On January 22, Donald Trump retweeted an image on Twitter falsely asserting that black-on-white violence comprises 81 percent of white homicides. Trump may not have realized that he had just given a voice to a user whose bio read “we should have listened to the Austrian chap with the little moustache” and whose profile picture featured a modified swastika.
In the wake of Trump’s election to the nation’s highest office, the alt-right has claimed 2016 as their victory. They have flocked to social media and message boards, thrilled and determined to grow their movement. The mainstream Right, particularly students and young voters, need to resist the siren song of the alt-right.
The “Alternative Right” is a disturbing movement that came to prominence with Trump’s political ascendancy. Supporters often begin with engaging appeals to Western tradition, but end by claiming the superiority of white races. This toxic mixture of traditionalist ideals and racial rhetoric rejects everything that makes America great.
Racism Won’t Make America Great Again
Richard Spencer, president of the National Policy Institute and founder of the website Alternative Right, founded the largely disorganized movement. Spencer makes his intentions very clear, and they are anything but conservative: “Should we, for instance, really be fighting for ‘limited government’ or the Constitution, so that the Afro-Mestizo-Caribbean Melting Pot can enjoy the blessing of liberty and a sound currency?”
Spencer and other pseudo-intellectuals attempt to maintain a reasonable discourse, but the vast majority of the movement finds its home in the anonymity of Internet message boards. This has popularized the term “cuckservative” to refer to members of the Republican Party who operate within the politically correct rhetoric of the Left and deny “racial realities.” The term comes from “cuckold,” evoking a man whose wife is openly unfaithful.
The alt-right fundamentally asserts that pluralism is destroying Western culture and so-called “white identity.” This belief manifests itself in a range of behaviors. The moderate members of the alt-right, known as “identitarians,” restrict their talk to comments about “Western civilization,” and primarily argue against immigration and multiculturalism.
Jared Taylor, founder of American Renaissance, a popular white racial magazine, asserts that “when blacks are left entirely to their own devices, Western Civilization disappears.” Many believers of such alt-right ideology believe in some form of racialism—the belief that one should prefer members of one’s own race and that races have fundamental differences. At the extreme edge of the alt-right, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and fascists have become surprisingly common and prominent.
Political Correctness Is Bad, But So Is Overreacting
So why should you beware the alt-right? It sounds like an extremist ideology that no good young conservative would be attracted to. The solutions the alt-right offers are rooted in legitimate concerns. They express frustrations with the state of American culture, disillusionment with the effectiveness of the Republican Party, and opposition to the cultural Marxism of identity politics.
Many conservatives share these concerns, especially those in my millennial generation. We recoil from politically correct campus speech codes, distrust establishment politicians, and believe the Western tradition is under attack. But the alt-right twists the ideals of the young conservative mind. Unlike mainstream conservatives, the alt-right claims that allowing other traditions, nationalities, and even races to influence the United States will erode our culture. The logical conclusion from this premise is no kind of conservatism, but an ethno-nationalism.
Conservatives need to be aware of this ideology and understand the logical consequence of rejecting classical liberalism and pluralism. The alt-right denies American exceptionalism. They deny that our political order should be based on republicanism and natural rights. They instead believe, ultimately, that race is crucial in identity and culture. They reject core goods from the American political tradition.
The Alt-Right Is Bad for Conservatives and America
The alt-right is not only dangerous for its beliefs, but it also endangers the conservative movement. Many media sources are quick to lump the alt-right in with all conservatives, deliberately ignoring the differing beliefs. Of course, Trump retweeting white supremacists doesn’t help. If conservatives associate with the alt-right, they will lose public respect and legitimacy.
Late Tuesday night, Spencer repeatedly tweeted “The Alt Right just won!” and called the night a victory driven by “Saxons” and “German Americans’ DNA.” The truth is that Trump won because voters grew discontent with the establishment. They rejected the ruling class, the “elites” of Pennsylvania Avenue and K Street. Trump did not win because the nation demanded we uphold “white identity.” Young Republicans and conservatives reject this false narrative.
The alt-right can be subtle about appropriating words conservatives use and trust. It couches itself in terms that any traditional conservative should be attracted to. Its leaders, like Spencer, speak in glowing terms of the accomplishments of Western culture, and rightly so.
Its conclusions, however, are anathema to the real American tradition. This ideology aims to upend the American order, replacing natural rights, freedom, and equality with a new politics focused on racial self-interest and ethno-nationalism. Americans, particularly young conservatives, must not be drawn in by alluring aspects of this movement, and their claim of victory on November 8. In this case, the Right is wrong.