Ctrl-Alt-Delete: The origins and ideology of the Alternative Right

An antifascist report on the far right movement that embraced Donald Trump.

This report is excerpted from Matthew N. Lyons’s forthcoming book, Insurgent Supremacists: The U.S. Far Right’s Challenge to State and Empire, to be published by PM Press and Kersplebedeb Publishing.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Maybe you first heard about them in the summer of 2015, when they promoted the insult “cuckservative” to attack Trump’s opponents in the Republican primaries.1 Maybe it was in August 2016, when Hillary Clinton denounced them as “a fringe element” that had “effectively taken over the Republican party.”2 Or maybe it was a couple of weeks after Trump’s surprise defeat of Clinton, when a group of them were caught on camera giving the fascist salute in response to a speaker shouting “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!”3

The Alt Right helped Donald Trump get elected president, and Trump’s campaign put the Alt Right in the news. But the movement was active well before Trump announced his candidacy, and its relationship with Trump has been more complex and more qualified than many critics realize. The Alt Right is just one of multiple dangerous forces associated with Trump, but it’s the one that has attracted the greatest notoriety. However, it’s not accurate to argue, as many critics have, that “Alt Right” is just a deceptive code-phrase meant to hide the movement’s White supremacist or neonazi politics. This is a movement with its own story, and for those concerned about the seemingly sudden resurgence of far-right politics in the United States, it is a story worth exploring.

This logo for the Alt Right has been appearing online, on posters, and at events.

The Alt Right, short for “alternative right,” is a loosely organized far-right movement that shares a contempt for both liberal multiculturalism and mainstream conservatism; a belief that some people are inherently superior to others; a strong internet presence and embrace of specific elements of online culture; and a self-presentation as being new, hip, and irreverent.4 Based primarily in the United States, Alt Right ideology combines White nationalism, misogyny, antisemitism, and authoritarianism in various forms and in political styles ranging from intellectual argument to violent invective. White nationalism constitutes the movement’s center of gravity, but some Alt Rightists are more focused on reasserting male dominance or other forms of elitism rather than race. The Alt Right has little in the way of formal organization, but has used internet memes effectively to gain visibility, rally supporters, and target opponents. Most Alt Rightists have rallied behind Trump’s presidential bid, yet as a rule Alt Rightists regard the existing political system as hopeless and call for replacing the United States with one or more racially defined homelands.

This report offers an overview of the Alt Right’s history, beliefs, and relationship with other political forces. Part 1 traces the movement’s ideological origins in paleoconservatism and the European New Right, and its development since Richard Spencer launched the original AlternativeRight.com website in 2010. Part 2 surveys the major political currents that comprise or overlap with the Alt Right, which include in their ranks White nationalists, members of the antifeminist “manosphere,” male tribalists, right-wing anarchists, and neoreactionaries. Part 3 focuses on the Alt Right’s relationship with the Trump presidential campaign, including movement debates about political strategy, online political tactics, and its relationship to a network of conservative supporters and popularizers known as the “Alt Lite.” A concluding section offers preliminary thoughts on the Alt Right’s prospects and the potential challenges it will face under the incoming Trump administration.

PART 1 – ORIGINS AND DEVELOPMENT

Ideological roots

Two intellectual currents played key roles in shaping the early Alternative Right: paleoconservatism and the European New Right.

Paleoconservatives can trace their lineage back to the “Old Right” of the 1930s, which opposed New Deal liberalism, and to the America First movement of the early 1940s, which opposed U.S. entry into World War II. To varying degrees, many of the America Firsters were sympathetic to fascism and fascist claims of a sinister Jewish-British conspiracy. In the early 1950s, this current supported Senator Joe McCarthy’s witch-hunting crusade, which extended red-baiting to target representatives of the centrist Eastern Establishment. After McCarthy, the America First/anti-New Deal Right was largely submerged in a broader “fusionist” conservative movement, in which Cold War anticommunism served as the glue holding different rightist currents together. But when the Soviet bloc collapsed between 1989 and 1991, this anticommunist alliance unraveled, and old debates reemerged.5

In the 1980s, devotees of the Old Right began calling themselves paleoconservatives as a reaction against neoconservatives, those often formerly liberal and leftist intellectuals who were then gaining influential positions in right-wing think-tanks and the Reagan administration. The first neocons were predominantly Jewish and Catholic, which put them outside the ranks of old-guard conservatism. Neocons promoted an aggressive foreign policy to spread U.S. “democracy” throughout the world and supported a close alliance with Israel, but they also favored nonrestrictive immigration policies and, to a limited extent, social welfare programs. Paleconservatives regarded the neocons as usurpers and closet leftists, and in the post-Soviet era they criticized military interventionism, free trade, immigration, globalization, and the welfare state. They also spoke out against Washington’s close alliance with Israel, often in terms that had anti-Jewish undertones. Paleoconservatives tended to be unapologetic champions of European Christian culture, and some of them gravitated toward White nationalism, advocating a society in which White people, their values, interests, and concerns would always be explicitly preeminent. To some extent they began to converge with more hardline White supremacists during this period.6

These positions attracted little elite support, and after Reagan paleocons were mostly frozen out of political power. But they attracted significant popular support. In 1992 and 1996, Patrick Buchanan won millions of votes in Republican presidential primaries by emphasizing paleocon themes. Paleocons also played key roles in building the anti-immigrant and neo-Confederate movements in the ‘90s, and influenced the Patriot movement, which exploded briefly in the mid-90s around fears that globalist elites were plotting to impose a tyrannical world government on the United States. Some self-described libertarians, such as former Congressmember Ron Paul, embraced paleoconservative positions on culture and foreign policy.7 After the September 11th attacks in 2001, the resurgence of military interventionism and neoconservatives’ prominent roles in the George W. Bush administration solidified the paleocons’ position as political outsiders.8

The Alt Right’s other significant forerunner, the European New Right (ENR), developed along different lines. The ENR began in France in the late 1960s and then spread to other European countries as an initiative among far-right intellectuals to rework fascist ideology, largely by appropriating elements from other political traditions—including the Left—to mask their fundamental rejection of the principle of human equality.9 European New Rightists championed “biocultural diversity” against the homogenization supposedly brought by liberalism and globalization. They argued that true antiracism requires separating racial and ethnic groups to protect their unique cultures, and that true feminism defends natural gender differences, instead of supposedly forcing women to “divest themselves of their femininity.” ENR writers also rejected the principle of universal human rights as “a strategic weapon of Western ethnocentrism” that stifles cultural diversity.10

European New Rightists dissociated themselves from traditional fascism in various other ways as well. In the wake of France’s defeat by anticolonial forces in Algeria, they advocated anti-imperialism rather than expansionism and a federated “empire” of regionally based, ethnically homogeneous communities, rather than a big, centralized state. Instead of organizing a mass movement to seize state power, they advocated a “metapolitical” strategy that would gradually transform the political and intellectual culture as a precursor to transforming institutions and systems. In place of classical fascism’s familiar leaders and ideologues, European New Rightists championed more obscure far rightist intellectuals of the 1920s, ‘30s, and beyond, such Julius Evola of Italy, Ernst Jünger and Carl Schmitt of Germany, and Corneliu Codreanu of Romania.

ENR ideology began to get attention in the United States in the 1990s,11 resonating with paleoconservatism on various themes, notably opposition to multicultural societies, non-White immigration, and globalization. On other issues, the two movements tended to be at odds: reflecting their roots in classical fascism but in sharp contrast to paleocons, European New Rightists were hostile to liberal individualism and laissez faire capitalism, and many of them rejected Christianity in favor of paganism. Nonetheless, some kind of dialog between paleocon and ENR ideas held promise for Americans seeking to develop a White nationalist movement outside of traditional neonazi/Ku Klux Klan circles.

Early years and growth

Richard Spencer speaking at a National Policy Institute conference in 2016.

The term “Alternative Right” was introduced by Richard Spencer in 2008, when he was managing editor at the paleocon and libertarian Taki’s Magazine. At Taki’s Magazine the phrase was used as a catch-all for a variety of right-wing voices at odds with the conservative establishment, including paleocons, libertarians, and White nationalists.12 Two years later Spencer left to found a new publication, AlternativeRight.com, as “an online magazine of radical traditionalism.” Joining Spencer were two senior contributing editors, Peter Brimelow (whose anti-immigrant VDARE Foundation sponsored the project) and Paul Gottfried (one of paleoconservatism’s founders and one of its few Jews). AlternativeRight.com quickly became a popular forum among dissident rightist intellectuals, especially younger ones. The magazine published works of old-school “scientific” racism along with articles from or about the European New Right, Italian far right philosopher Julius Evola, and figures from Germany’s interwar Conservative Revolutionary movement. There were essays by National-Anarchist Andrew Yeoman, libertarian and Pat Buchanan supporter Justin Raimondo of Antiwar.com, male tribalist Jack Donovan, and Black conservative Elizabeth Wright.13

AlternativeRight.com developed ties with a number of other White nationalist intellectual publications, which eventually became associated with the term Alternative Right. Some of its main partners included VDARE.com; Jared Taylor’s American Renaissance, whose conferences attracted both antisemites and right-wing Jews; The Occidental Quarterly and its online magazine, The Occidental Observer, currently edited by prominent antisemitic intellectual Kevin MacDonald; and Counter-Currents Publishing, which was founded in 2010 to “create an intellectual movement in North America that is analogous to the European New Right” and “lay the intellectual groundwork for a white ethnostate in North America.”14

Founded in 2005, The National Policy Institute is a White nationalist, White supremacist think tank based in Arlington, Virginia.

