenment thinkers never intended. However, the alt-right does not merely reject equality of outcome, equality of ability, equality of income and such. They reject equality under the law. Tuttle continues:
Some want to put people in ovens; some just want an ability to “exit” multicultural society for an ethno-national arrangement. But they’re all in agreement: “All men are created equal” is not true.
The alt-right abhors individualism and rejects the principle of individual rights. They are collectivists. They believe that man obtains his value only in relation to his racial tribe. They don’t truly want to “make America great again.” They want to go back well before the Founding to make America something it never was, a Dark Age European ethno-state.
4. They Reject Free Trade
Since they reject conservatism as such, it should be no surprise that the alt-right likewise rejects free trade. As adherent Vox Day crudely expresses it “identity > culture > politics.” The preservation of America’s white racial identity takes precedence over all other considerations.
The alt-right will concede the benefits of free trade among the several states, or within a given state, but not beyond America’s borders. With foreign goods and labor come foreign cultural influence, the argument goes, eroding America’s white racial identity. And white racial identity is everything.
Trump speaks directly to this sentiment when he rails against immigration and “unfair” trade deals. His screeds serve as dog whistles for the alt-right, who salivate at the notion of social and economic isolation.
5. They Are Intellectual
The alt-right should not be dismissed as a band of thoughtless rubes. These are not slack-jawed yokels wandering the hillside. The alt-right proceeds as a movement of ideas. This is not gut racism. It is brain racism. There is a rationale. Thought leaders such as Richard Spencer have sunk considerable time, money, and effort into developing and disseminating a worldview.
The Anti-Defamation League expounds:
[Spencer] runs the National Policy Institute, a tiny white supremacist think tank, coined the term “Alternative Right” as the name for an online publication that debuted in 2010. The online publication changed hands in 2013 when Spencer shut it down. It was soon re-launched by Colin Liddell and Andy Nowicki, who were former writers for Alternative Right. Spencer went on to found another online journal, Radix. Both Alternative Right and Radix act as forums for racists, anti-Semites and others who identify with the Alt Right.
Tiny or not, the formation and sustenance of a think tank indicates a degree of active thought.
Alt Right adherents identify with a range of different ideologies that put white identity at their centers. Many claim themselves as Identitarians, a term that originated in France with the founding of the Bloc Identitaire movement and its youth counterpart, Generation Identitaire. Identitarians espouse racism and intolerance under the guise of preserving the ethnic and cultural origins of their respective counties. American Identitarians such as Richard Spencer claim to want to preserve European-American (i.e., white) culture in the U.S. As Michael McGregor, a writer and editor for Radix wrote in an article in the publication, Identitarians want “the preservation of our identity–the cultural and genetic heritage that makes us who we are.” Identitarians reject multiculturalism or pluralism in any form.
This stands as a central reason why the alt-right cannot be ignored. They are fully engaged in a battle of ideas. On an intellectual battlefield, you cannot fight what you do not first understand. And fight them we must, because…
6. They Now Own the Republican Party and Its Nominee for President
Up until his recent campaign shakeup, Donald Trump could be afforded the benefit of some doubt regarding the alt-right. While much of his rhetoric and policy proposals clearly served as dog whistles for the movement, it was not clear whether he intended them to. It may have been mere coincidence that Trump was speaking the alt-right’s language on issues like immigration and trade. He didn’t necessarily agree with their broader neo-reactionary ideology.
The benefit of that doubt can no longer be afforded. With the appointment of Breitbart News chairman Stephen Bannon as its new chief executive, the Trump campaign has conscientiously embraced the alt-right. From the Washington Post:
Conservatives joked openly for months about “Trumpbart” and the transformation of Breitbart.com into, essentially, Bannon.com, but it was still something of a surprise that Trump would so publicly embrace Bannon, a man who helped transform a mainstream conservative website into a cesspool of the alt-right…
The takeover, now a virtual fait accompli, represents the dangerous seizure of the conservative movement by the alt-right.
Constitutional conservatives can’t stand the alt-right. Conservatives — real conservatives — believe that only a philosophy of limited government, God-given rights and personal responsibility can save the country. And that creed is not bound to race or ethnicity. Broad swaths of the alt-right, by contrast, believe in a creed-free, race-based nationalism, insisting, among other things, that birth on American soil confers superiority. The alt-right sees limited-government constitutionalism as passé; it holds that only nationalist populism on the basis of shared tribal identity can save the country. It’s a movement shot through with racism and anti-Semitism.
This development fully validates the “never Trump” conviction, and properly ought to rally more constitutional conservatives to that cause. Forget about the presidential election. Hillary Clinton winning the presidency, as horrific as that is, proves nominally so in a context where nothing remains to oppose the ideas she represents.
Think of it like this. You’re in a house surrounded by bandits. The house is on fire. The priority is putting out the fire. Then you can worry about the bandits. That’s where we find ourselves. The conservative movement, which stands as the sole means by which the left can be defeated, cannot survive to viably combat the left while infected with the cancer of the alt-right. These racist anti-conservatives must be opposed and defeated before anything meaningful can be done to address the left.