Since 2008, the term alt-right has been in the media, touted as an alternative to the mainstream conservative movement in the U.S.
Instead, alt-right is an umbrella term covering a range of antiquated, racist, and hateful ideologies that Donald Trump’s followers find quite comfortable. In fact, the whole Trump campaign has brought the alt-right out of the shadows and into full public view – and its rank-and-file adherents are milking it for all it’s worth.
The term alternative right appears to have been used for the first time in 2008 in a speech delivered before the H.L. Mencken Club by paleo-conservative philosopher and historian Paul Gottfried.
There is definitely a strong element of paleo-conservatism in the Alt-Right movement. The descriptor “paleo” is an apt one as many of these ideas belong in the Stone Age. For example, in 2012, the movement’s website, Alternative Right, posted an essay entitled, “Is Black Genocide Right?” In that essay, author Colin Liddel posed the following question: “Does human civilization actually need the Black race? Is Black genocide right? If it is, what would be the best and easiest way to dispose of them?”
It is appalling to think of such sentiments being expressed here in the 21st Century, but for the alt-right movement, such attitudes are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. While the movement defies exact definitions, its adherents hold beliefs that include white supremacy antisemitism and nativism – a philosophy dating from the mid-1800s. They are against immigration (whether legal or illegal), any sort of social welfare program, and if they had their way, would re-enact miscegenation laws. Its followers tend to be isolationist and believe in rigid hierarchies – economic, racial and gender-based. Don’t look for any egalitarian attitudes among this crowd.
Mainstream members of the GOP publicly disavow the alt-right movement, which is one reason the Republican establishment has been so unhappy about Donald Trump’s candidacy. In the words of Edmund Kozak, writing in the online journal Lifezette, the alternative conservative movement represents a “perversion of traditional conservative values.” Yet, like Dr. Frankenstein, the GOP is directly responsible for the creation of its own monster.
The fact is that the GOP, in becoming the Party of Big Business and global corporatism, has abandoned its base – many of whom are low information voters. They don’t know why they’ve lost their jobs, why they work longer hours for less pay, or why their homes have been foreclosed upon while Wall Street gets bailouts. They don’t really understand how government even works, nor how policy dictated by a Congress beholden to moneyed interests affects everything from the their air and water, to education and health care, and even the cost of their food and housing.
For years, the GOP has been very good at diverting the attention from the real issues by using “wedge issues” such as same sex marriage, abortion, school prayer – issues that have nothing to do with the public interest. Instead of owning up to the facts, the Republicans have spent a generation finding scapegoats – namely, the “liberal” media, “liberal” politicians, a “secular” education system, minorities, women, the LGBT community and more – upon which the dull, the ignorant and the easily led are able to blame their troubles.
Should we be surprised at what has happened, now that a demagogue like Trump has risen up to pander to them? No matter how you slice it, spin it or try to put a label on it, the fact is that the “Alt-Right” is not an alternative to GOP conservativism. It’s just the same old moldy, sour wine in a new bottle.