In 2011, Richard Spencer became head of the White nationalist think-tank National Policy Institute (NPI) and its affiliated Washington Summit Publishers. He turned AlternativeRight.com over to other editors the following year, then shut it down completely, establishing a new online magazine, Radix, in its place. (The other editors then reestablished Alternative Right as a blog.) Compared with AlternativeRight.com’s broad ideological approach, Spencer’s later entities were more sharply focused on promoting White nationalism. Starting in 2011, NPI held a series of high-profile conferences that brought together intellectuals and activists from various branches of the movement. In 2014, the think-tank, together with supporters of Russian ENR theorist Aleksandr Dugin, cosponsored a “pan-European” conference in Budapest, although the Hungarian government deported Spencer and denied Dugin a visa.15

Starting in 2015, a much wider array of writers and online activists embraced the Alt Right moniker. As Anti-Fascist News put it, “the ‘alt right’ now often means an internet focused string of commentators, blogs, Twitter accounts, podcasters, and Reddit trolls, all of which combine scientific racism, romantic nationalism, and deconstructionist neo-fascist ideas to create a white nationalist movement that has almost no backwards connection with neo-Nazis and the KKK.”16 Some online centers of this larger, more amorphous Alt Right included the imageboard websites 4chan and 8chan, various Reddit sub-communities, and The Right Stuff blog and podcasts. Some Alt Right outfits offered neonazi-oriented politics (such as The Daily Stormer and the Traditionalist Youth Network), while others did not (such as Occidental Dissent, The Unz Review, Vox Popoli, and Chateau Heartiste).

Message boards like 4chan have become appropriated as online centers of a more amorphous Alt Right.

On many sites, Alt Right politics were presented in terms intended to be as inflammatory as possible, bucking a decades-old trend among U.S. Far Rightists to tone down their beliefs for mass consumption. Previously, antisemitic propagandist Willis Carto and former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke had made careers of dressing up fascism as “populism” or “conservatism”; now Alt Rightists confidently derided antifascism in the way 1960s radicals had derided anticommunism: “We might not all be proper fascists,” The Right Stuff columnist Lawrence Murray wrote in 2015, “but we’re all a little fash whether we want to be or not. We’re fashy goys—we think a lot of nasty thoughts that keep leftists up at night during their struggle sessions. Might as well embrace it…”17

The Alt Right’s rapid growth partly reflected trends in internet culture, where anonymity and the lack of face-to-face contact have fostered widespread use of insults, bullying, and supremacist speech. More immediately, it reflected recent political developments, such as a backlash against the Black Lives Matter movement and, above all, Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy. A majority of Alt Rightists supported Trump’s campaign because of his anti-immigrant proposals; defamatory rhetoric against Mexicans, Muslims, women, and others; and his clashes with mainstream conservatives and the Republican Party establishment.

PART 2 – MAJOR IDEOLOGICAL CURRENTS

White nationalists, high- and low-brow

The original AlternativeRight.com magazine helped set the parameters of Alt Right White nationalism. In “Why an Alternative Right is Necessary,” published in 2010 soon after the magazine was launched, columnist Richard Hoste offered a paleocon-style criticism of the War on Terror and mainstream conservatives, coupled with a blunt new emphasis on race:

One would think that the odds of a major terrorist attack happening would depend on how many Muslims are allowed to live in the United States. Reducing Islamic immigration in the name of fighting terror would receive widespread public support, be completely practical in a way installing a puppet regime in Afghanistan wouldn’t, and not lead us to kill or torture anybody…. The idea that nothing must be done to stop the March Of Diversity is so entrenched in the minds of those considered of the Right that they will defend America policing the entire planet, torture, indefinite detentions, and a nation on permanent war footing but won’t mention immigration restriction or racial profiling.

We’ve known for a while through neuroscience and cross-adoption studies—if common sense wasn’t enough—that individuals differ in their inherent capabilities. The races do, too, with whites and Asians on the top and blacks at the bottom. The Alternative Right takes it for granted that equality of opportunity means inequality of results for various classes, races, and the two sexes. Without ignoring the importance of culture, we see Western civilization as a unique product of the European gene pool.18

A few months later, Greg Johnson at Counter-Currents Publishing declared that:

The survival of whites in North America and around the world is threatened by a host of bad ideas and policies: egalitarianism, the denial of biological race and sex differences, feminism, emasculation, racial altruism, ethnomasochism and xenophilia, multiculturalism, liberalism, capitalism, non-white immigration, individualism, consumerism, materialism, hedonism, anti-natalism, etc.

He also warned that White people would not survive unless they “work to reduce Jewish power and influence” and “regain political control over a viable national homeland or homelands.”19

In 2016, following the Alternative Right’s rapid growth, Lawrence Murray in The Right Stuff proposed a summary of the movement’s “big tent” philosophy: inequality of both individuals and populations is “a fact of life”; “races and their national subdivisions exist and compete for resources, land and influence”; White people are being suppressed and “must be allowed to take their own side”; men and women have separate roles and heterosexual monogamy is crucial for racial survival; “the franchise should be limited” because universal democracy “gives power to the worst and shackles the fittest”; and “Jewish elites are opposed to our entire program.”20 Alfred W. Clark in Radix offered a slightly different summary. In his view, Alt Rightists recognize human biodiversity; reject universalism; want to reverse Third World immigration into the West; are skeptical of free trade and free market ideology; oppose mainstream Christianity from a variety of religious viewpoints (traditionalist Christian, neo-pagan, atheist, and agnostic); and often (but not always) support Donald Trump. Unlike Murray, Clark noted that Alt Rightists disagree about the “Jewish question,” but generally agree “that Jews have disproportionately been involved in starting left-wing movements of the last 150 years.”21

Alt Rightists have promoted these ideas in different ways. Some have used moderate-sounding intellectual tones, often borrowed from the European New Right’s euphemistic language about respecting “difference” and protecting “biocultural diversity.” For example, the National Policy Institute has promoted “identitarianism,” a concept that was developed by the French New Right and popularized by the French group Bloc Identitaire. In 2015, Richard Spencer introduced an NPI essay contest for young writers on the theme, “Why I’m An Identitarian”:

Identitarianism… eschews nationalist chauvinism, as well as the meaningless, petty nationalism that is tolerated, even encouraged, by the current world system. That said, Identitarianism is itself not a universal value system, like Leftism, monotheism, and most contemporary versions of ‘conservatism.’ To the contrary, Identitarianism is fundamentally about difference, about culture as an expression of a certain people at a certain time…. Identitarianism acknowledges the incommensurable nature of different peoples and cultures—and thus looks forward to a world of true diversity and multiculturalism.22

Very different versions of Alt Right politics are available elsewhere. The Right Stuff website uses a mocking, ironic tone, with rotating tag lines such as “Your rational world is a circle jerk”; “Non-aggression is the triumph of weakness”; “Democracy is an interracial porno”; “Obedience to lawful authority is the foundation of manly character”; and “Life isn’t fair. Sucks for you, but I don’t care.” An article by “Darth Stirner,” titled “Fascist Libertarianism: For a Better World,” further illustrated this style:

Dear libertarian, take the rose colored glasses of racial egalitarianism off. Look around and see that other races don’t even disguise their hatred of you. Even though you don’t think in terms of race, rest assured that they do. Humanity is composed of a series of racial corporations. They stick together, and if we don’t… Western civilization is doomed.

[…]

Progressives, communists, and degenerates of various stripes will need to be interned—at least during the transition period. Terrorism and guerrilla warfare can be prevented with this measure. In the instance of a coup d’état it would be reasonable to detain every person who might conceivably be an enemy of the right-wing revolution. Rather than starving or torturing them they should be treated well with the highest standard of living reasonably possible. Most of them will simply be held until the war is over and the winner is clear. This is actually much more humane than allowing a hotly contested civil war to occur.23

The Right Stuff doesn’t just offer quasi-irony, however, but also naked bigotry, as summarized by Anti-Fascist News:

[On The Right Stuff] they choose to openly use racial slurs, degrade women and rape survivors, mock the holocaust and call for violence against Jews. Their podcast, The Daily Shoah, which is a play on The Daily Show and the Yiddish term for The Holocaust, is a roundtable discussion of different racists broadcasting under pseudonyms. Here they do voice “impressions” of Jews, and consistently use terms like “Nig Nog,” “Muds[”] (referring to “mud races,” meaning non-white), and calling people of African descent “Dingos.” The N-word, homophobic slurs, and calls for enforced cultural patriarchy and heteronormativity are commonplace… The use of rhetoric like this is almost entirely missing from groups like American Renaissance, Counter-Currents, Radix Journal, Alternative Right, and even Stormfront, the main hub for racist groups who recently banned swastikas and racial slurs.24

Anti-Fascist News argues that different branches of the Alternative Right use different language to appeal to different target audiences. “The Right Stuff tries to mimic the aggression and reactionary insults of right-wing talk radio like Rush Limbaugh, while Radix would love to look a lot more like that trendy Critical Theory journal young grad students are clamoring to be published in.”25 This is more division of labor than factional conflict, as a number of Alt Right intellectual figures have appeared on The Right Stuff podcasts, for example.

Stylistic differences aside, though, Alt Rightists have also disagreed about substantive issues. One of the biggest points of contention has been whether White nationalists should work with Jews, or at least some Jews. Anti-Jewish bigotry and scapegoating have been prevalent across most of the movement, but with important variations and exceptions. For the minority of Alt Rightists who identify with neonazism, such as Andrew Anglin of the Daily Stormer, uncompromising antisemitism is the overriding core principle.26 And for many others, Jews are a major existential threat. To The Right Stuff blogger “Auschwitz Soccer Ref,” Jews as a group have engaged in “2,000 years of non-stop treachery and backstabbing” and are “remorseless enemies who seek the destruction of the people they hate, which is us.” As a result, “anyone who self-identifies as a Jew or anyone who makes excuses for a continued Jewish presence in White homelands should be unapologetically excluded from this movement, and none of these people should ever be allowed to speak at alt right conferences no matter how pro-White they may seem.”27

American Renaissance is a monthly online magazine considered widely to be a White supremacist publication.

Not all Alt Rightists agree. American Renaissance, one of the movement’s central institutions, pioneered a version of White nationalism that avoided antisemitism. Besides publishing Jewish authors, both Jews and antisemites have been welcome at AmRen events as long as they set aside their disagreements.28 Richard Spencer, too, repeatedly welcomed Jewish writers and cited them as useful contributors to the movement.

Even Alt Rightists who view Jews as dangerous outsiders don’t necessarily regard them as the embodiment of pure evil. Serbian-American author Srdja Trifkovic wrote that “the Jews” had disproportionately contributed to the erosion of European civilization. Nevertheless, he hoped for an alliance with Jews against their common enemy, “the brown, black, and yellow multitudes” whose eventual attacks on the Jewish community might “easily exceed in ferocity and magnitude the events of 1942-45.”29 Similarly, Counter-Currents writer M.K. Lane described Jews as “a self-segregating and culturally arrogant people, a people who refuse to assimilate [and] who even when they do ostensibly assimilate, cause even greater harm than they did before desegregating.” Yet Lane also hoped that a significant number of Jews could be won over to ally with White nationalism since, “if we go down, they go down.” Of course, in such an alliance White nationalists “must not allow ourselves to become stooges.” Jews “living in our midst… could either be allowed to live in their own communities, assimilate in small numbers, or move to Israel. Anything as long as they refrain from subverting our societies…”30

Manosphere

While White nationalism has been central to the Alternative Right, patriarchal politics have played an increasingly important—and increasingly poisonous—role in the movement. The original AlternativeRight.com featured a range of views on gender, from patriarchal traditionalism to a kind of quasi-feminism. A number of male contributors expressed concern that their branch of the Right had attracted few women. Publisher and novelist Alex Kurtagic argued in 2011 that women and men had distinct natural roles, but that the White nationalist movement needed both:

Women are far more than nurturers: they are especially proficient at networking, community building, consensus building, multi-tasking, and moral and logistical support provision. These are all essential in any movement involving community outreach and where user-friendly, low-key, non-threatening forms of recruitment are advisable…. Women can create a much broader comfort zone around hardcore political activism through organising a wide range of community, human, and support-oriented activities…31

Andrew Yeoman of Bay Area National Anarchists argued more pointedly that sexist behavior by male Alt Rightists was driving women away:

Many women won’t associate with our ideas. Why is this important? Because it leaves half our people out of the struggle. The women that do stick around have to deal with a constant litany of abuse and frequent courtship invitations from unwanted suitors. …nothing says ‘you’re not important to us’ [more] than sexualizing women in the movement. Don’t tell me that’s not an issue. I’ve seen it happen in all kinds of radical circles, and ours is the worst for it.32

Logo for the White nationalist discussion site, Stormfront

As the Alternative Right has grown, it has abandoned this kind of self-criticism and debate about gender politics. Going beyond traditionalist claims about the sanctity of the family and natural gender roles, Alt Rightists have embraced an intensely misogynistic ideology, portraying women as irrational, vindictive creatures who need and want men to rule over them and who should be stripped of any political role.33 The Traditionalist Youth Network claims that “women’s biological drives are contrary to the best interests of civilization and… the past century or so of women’s enfranchisement and liberation has been detrimental to societal stability.” But the group frames this position as relatively moderate because, unlike some rightists, they don’t believe “that women are central to the destruction of Western Civilization”—they are simply being manipulated by the Jews.34 The Daily Stormer has banned female contributors and called for limiting women’s roles in the movement, sparking criticism from women on the more old school White nationalist discussion site Stormfront. Far-right blogger Matt Forney asserts that “Trying to ‘appeal’ to women is an exercise in pointlessness…. it’s not that women should be unwelcome [in the Alt Right], it’s that they’re unimportant.”35

A big reason for this shift toward hardline woman-hating is that the Alt Right has become closely intertwined with the so-called manophere, an online antifeminist male subculture that has grown rapidly in recent years, largely outside traditional right-wing networks. The manosphere includes various overlapping circles, such as Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs), who argue that the legal system and media unfairly discriminate against men; Pickup Artists (PUAs), who help men learn how to manipulate women into having sex with them; Men Going Their Own Way (MGTOWs), who protest women’s supposed dominance by avoiding relationships with them; and others.36

Manospherians have emphasized male victimhood—the false belief that men in U.S. society are oppressed or disempowered by feminism or by women in general. This echoes the concept of “reverse racism,” the idea that White Americans face unfair discrimination, which White nationalists have promoted since the 1970s.

Daryush Valizadeh writes at the PUA site, Return of Kings.

Some manospherians are family-centered traditionalists while others celebrate a more predatory sexuality. Daryush Valizadeh, who writes at the PUA site Return of Kings under the name Roosh V, embodies this tension. He argues that the nuclear family with one father and one mother is the healthiest unit for raising children, and socialism is damaging because it makes women dependent on the government and discourages them from using their “feminine gifts” to “land a husband.” Yet Valizadeh has also written 10 how-to books for male sex tourists with titles such as Bang Ukraine and Bang Iceland. Valizadeh doesn’t dwell on his own glaring inconsistency, but does suggest in his article, “What is Neomasculinity?,” that the dismantling of patriarchal rules has forced men to pursue “game” as a defensive strategy “to hopefully land some semblance of a normal relationship.”37

Like the Alt Right, manosphere discourse ranges from intellectual arguments to raw invective, although the line between them is often blurred. Paul Elam’s A Voice for Men, founded in 2009, became one of the manosphere’s most influential websites with intentionally provocative articles arguing, for example, that the legal system was so heavily stacked against men that rape trial jurors should vote to acquit “even in the face of overwhelming evidence that the charges are true.”38 Elam also “satirically” declared October “Bash a Violent Bitch Month,” urging men to fight back against physically abusive female partners. He offered “satire” such as:

I don’t mean subdue them, or deliver an open handed pop on the face to get them to settle down. I mean literally to grab them by the hair and smack their face against the wall till the smugness of beating on someone because you know they won’t fight back drains from their nose with a few million red corpuscles.39

Manospherians also tend to promote homophobia and transphobia, which is consistent with their efforts to re-impose rigid gender roles and identities. At Return of Kings, Valizadeh has denounced the legalization of same-sex marriage as “one phase of a degenerate march to persecute heterosexuals, both legally and socially, while acclimating young children to the homosexual lifestyle.”40 On the same website, Matt Forney warned that trans women who have sex with cis men might be guilty of “rape by fraud.”41 At the same time, some manosphere sites have sought to reach out to gay men. A Voice for Men published a series of articles by writer Matthew Lye that were later collected into the e-book The New Gay Liberation: Escaping the Fag End of Feminism, which Paul Elam described as “a scorching indictment of feminist hatred of all things male.”42

One of the events that brought the manosphere to public attention was the Gamergate controversy. Starting in 2014, a number of women who worked in—or were critical of sexism in—the video game industry were subjected to large-scale campaigns of harassment, coordinated partly with the #Gamergate Twitter hashtag. Supporters of Gamergate claimed that that campaign was a defense of free speech and journalistic ethics and against political correctness, but it included streams of misogynistic abuse, rape and death threats, as well as doxxing (public releases of personal information), which caused several women to leave their homes out of fear for their physical safety.43 The Gamergate campaign took the pervasive, systematic pattern of threats and abuse that has been long used to silence women on the internet, and sharpened it into a focused weapon of attack.44 Gamergate, in turn, strongly influenced the Alt Right’s own online activism, as I discuss below.

There is significant overlap between the manosphere and the Alt Right. Both are heavily active on discussion websites such as 4chan, 8chan, and Reddit, and a number of prominent Alt Rightists—such as Forney, Theodore Beale (pseudonym: “Vox Day”), James Weidmann (“Roissy”), and Andrew Auernheimer (“weev”)—have also been active in the manosphere. Many other Alt Rightists have absorbed and promoted manosphere versions of gender ideology.

Daryush “Roosh” Valizadeh in Warsaw, Poland in 2014. (Photo: Bartek Kucharczyk via Wiki Commons).

But there have also been tensions between the two rightist movements. In 2015, Valizadeh (“Roosh V”) began to build a connection with the Alternative Right, attending an NPI conference and quoting extensively from antisemite Kevin MacDonald in a lengthy post about “The Damaging Effects of Jewish Intellectualism And Activism On Western Culture.”45 Some Alt Rightists responded favorably. One blogger commented that the manosphere was “not as stigmatized” as White nationalism and the Alt Right, and suggested hopefully that, “since the Manosphere has a very broad appeal it is possible that bloggers such as Roosh and Dalrock [a Christian manospherian] might serve as a stepping stone to guide formerly apathetic men towards the Alternative Right.”46 Matt Parrott of the Traditionalist Youth Network praised Valizadeh’s “What is Neomasculinity?” as “a masterful synthesis of human biodiversity knowledge, radical traditionalist principle, and pragmatic modern dating experience.”47

But the relationship soured quickly, largely because Valizadeh is Persian American. Although Andrew Anglin of The Daily Stormer tweeted that Valizadeh was “a civilized and honorable man,”48 many White nationalists denounced him as non White and an enemy. One tweeted that he was “a greasy Iranian” who “goes to Europe to defile white women and write books about it.”49 After studying Valizadeh’s accounts of his own sex tourism, Counter-Currents Publishing editor-in-chief Greg Johnson concluded that Roosh “is either a rapist or a fraud” and “it is not just feminist hysteria to describe Roosh as a rape advocate.” More broadly, Johnson wrote, “for all its benefits… the manosphere morally corrupts men. It does not promote the resurgence of traditional and biologically based sexual norms.”50 Valizadeh responded by blogging “The Alt Right Is Worse Than Feminism in Attempting to Control Male Sexual Behavior.”51

Male tribalism

Jack Donovan, an early contributor to AlternativeRight.com who has stayed active in the Alt Right as it has grown, offers a related but distinct version of male supremacist ideology. In a series of books and articles over the past decade, Donovan has advocated a system of patriarchy based on “tribal” comradeship among male warriors. Drawing on evolutionary psychology, he argues that in the past men have mostly organized themselves into small, close-knit “gangs,” which fostered true masculinity and men’s natural dominance over women. Yet modern “globalist civilization” “requires the abandonment of human scale identity groups for ‘one world tribe.’” A combination of “feminists, elite bureaucrats, and wealthy men,” he writes, has promoted male passivity and put women in a dominant role.52

Jack Donovan has advocated a system of patriarchy based on “tribal” comradeship among male warriors. (photo: Zachary O. Ray via Wiki Commons).

Unlike Christian rightists, who argue that feminism misleads women into betraying their true interests, Donovan sees feminism as an expression of women’s basic nature, which is “to calm men down and enlist their help at home, raising children, and fixing up the grass hut.” Today, he argues, feminists’ supposed alliance with globalist elites reflects this: “Women are better suited to and better served by the globalism and consumerism of modern democracies that promote security, no-strings attached sex and shopping.”53

Donovan’s social and political ideal is a latter-day tribal order that he calls “The Brotherhood,” in which all men would affirm their sacred loyalty to each other against the outside world. A man’s position would be based on “hierarchy through meritocracy,” not inherited wealth or status. All men would be expected to train and serve as warriors, and only warriors—meaning no women—would have a political voice. In this version of patriarchal ideology, unlike the Christian Right version, male comradeship is central and the family is entirely peripheral. An example of the kind of community Donovan envisions is the Odinist group Wolves of Vinland, which Donovan joined after visiting their off-the-grid community in rural Virginia in 2014. The Wolves use group rituals (including animal sacrifice) and hold fights between members to test their masculinity.54 The Wolves of Vinland have also been praised by White nationalist groups such as Counter-Currents Publishing, and one of their members has been imprisoned for attempting to burn down a Black church in Virginia.55

Donovan has written that he is sympathetic to White nationalist aims such as encouraging racial separatism and defending European Americans against “the deeply entrenched anti-white bias of multiculturalist orthodoxies.” White nationalism dovetails with his beliefs that all humans are tribal creatures and human equality is an illusion. But in contrast to most Alt Rightists, race is not Donovan’s main focus or concern. “My work is about men. It’s about understanding masculinity and the plight of men in the modern world. It’s about what all men have in common.” His “Brotherhood” ideal is not culturally specific and he’s happy to see men of other cultures pursue similar aims. “For instance, I am not a Native American, but I have been in contact with a Native American activist who read The Way of Men and contacted me to tell me about his brotherhood. I could never belong to that tribe, but I wish him great success in his efforts to promote virility among his tribesmen.”57

Donovan also echoes the 1909 Futurist Manifesto, a document that prefigured Italian Fascism. (Image: Wiki Commons)

There are strong resonances between Donovan’s ideas and early fascism’s violent male camaraderie, which took the intense, trauma-laced bonds that World War I veterans had formed in the trenches and transferred them into street-fighting formations such as the Italian squadristi and German storm troopers. Donovan also echoes the 1909 Futurist Manifesto, a document that prefigured Italian Fascism with statements such as “We want to glorify war—the only cure for the world—militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of the anarchists, the beautiful ideas which kill, and contempt for woman.”58 Thus it’s not surprising he has embraced the term “anarcho-fascism,” referring to “a unified male collective… bound together by a red ribbon of blood.”59

In the Alternative Right and among rightists in general, the most controversial part of Donovan’s ideology is that he advocates and practices “androphilia,” by which he means love or sex between masculine men. Donovan doesn’t call himself gay, rejects gay culture as effeminate, and justifies homophobia as a defense of masculinity rooted in the male gang’s collective survival needs. His version of homosexuality is a consummation of the priority that men in his ideal gang place on each other. As he has commented, “When you get right down to it, when it comes to sex, homos are just men without women getting in the way.”60 Many Alternative Rightists consider homosexuality in any form to be immoral and a threat to racial survival, and Donovan has been vilified on many Alt Right sites for his sexuality, yet his work has also won widespread support within the movement. Anti-Fascist News has noted a broader trend among many White nationalists to include openly homosexual writers (such as James O’Meara) and musicians (such as Death in June leader Douglas Pearce), while continuing to derogate gay culture.61

Right-wing anarchists

Like many far-right currents in the United States, the Alt Right offers a vision of the state that is both authoritarian and decentralist. Alt Rightists uphold classical fascism’s elitist and anti-democratic views on how society should be governed, and as the movement has grown it has increasingly applauded dictatorial figures such as Chile’s Augusto Pinochet.62 At the same time, the Alt Right goal of breaking up the United States into ethnically separate polities is inherently decentralist, and is rooted in both the European New Right’s vision of replacing nation-states with a federated “empire” and paleoconservatism’s traditional hostility to big government. The authoritarian/decentralist blend has been bolstered by two other political currents that have influenced the Alt Right: right-wing anarchism and neoreaction.

As part of its project to bring together a range of dissident right-wing voices, AlternativeRight.com published articles by self-identified anarchists Andrew Yeoman of Bay Area National Anarchists (BANA) and Keith Preston of the website Attack the System (ATS). National-Anarchism, which advocates a decentralized system of “tribal” enclaves, was initiated in the 1990s by Troy Southgate, a veteran of British neonazism.63 Over the following years, National-Anarchist groups formed in a number of countries across Europe, the Americas, and Australia/New Zealand. The first U.S. affiliate, BANA, began in 2007, and Southgate formally launched the National-Anarchist Movement (N-AM) in 2010.64

National-Anarchism is a White nationalist ideology. Like Identitarianism, it draws heavily on the ENR doctrine that ethnic and racial separatism is needed to defend so-called biocultural diversity. The N-AM Manifesto declares that race categories are basic biological facts and some people are innately superior to others. National-Anarchists also repeat classic antisemitic conspiracy theories and, like many neonazis, promote neopaganism and closeness to nature.65 But National-Anarchists reject classical fascism for its emphasis on strong nation-states, centralized dictatorship, and collaboration with big business. Instead, they call for breaking up society into self-governing tribal communities, so that different cultures, beliefs, and practices can co-exist side by side.66

National-Anarchists have not had a significant presence in the Alternative Right since BANA disbanded in 2011, but self-described anarcho-pluralist Keith Preston has continued to participate in Alt Right forums, for example speaking at National Policy Institute conferences and on The Right Stuff podcasts. Preston is a former left-wing anarchist who moved to the Right in the 1990s and then founded the group American Revolutionary Vanguard, which is better known today by the name of its website, Attack the System.67 ATS brings together a number of right-wing currents, including National-Anarchist, libertarian, White nationalist, Duginist, and others, among it editors and contributors, but Preston’s own ideology is distinct from all of these.68

Like the National-Anarchists, Preston advocates a decentralized, diverse network of self-governing communities, while rejecting left-wing anarchism’s commitment to dismantle social hierarchy and oppression. Authoritarian and supremacist systems would be fully compatible with the anarcho-pluralist model, as long as they operated on a small scale. But unlike National-Anarchists, Preston frames his decentralist ideal in terms of individual free choice rather than tribalism, and he is not a White nationalist.69 Although Preston has echoed some racist ideas such as the claim that non-European immigrants threaten to destroy Western civilization, his underlying philosophy is based not on race but rather a generic, Nietzschean elitism that is not ethnically specific.70 While Preston himself is White, several of his closest associates in the Attack the System inner circle are people of color.

Preston has offered several reasons for his involvement in the Alternative Right. He sees the movement as an important counterweight to what he calls “totalitarian humanism” (supposedly state-enforced progressive values, i.e., political correctness), he regards the Alt Right’s foreign policy non-interventionism and economic nationalism as superior to what the Republican or Democratic parties advocate, and he shares many Alt Rightists’ interest in earlier European “critics of liberal capitalism and mass democracy,”71 meaning people like Julius Evola, Carl Schmitt, and Ernst Jünger. In addition, the Alt Right allows Preston to avoid political isolation, as his efforts to reach out to left-wing anarchists have been almost completely rejected.

Preston is a respected figure within the Alternative Right, and his anti-statist vision appeals to some White nationalists in the movement. For example, Counter-Currents author Francisco Albanese has argued that it provides “the best and most viable option for the ethnic and racial survival” of Whites in regions where they form a minority of the population. In addition, “it is only outside the state that whites can come to understand the true essence of community and construction of a common destiny.”72 At the same time, anarcho-pluralism offers potential common ground between White nationalists and other critics of the existing order, such as anarcho-capitalists and other “market anarchists,” whose ideas are regularly featured on Attack the System, as well as the “libertarian theocrats” of the Christian Reconstructionist movement.73

Preston’s approach to political strategy takes this bridge-building further. Echoing Third Position fascists, who denounce both communism and capitalism, Preston and ATS call for a broad revolutionary alliance of all those who want to destroy U.S. imperialism and the federal government. Within U.S. borders, this would involve a “pan-secessionist” strategy uniting groups across the political spectrum that want to carve out self-governing enclaves free of federal government control.74 As a step in this direction, ATS supported a series of North American secessionist conventions, which brought together representatives of the neo-Confederate group League of the South, the Reconstructionist-influenced Christian Exodus, the libertarian Free State Project, advocates of Hawaiian independence, the left-leaning Second Vermont Republic, and others.75

Neoreaction

Neoreaction is another dissident right-wing current with a vision of small-scale authoritarianism that has emerged online in the past decade, which overlaps with and has influenced the Alternative Right. Like the Alt Right and much of the manosphere, neoreaction (often abbreviated as NRx, and also known as Dark Enlightenment) is a loosely unified school of thought that rejects egalitarianism in principle, argues that differences in human intelligence and ability are mainly genetic, and believes that cultural and political elites wrongfully limit the range of acceptable discourse. Blogger Curtis Yarvin (writing under the pseudonym Mencius Moldbug) first articulated neoreactionary ideology in 2007, but many other writers have contributed to it. Neoreaction emphasizes order and restoring the social stability that supposedly prevailed before the French Revolution, along with technocratic and futurist concerns such as transhumanism, a movement that hopes to radically “improve” human beings through technology. NRx theorist Nick Land is a leading advocate of accelerationism, which in his version sees global capitalism driving ever-faster technological change, to the point that artificial intelligence essentially replaces human beings. One critic wrote that neoreaction “combines all of the awful things you always suspected about libertarianism with odds and ends from PUA culture, Victorian Social Darwinism, and an only semi-ironic attachment to absolutism. Insofar as neoreactionaries have a political project, it’s to dissolve the United States into competing authoritarian seasteads on the model of Singapore…”76

PayPal co-founder and Trump supporter Peter Thiel. (Photo by JD Lasica via Flickr.)

Neoreactionaries, who are known for their arcane, verbose theoretical monologues, appear to be mostly young, computer-oriented men, and their ideas have spread partly through the tech startup scene. PayPal co-founder and Trump supporter Peter Thiel has voiced some neoreactionary-sounding ideas. In 2009, for example, he declared, “I no longer believe that freedom and democracy are compatible” and “the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women…have rendered the notion of ‘capitalist democracy’ into an oxymoron.”77 Both Yarvin and fellow NRxer Michael Anissimov have worked for companies backed by Thiel.78 This doesn’t necessarily mean that Thiel is intentionally bankrolling the neoreactionary movement per se, but it points to resonances between that movement and Silicon Valley’s larger techno-libertarian discourse.

“At its heart, neoreaction is a critique of the entire liberal, politically-correct orthodoxy,” commented “WhiteDeerGrotto” on the NRx blog Habitable Worlds. “The Cathedral, a term coined by Moldbug, is a description of the institutions and enforcement mechanisms used to propagate and maintain this orthodoxy”—a power center that consists of Ivy League and other elite universities, The New York Times, and some civil servants. “The politically-correct propagandists assert that humans are essentially interchangeable, regardless of culture or genetics, and that some form of multicultural social-welfare democracy is the ideal, final political state for all of humanity. Neoreaction says no. The sexes are biologically distinct, genetics matter, and democracy is deeply flawed and fundamentally unstable.”79

While Alt Rightists largely agree with these neoreactionary ideas, and some outsiders have equated the two movements, Alt Right and neoreaction differ significantly. Alt Rightists might or might not invoke popular sovereignty as an achievement of European civilization, and try to strike a populist or anti-elitist pose, but neoreactionaries all regard regular people as utterly unsuited to hold political power—“a howling irrational mob” as NRx theorist Nick Land has put it.80 Some NRxers advocate monarchy; others want to turn the state into a corporation with members of an intellectual elite as shareholders.81 Conversely, neoreactionaries might or might not translate their genetic determinism into calls for racial solidarity, but for most Alt Rightists race is the basis for everything else.82 Unlike most Alt Rightists, leading neoreactionaries have not supported Donald Trump.83 In addition, while many Alt Rightists emphasize antisemitism, neoreactionaries generally do not, and some neoreactionaries are Jewish or, in Yarvin’s case, of mixed Jewish and non-Jewish ancestry.84 Indeed, in The Right Stuff’s lexicon of Alt Right terminology, “Neoreaction” translates as “Jews.”

At the same time, many Alt Rightists regard neoreaction as a related movement that offers many positive contributions. Some writers, such as Steve Sailer, have had a foot in both camps. Alt Rightist Gregory Hood has argued that White nationalism and neoreaction are complementary: “I’ve argued in the past that race is sufficient in and of itself to serve as a foundation for state policy. However, just saying that tells you very little about how precisely you execute that program. NRx and its theoretical predecessors are absolutely core to understanding how society works and how power functions.”85 Anarcho-pluralist Keith Preston applauded a proposal by NRxer Michael Anissimov to create breakaway enclaves in “low-population, defensible regions of the United States like Idaho.”86 On its own, neoreaction seems too esoteric to have much of a political impact, but its contribution to Alt Right ideology might be significant.

PART 3 – RELATIONSHIP WITH DONALD TRUMP

Political strategy debates

The Alternative Right first gained mainstream attention through its support for Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy. In exploring the Alt Right’s relationship with the Trump campaign and with Trump as president-elect, several issues deserve special attention: the movement’s debates about political strategy, its skillful use of online activism, and its attraction of a wider circle of sympathizers and popularizers who came to be known as the “Alt Lite.”

Alt Rightists’ embrace of Trump followed several years in which they argued about whether to work within existing political channels or reject them entirely. During this period, American Renaissance columnist Hubert Collins called on White nationalists to use the electoral process and ally with more mainstream anti-immigrant groups to keep Whites at as high a percentage of the U.S. population as possible.87 In contrast, Gregory Hood of Counter-Currents Publishing declared that the United States was “beyond reform” and political secession was “the only way out.” Sidestepping this issue, many Alt Rightists have followed the European New Right lead and focused on a “metapolitical” strategy of seeking to transform the broader culture. In Lawrence Murray’s words, “When the idea of White nationalism has taken root among enough of our people, the potential to demand, demonstrate, and act will be superior to what it currently is.”89 Jack Donovan has argued that the U.S. is on the road to becoming a failed state and urged Alt Rightists to “build the kinds of resilient communities and networks of skilled people that can survive the collapse and preserve your identities after the Fall.”90 To Donovan, this is an optimistic scenario: “In a failed state, we go back to Wild West rules, and America becomes a place for men again—a land full of promise and possibility that rewards daring and ingenuity, a place where men can restart the world.”91

Donald Trump speaking to supporters in Phoenix, Arizona, 2016.
(Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr).

Whether or not to work within established political channels has been debated at movement events, with some Alt Rightists moving from one position to another. Richard Spencer, for example, argued in 2011 that “the GOP could unite a substantial majority of white voters by focusing its platform on immigration restriction.” This strategy “would…ensure that future Americans inherit a country that resembles that of their ancestors.” But two years later, Spencer seemingly turned his back on the Republican Party and called for creating a separate White ethnostate in North America. He declared, “the majority of children born in the United States are non-White. Thus, from our perspective, any future immigration-restriction efforts are meaningless.” Spencer also argued that “restoring the Constitution,” (going back to an aristocratic republic run by property-owning White men) as some White nationalists advocated, would only lead to a similar or worse situation.

One approach has been to propose working within the system in order to weaken it, advocating changes that sound reasonable but require radical change—a right-wing version of the Trotskyist transitional demand strategy. Ted Sallis, for example, urged White nationalists to “demand a seat at the multicultural table, represented by real advocates of White interests, not groveling patsies.” This would involve using the language of multiculturalism to complain about “legitimate” cases of discrimination against Whites or members of other dominant groups. The aim here would not be “reforming the System. It is instead using the contradictions and weaknesses of the System against itself…”94

The Traditionalist Youth Network is a White nationalist group founded in 2013 by Matthew Heimbach.

To a large extent, Alternative Rightist support for Trump’s presidential candidacy followed a related approach of using the system against itself. Alt Rightists began praising Trump in 2015, and by mid-2016 most of the movement was applauding him. But this support was qualified by the recognition that Trump was not one of them and was not going to bring about the change they wanted. Brad Griffin, who blogs at Occidental Dissent under the name Hunter Wallace, hoped in late 2015 that Trump “provokes a fatal split that topples the GOP.” The Traditionalist Youth Network declared:

While Donald Trump is neither a Traditionalist nor a White nationalist, he is a threat to the economic and social powers of the international Jew. For this reason alone as long as Trump stands strong on deportation and immigration enforcement we should support his candidacy insofar as we can use it to push more hardcore positions on immigration and Identity. Donald Trump is not the savior of Whites in America, he is however a booming salvo across the bow of the Left and Jewish power to tell them that White America is awakening, and we are tired of business as usual.96

At The Right Stuff, “Professor Evola-Hitler” argued that Trump had broken important taboos on issues such as curtailing immigration and ending birthright citizenship, damaged the Republican Party’s pro-Israel coalition, shifted the party closer to ethnic nationalism, and “offers the opportunity for the Alt-Right to expand quickly,” but cautioned that “We need to be taking advantage of Trump, not allow Trump to take advantage of us.”97

Not all Alt Rightists supported Trump. The Right Stuff contributor “Auschwitz Soccer Ref” argued that Alt Rightists shouldn’t support Trump since two of his children had married Jews, making him “naturally loyal” to Israel.98 Jack Donovan suggested that a Hillary Clinton presidency would be preferable, because she would “drive home the reality that white men are no longer in charge… and that [the United States] is no longer their country and never will be again,”99 Keith Preston commented, “The alt-right’s attachment to Trump seems to be a mirror image repeat of the religious right’s attachment to Reagan, i.e. the case of an insurgent, somewhat reactionary, populist movement being taken for a ride by a thoroughly pro-ruling class centrist politician motivated primarily by personal ambition.”100 However, these anti-Trump voices were squarely in the minority.

Internet memes and harassment campaigns

Alt Rightists also turned online harassment and abuse into a potent tactic for frightening and silencing opponents. Photo: Sebastian via Flickr.

The main way that Alt Rightists helped Trump’s campaign was through online activism. A pivotal example came in the summer of 2015, when Alt Rightists promoted the #cuckservative meme to attack Trump’s GOP rivals as traitors and sellouts to liberalism. “Cuckservative” combines the words “conservative” and “cuckold,” meaning a man whose wife has sex with other men. As journalist Joseph Bernstein pointed out, “The term’s connotations are racist. By alluding to a genre of porn in which passive white husbands watch their wives have sex with black men, it casts its targets as impotent defenders of white people in America.”101 During the weeks leading up to the first Republican presidential debate, Alt Rightists spread the meme across social media to boost Trump and vilify his GOP rivals, as in a Tweet that showed a picture of Jeb Bush with the words, “Please fuck my country, Mexico. #Cuckservative.”102 As Anti-Fascist News pointed out, this initiative “allowed racialist discourse to shift into the public, making #cuckservative an accusation that mainstream Republicans feel like they have to answer to.”103

Alt Rightists also turned online harassment and abuse into a potent tactic for frightening and silencing opponents, borrowing directly from the manosphere’s Gamergate campaign discussed above. In the Spring of 2016, for example, anti-Trump protesters at Portland State University were flooded with racist, transphobic, and antisemitic messages, doxxing, and rape and death threats, sent from anonymous social media accounts. Reflecting the manosphere’s influence, Alt Right harassment often emphasized sexual violence and the humiliation of women and girls, even when men were the supposed targets.104 David French, staff writer at the conservative National Review, described the yearlong stream of relentless online abuse his family has endured because he criticized Trump and the Alt Right:

I saw images of my daughter’s face in gas chambers, with a smiling Trump in a Nazi uniform preparing to press a button and kill her. I saw her face photoshopped into images of slaves. She was called a “niglet” and a “dindu.” The alt-right unleashed on my wife, Nancy, claiming that she had slept with black men while I was deployed to Iraq, and that I loved to watch while she had sex with “black bucks.” People sent her pornographic images of black men having sex with white women, with someone photoshopped to look like me, watching.105

PULSE Nightclub sign in Orlando (photo: Daniel Ruyter via Flickr).

Another example of Alt Right online activism was the campaign to “wedge gays and Muslims,” as “Butch Leghorn” of The Right Stuff put it. Writing in June 2016, two days after Afghani American Omar Mateen murdered 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, Leghorn declared, “Gays will never be safe from Muslim violence, and the liberals will allow Muslim violence against gays because Muslims are higher ranked on the Progressive stack than gays…. This makes [the Orlando] shooting a very valuable wedge issue. By allowing Muslims into America, the Democrats are in effect choosing Muslims over gays. We simply need to hammer this issue. Meme magic is real boys, so spread this meme. Drive this wedge. Smash their coalition.”106 Leghorn offered several examples of talking points and images to use, such as a rainbow flag with the words “Fuck Islam” superimposed over it.

One of the Alt Right’s most skillful uses of social media in 2016 was the #DraftOurDaughters meme, which was trending on Twitter the week before the election. As the website Know Your Meme explained, “#DraftOurDaughters is a satirical social media hashtag launched by supporters of Donald Trump which encourages American women to register for Selective Service in preparation for hypothetical scenarios of United States military operations that would supposedly be launched by Hillary Clinton if she were elected as President of the United States.” The campaign included a series of fake Clinton campaign ads, many of which feature images of women in military uniform and slogans such as “Hillary will stand up to Russian Aggression. Will you stand with her?,” “I’d rather die in a war than live under bigotry,” and “In the White House or on Russian soil. The fight for equality never stops.”107

The Daily Stormer is White supremacist news and commentary website edited by Andrew Anglin.

#DraftOurDaughters portrayed the Clinton campaign as fusing feminism/multiculturalism and aggressive militarism. Since that was a reasonably accurate description of Clinton’s politics, the meme was equally effective as either disinformation or satire. A number of Alt Right sites, such as Vox Popoli and The Daily Stormer, promoted the campaign.108 Along with spreading the “ads” themselves, Alt Rightists also spread the phony claim that mainstream media had been taken in by them.109

The Alt Lite

As the Alt Right has grown and attracted increased attention, it has also developed complicated relationships with more moderate rightists. The movement has largely defined itself and drawn energy by denouncing conservatives, and some conservatives have returned the favor, such as the prestigious National Review.110 At the same time, other conservatives have taken on the role of apologists or supporters for the Alt Right, helping to spread a lot of its message without embracing its full ideology or its ethnostate goals. Richard Spencer and his comrades began to call this phenomenon the “Alt Right-lite” or simply the “Alt Lite.” Alt Rightists have relied on the Alt Lite to help bring its ideas to a mass, mainstream audience, but to varying degrees they have also regarded Alt Lite figures with resentment, as ideologically untrustworthy opportunists.

Breitbart News Network is the preeminent example of Alt Lite politics. Founded in 2007, Breitbart featured sensationalist attacks on liberals and liberal groups, praise for the Tea Party’s anti-big government populism, and aggressive denials that conservatives were racist, sexist, or homophobic. Under Steve Bannon, who took over leadership in 2012, the organ began to scapegoat Muslims and immigrants more directly.111 In March 2016, Breitbart published “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right,” by Allum Bokhari and Milo Yiannopoulos, which asserted—without evidence—that most Alt Rightists did not believe their own racist propaganda, but were actually just libertarians trying to shock people.112 The article helped boost the Alt Right’s profile and acceptability in mainstream circles, yet many Alt Rightists criticized it for glossing over their White nationalist ideology.113

Milo Yiannopoulos. (Photo by Kmeron for LeWeb13 Conference via Flickr.)

Over the following months, Yiannopoulos—a flamboyantly gay man of Jewish descent and a political performer who vilifies Muslims and women and refers to Donald Trump as “Daddy”—became publicly identified with the Alt Right himself, to mixed reviews from Alt Rightists.114 Meanwhile, Steve Bannon declared Breitbart “the platform of the Alt Right” and began publishing semi-veiled antisemitic attacks on Trump’s opponents, all while insisting that White nationalists, antisemites, and homophobes were marginal to the Alt Right.115 Richard Spencer was pleased when Donald Trump hired Bannon to run his campaign, commenting that “Breitbart has acted as a ‘gateway’ to Alt Right ideas and writers” and that the media outlet “has people on board who take us seriously, even if they are not Alt Right themselves.”116 But other Alt Rightists have been more critical of the Alt Lite phenomenon. At Occidental Dissent, Brad Griffin describes the Alt Lite as “basically conservative websites pushing Alt-Right material in order to generate clicks and revenue,” and asks, “What the hell does Milo Yiannopoulos—a Jewish homosexual who boasts about carrying on interracial relationships with black men—have to do with us?”117

CONCLUSION: THE ALT RIGHT AND THE TRUMP PRESIDENCY

Most Alt Rightists were thrilled by Trump’s upset victory over Hillary Clinton, but not because they believe that Trump shares their politics or will bring about the changes that they want. Rather, they believe a Trump presidency will offer them “breathing room” to promote their ideology and to “move the Overton window” in their favor.118 In turn, they see themselves as the Trump coalition’s political vanguard, taking hardline positions that pull Trump further to the right while enabling him to look moderate by comparison. In Richard Spencer’s words, “The Alt Right and Trumpian populism are now aligned much in the way the Left is aligned with Democratic politicians like Obama and Hillary…. We—and only we—can say the things Trump can’t say . . . can criticize him in the right way . . . and can envision a new world that he can’t quite grasp.”119 The Traditionalist Youth Network was more specific: “We cannot and will not back down on the Jewish Question or our explicit racial identity. We won’t. Don’t worry. But we will join those who aren’t as radical as we are in pulling politics in our direction.”120

But the question of how to play that vanguard role has already sharpened tensions between the Alt Right and its sympathizers, and to some extent within the Alt Right itself. At the National Policy Institute conference shortly after the election, Spencer’s closing speech ended with the shout “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!” which many audience members greeted with fascist salutes. The fact that it was caught on video by journalists made it a politically embarrassing moment. Alt Lite figure Mike Cernovich claimed, absurdly, that Spencer had acted on behalf of the government to deliberately discredit the movement. Several other sympathizers, and even long-time Alt Rightist Greg Johnson of Counter-Currents, also criticized Spencer’s behavior as damaging.121

Donald Trump speaking with supporters at a campaign rally in Arizona. Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore via Flickr.

In the months and years ahead, there are likely to be further tensions within the larger Trump coalition, which spans from Alt Rightists to mainstream conservatives. Although Trump’s choice of Steve Bannon as chief strategist and senior counselor puts someone with Alt Right ties close to the center of power, most of his other appointments are hardline establishment figures. On a number of issues, from immigration policy to Israel, Alt Rightists could easily find themselves pushed into an oppositional role. VDare.com founder Peter Brimelow has warned that Alt Rightists might “revolt” if the Trump administration fails to move in the direction they want.122

Even if that happens, however, Alt Rightists could continue to exert significant pressure on a Trump administration, because they know how to speak effectively to a large part of his popular base. The Alt Right has helped revitalize White nationalist and male supremacist politics in the United States. While earlier generations of far-right activists broke new ground with online bulletin boards such as Stormfront, Alt Rightists have made effective use of the internet for everything from theoretical debate to mass campaigns of targeted ridicule. In previous decades, White nationalists largely relied on coded language and euphemisms when seeking mass support, but Alt Rightists often parade their hate ideology aggressively and confidently. Although the movement has seen its share of infighting, it has also been relatively successful in crafting a workable “big-tent” culture that welcomes diverse points of view and fosters fruitful interchange with related ideological currents.

The Alt Right has been buoyed by Donald Trump’s drive to the presidency, and has aided Trump in return, while maintaining a clear sense of the relationship’s limits. Unlike many grassroots initiatives that pour themselves into electoral politics and get trapped, the Alt Right is well positioned to maintain its own identity and freedom of maneuver. Because it mostly exists online, the Alt Right does not have the infrastructure needed to launch a guerrilla war (as Nazi/Klan forces did in the 1980s) or build pseudo-state institutions (as Patriot groups did in the 1990s and are attempting again now), but it is in a strong position to pursue a “metapolitical” transformation of the political culture and thereby lay the groundwork for structural change, centered on its vision of a White ethnostate.

Endnotes

[1] David Weigel. “‘Cuckservative’—the conservative insult of the month, explained.” The Washington Post, July 29, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2015/07/29/cuckservative-the-conservative-insult-of-the-month-explained

[2] Abby Ohlheiser and Caitlin Dewey. “Hillary Clinton’s alt-right speech, annotated.” The Washington Post, August 25, 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/08/25/hillary-clintons-alt-right-speech-annotated/

[3] Daniel Lombroso and Yoni Appelbaum. “‘Hail Trump!’: White Nationalists Salute the President Elect.” The Atlantic, November 21, 2016. http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/11/richard-spencer-speech-npi/508379/

[4] I use the term “Far Right” to refer to political forces that (a) promote human inequality based on race, gender, or other factors as natural or inevitable and (b) reject the legitimacy of the U.S. political system. This definition is specific to the United States today and does not necessarily apply to other times or places.

[5] Chip Berlet and Matthew N. Lyons. Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort. (New York: Guilford Press, 2000), 145-47, 160-61.

[6] Ibid., 243-44, 283-84.

[7] Rachel Tabachnick and Frank L. Cocozzelli. “Nullification, Neo-Confederates, and the Revenge of the Old Right.” Political Research Associates, November 22, 2013. http://www.politicalresearch.org/2013/11/22/nullification-neo-confederates-and-the-revenge-of-the-old-right/

[8] Matthew N. Lyons, “Fragmented Nationalism: Right-Wing Responses to September 11 in Historical Context.” The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 127, no 4 (October, 2003), 398-404.

[9] Roger Griffin, “Plus ça change! The Fascist Legacy in the Metapolitics of the Nouvelle Droite.” Chapter for The Development of the Radical Right in France 1890-1995. (London: Routledge: 2000). Anton Shekhovtsov, “Aleksandr Dugin’s Neo-Eurasianism: The New Right a la Russe.” Religion Compass 3, no. 4 (2009): 697-716.

[10] Alain de Benoist and Charles Champetier, “Manifesto of the French New Right in the Year 2000.” https://archive.org/details/ManifestoOfTheFrenchNewRightInTheYear2000

[11] In the 1990s, the ex-leftist journal Telos was instrumental in translating European New Right texts into English and engaging with ENR ideas. See for example the Telos Winter 1993-Fall 1994 (nos. 98-99) special double issue on “The French New Right: New Right-New Left-New Paradigm?”

[12] See, for example, Richard Spencer, “The Conservative Write.” Taki’s Magazine, August 6, 2008. http://takimag.com/article/the_conservative_write/print#axzz4VruMeHTg; Kevin DeAnna, “The Alternative Right.” Taki’s Magazine, July 26, 2009. http://takimag.com/article/the_alternative_right/print#axzz4VruMeHTg; and Jack Hunter, “Whither the Alternative Right?” Taki’s Magazine, November 3, 2009. http://takimag.com/article/whither_the_alternative_right#axzz4VruMeHTg

[13] Matthew N. Lyons, “AlternativeRight.com: Paleoconservatism for the 21st Century.” Three Way Fight. September 19, 2010, http://threewayfight.blogspot.com/2010/09/alternativerightcom-paleoconservatism.html

[14] Greg Johnson, “Theory & Practice.” Counter-Currents Publishing, September 2010, http://www.counter-currents.com/2010/09/theory-practice/

[15] James Kirchick, “American Racist Richard Spencer Gets to Play the Martyr in Hungary.” The Daily Beast, October 7, 2014. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/10/07/american-racist-richard-spencer-gets-to-play-the-martyr-in-hungary.html

[16] Antifascist Front, “Alternative Internet Racism: Alt Right and the New Fascist Branding.” Anti-Fascist News, December 18, 2015. https://antifascistnews.net/2015/12/18/alternative-internet-racism-alt-right-and-the-new-fascist-branding/

[17] Lawrence Murray, “Fashism.” The Right Stuff, October 24, 2015. http://therightstuff.biz/2015/10/24/fashism/

[18] Richard Hoste, “Why an Alternative Right is Necessary.” AlternativeRight.com. February 24, 2010. http://www.radixjournal.com/altright-archive/altright-archive/main/the-magazine/why-an-alternative-right-is-necessary

[19] Johnson op cit., 2010.

[20] Lawrence Murray, “The Fight for the Alt-Right: The Rising Tide of Ideological Autism Against Big-Tent Supremacy.” The Right Stuff, March 6, 2016. http://therightstuff.biz/2016/03/06/big-tentism/

[21] Alfred W. Clark, “What is the #Altright?” Radix, January 20, 2016. http://www.radixjournal.com/blog/2016/1/20/what-is-the-altright

[22] Richard B. Spencer, “Identitarianism—A Conversation Starter.” Radix, June 15, 2015. http://www.radixjournal.com/journal/2015/6/15/identitarianisma-conversation-starter

[23] Darth Stirner, “Fascist Libertarianism: For a Better World.” The Right Stuff, January 23, 2013. http://therightstuff.biz/2013/01/23/fascist-libertarianism-for-a-better-world/

[24] Antifascist Front. “#Cuckservative: How the ‘Alt Right’ Took Off Their Masks and Revealed Their White Hoods.” Anti-Fascist News, August 16, 2015. https://antifascistnews.net/2015/08/16/cuckservative-how-the-alt-right-took-off-their-masks-and-revealed-their-white-hoods/

[25] Ibid.

[26] Andrew Anglin, “Intensified Jewing: Vox Covers the Alt-Right.” Daily Stormer, April 18, 2016. http://www.dailystormer.com/intensified-jewing-vox-covers-the-alt-right/

[27] Auschwitz Soccer Ref, “Zero Tolerance: Why Aren’t White Nationalists and Jewish Nationalists Fellow Travelers?” The Right Stuff, April 11, 2016. http://therightstuff.biz/2016/04/11/zero-tolerance-why-arent-white-nationalists-and-jewish-nationalists-fellow-travelers/

[28] Jared Taylor, “Jews and American Renaissance.” American Renaissance, April 14, 2006. http://www.amren.com/news/2006/04/jews_and_americ/

[29] Eugene Girin, “Is the Alt Right Anti-Semitic?” AlternativeRight.com, July 29, 2010. [Reposted in Radix.] http://www.radixjournal.com/altright-archive/altright-archive/main/the-magazine/is-the-traditionalist-right-anti-semitic

[30] M. K. Lane, “Will Jews Change Sides?” Counter-Currents Publishing, February 17, 2016. http://www.counter-currents.com/2016/02/will-jews-change-sides/

[31] Alex Kurtagic, “Women as a Measure of Credibility.” AlternativeRight.com, May 25, 2011. http://www.radixjournal.com/altright-archive/altright-archive/main/blogs/untimely-observations/women-as-a-measure-of-credibility

[32] Quoted in Lyons op cit. 2010.

[33] Matthew N. Lyons, “Alt-right: more misogynistic than many neonazis.” Three Way Fight, December 3, 2016. http://threewayfight.blogspot.com/2016/12/alt-right-more-misogynistic-than-many.html

[34] Traditionalist Youth Network, “Jews Destroy Women: A Response to ‘Women Destroy Nations.” Traditionalist Youth Network, February 2016. http://www.tradyouth.org/2016/02/jews-destroy-women/

[35] Danielle Paquette, “The alt-right isn’t only about white supremacy. It’s about white male supremacy.” Chicago Tribune, November 25, 2016. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/politics/ct-alt-right-white-male-supremacy-20161125-story.html

[36] Jeff Sharlet, “Are You Man Enough for the Men’s Rights Movement?” GQ, February 3, 2014. http://www.gq.com/story/mens-rights-activism-the-red-pill

[37] Roosh V [Daryush Valizadeh], “What is Neomasculinity?” Roosh V, May 6, 2015. http://www.rooshv.com/what-is-neomasculinity

[38] Paul Elam, “Jury duty at a rape trial? Acquit!” A Voice for Men, July 20, 2010. http://www.avoiceformen.com/mens-rights/jury-duty-at-a-rape-trial-acquit/

[39] Paul Elam, “October is the fifth annual Bash a Violent Bitch Month” A Voice for Men, September 30, 2015. http://www.avoiceformen.com/mens-rights/domestic-violence-industry/october-is-the-fifth-annual-bash-a-violent-bitch-month/

[40] Roosh V [Daryush Valizadeh], “Why Homosexual Marriage Matters For Straight Men.” Return of Kings, October 12, 2015. https://archive.is/HzSIx#selection-139.0-139.16

[41] Matt Forney, “Are Transsexuals Who Sleep With Straight Men Guilty of Rape?” Return of Kings, December 8, 2014. http://www.returnofkings.com/48665/are-transsexuals-who-sleep-with-straight-men-guilty-of-rape

[42] Paul Elam, “Andy Bob exposes feminist hatred of gay men in new book.” A Voice for Men, January 7, 2016. http://www.avoiceformen.com/a-voice-for-men/andy-bob-exposes-feminist-hatred-of-gay-men-in-new-book/

[43] Stephen Totilo, “Another Woman in Gaming Flees Home Following Death Threats.” Kotaku, October 11, 2014. http://kotaku.com/another-woman-in-gaming-flees-home-following-death-thre-1645280338

[44] Amanda Hess, “Why Women Aren’t Welcome on the Internet.” Pacific Standard, January 6, 2014. https://psmag.com/why-women-aren-t-welcome-on-the-internet-aa21fdbc8d6

[45] Roosh V [Daryush Valizadeh], “The Damaging Effects of Jewish Intellectualism And Activism On Western Culture.” Return of Kings, May 4, 2015. http://www.returnofkings.com/62716/the-damaging-effects-of-jewish-intellectualism-and-activism-on-western-culture

[46] Dota, “Manosphere Rising.” Alternative Right, May 14, 2015. http://alternative-right.blogspot.com/2015/05/manosphere-rising.html

[47] Matt Parrott, “An Endorsement of Roosh’s ‘Neomasculinity’ Manifesto.” Traditionalist Youth Network, May 2015 [updated 19 January 2016]. http://www.tradyouth.org/2015/05/roosh-neomasculinity/

[48] David Futrelle, Hitler-loving dudes named Andrew agree: Roosh V is a-OK! (Even though he’s not white.)” We Hunted the Mammoth, August 15, 2015. http://www.wehuntedthemammoth.com/2015/08/15/hitler-loving-dudes-named-andrew-agree-roosh-v-is-a-ok-even-though-hes-not-white/

[49] David Futrelle, “Roosh V shocked to discover that white supremacist movement is full of white supremacists.” We Hunted the Mammoth, February 24, 2016. http://www.wehuntedthemammoth.com/2016/02/24/roosh-v-shocked-to-discover-that-white-supremacist-movement-is-full-of-white-supremacists/

[50] Greg Johnson, “Roosh Really is a Rape Advocate (& a Rapist, if He’s Telling the Truth).” Counter-Currents Publishing n.d., https://archive.is/T66uL

[51] Roosh V [Daryush Valizadeh], “The Alt Right Is Worse Than Feminism in Attempting to Control Male Sexual Behavior.” Return of Kings, February 22, 2016. http://www.returnofkings.com/79234/the-alt-right-is-worse-than-feminism-in-attempting-to-control-male-sexual-behavior; Futrelle 2016 op cit.

[52] Jack Donovan, The Way of Men. (Milwaukie, Ore.: Dissonant Hum.: 2012), 138-9.

[53] Ibid., 137, 148.

[54] Jack Donovan, “A Time for Wolves.” Jack Donovan, June 14, 2014. http://www.jack-donovan.com/axis/2014/06/a-time-for-wolves/

[55] Rose City Antifa, “The Wolves of Vinland: a Fascist Countercultural ‘Tribe’ in the Pacific Northwest.” Rose City Antifa, November 7, 2016. http://rosecityantifa.org/articles/the-wolves-of-vinland-a-fascist-countercultural-tribe-in-the-pacific-northwest/

[56] Jack Donovan, “Mighty White.” Jack Donovan, December 18, 2011. http://www.jack-donovan.com/axis/2011/12/mighty-white/

[57] Jack Donovan, A Sky Without Eagles: Selected Essays and Speeches 2010-2014. (Milwaukie, Ore.: Dissonant Hum, 2014), 166.

[58] F. T. Marinetti, “The Futurist Manifesto.” (1909). http://bactra.org/T4PM/futurist-manifesto.html

[59] Jack Donovan, “Anarcho-Fascism.” Jack Donovan, March 3, 2013. http://www.jack-donovan.com/axis/2013/03/anarcho-fascism/

[60] Jack Donovan, Comment. Roosh V Forum, November 16, 2012. https://www.rooshvforum.com/thread-17870.html

[61] Antifascist Front, “Queer Fascism: Why White Nationalists Are Trying to Drop Homophobia.” Anti-Fascist News, November 6, 2015.

[62] Shane Burley, “How the Alt-Right Is Attempting to Hide Its White Supremacist Ties.” Truthout, September 15, 2016. http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/37611-how-the-alt-right-is-attempting-to-hide-its-white-supremacist-ties

[63] Spencer Sunshine, “Rebranding Fascism: National-Anarchists.” The Public Eye Magazine 23, no. 4 (2008), http://www.politicalresearch.org/2008/01/28/rebranding-fascism-national-anarchists/; Graham D. Macklin, “Co-opting the Counter Culture: Troy Southgate and the National Revolutionary Faction.” Patterns of Prejudice 39, no. 3 (2005).

[64] Greg Johnson, “Bay Area National Anarchists: An Interview with Andrew Yeoman, Part 1.” The Occidental Quarterly, August 21, 2009. http://www.toqonline.com/blog/interview-with-andrew-yeoman-part-i/; “THIRD WAY: Introducing the National-Anarchist Movement.” National-Anarchist Movement, 3 October, 2010. http://www.national-anarchist.net/2010/10/third-way-introducing-national.html

[65] National-Anarchist Movement, “N-AM Manifesto.” National-Anarchist Movement (2010). http://www.national-anarchist.net/2010/09/national-anarchist-movement-manifesto_18.html

[66] National-Anarchist Movement, “National-Anarchist Movement (N-AM) FAQ.” National-Anarchist Movement, November 21, 2012. http://www.national-anarchist.net/2012/10/national-anarchist-movement-n-am-faq.html

[67] Matthew N. Lyons, “Rising Above the Herd: Keith Preston’s Authoritarian Anti-Statism.” New Politics (website), April 29, 2011. http://newpol.org/content/rising-above-herd-keith-prestons-authoritarian-anti-statism

[68] American Revolutionary Vanguard, “Statement of Purpose.” Attack the System, 2016. https://attackthesystem.com/statement-of-purpose/

[69] Keith Preston, “The National-Anarchist Litmus Test.” Attack the System, April 24, 2009. https://attackthesystem.com/2009/04/24/the-national-anarchist-litmus-test/; Keith Preston, “The Thoughts That Guide Me.” Attack the System (2005), https://attackthesystem.com/the-thoughts-that-guide-me-a-personal-reflection/; Lyons 2011 op cit.

[70] Keith Preston, “Mass Immigration and Totalitarian Humanism.” Speech at National Policy Institute Conference, June 23, 2011. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WyQPlCJxtEE; Preston 2005 op cit.

[71] Keith Preston, “What, Exactly, is the ‘Alternative Right?’” [Introductory comments.] Attack the System, December 23, 2015. https://attackthesystem.com/2015/12/23/what-exactly-is-the-alternative-right/

[72] Francisco Albanese, “Rethinking White Tribalism: Anarchy in the Southern Cone.” Counter-Currents Publishing, June 5, 2014.

[73] Keith Preston, “Anarchist Economics Compared and Contrasted: Anarcho-Capitalism vs Anarcho-Syndicalism/Communism.” Attack the System, March 21, 2015. https://attackthesystem.com/2015/03/21/anarchist-economics-compared-and-contrasted-anarcho-capitalism-vs-anarcho-syndicalismcommunism/; Michael J. McVicar, “The Libertarian Theocrats: The Long, Strange History of R. J. Rushdoony and Christian Reconstructionism.” The Public Eye, vol. 22, no. 3 (Fall 2007). http://www.publiceye.org/magazine/v22n3/libertarian.html

[74] Keith Preston, “Anarcho-Pluralism and Pan-Secessionism: What They Are and What They Are Not.” Attack the System, August 8, 2010. https://attackthesystem.com/2010/08/08/anarcho-pluralism-and-pan-secessionism-what-they-are-and-what-they-are-not/

[75] Keith Preston, “Third North American Secessionists Convention — A Review.” Attack the System, November 19, 2008.

[76] Park MacDougald, “The Darkness Before the Right.” The Awl, September 28, 2015. https://theawl.com/the-darkness-before-the-right-84e97225ac19

[77] Peter Thiel, ‘The Education of a Libertarian.” Cato Unbound, April 13, 2009. https://www.cato-unbound.org/2009/04/13/peter-thiel/education-libertarian

[78] Klint Finley, “Geeks for Monarchy: The Rise of the Neoreactionaries.” TechCrunch, 22 November 2013, http://techcrunch.com/2013/11/22/geeks-for-monarchy/

[79] Scharlach, “Neoreaction = Monarchy?” Habitable Worlds, 23 November 2013.

[80] Nick Land, “The Dark Enlightenment: Part 1.” The Dark Enlightenment (2013), http://www.thedarkenlightenment.com/the-dark-enlightenment-by-nick-land/; MacDougald op cit.

[81] Finley op cit.

[82] Hubert Collins and Hadley Bishop, “Two Prominent Identitarians Give Us Their Thoughts On Neoreaction.” Interview with Michael McGregor and Gregory Hood. Social Matter, October 15, 2014. http://www.socialmatter.net/2014/10/15/724/

[83] Dylan Matthews, “The alt-right is more than warmed-over white supremacy. It’s that, but way way weirder.” Vox, April 18, 2016. http://www.vox.com/2016/4/18/11434098/alt-right-explained

[84] Mencius Moldbug [Curtis Yarvin], “Why I am not an anti-Semite.” Unqualified Reservations, June 23, 2007. http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.com/2007/06/why-i-am-not-anti-semite.html

[85] Collins and Bishop op cit.

[86] Keith Preston, “The Growth of the Alternative Right.” Attack the System, January 4, 2016. https://attackthesystem.com/2016/01/04/the-growth-of-the-alternative-right/

[87] Anti-Defamation League, “Point of Contention: A Fractured White Supremacist Take on Immigration.” Anti-Defamation League, May 5, 2015. http://www.adl.org/civil-rights/immigration/c/point-of-contention-immigration.html

[88] Gregory Hood, “The Solution is State Power.” Counter-Currents Publishing, December 2012. http://www.counter-currents.com/2012/12/the-solution-is-state-power/

[89] Lawrence Murray, “White Nationalism FAQ.” The Right Stuff, April 14, 2016. http://therightstuff.biz/2016/04/14/white-nationalism-faq/

[90] Jack Donovan, “Becoming the New Barbarians.” Radix, December 23, 2013. http://www.radixjournal.com/journal/becoming-the-new-barbarians

[91] Jack Donovan, “The Bright Side of Illegal Immigration.” Jack Donovan, November 13, 2012. http://www.jack-donovan.com/axis/2012/11/the-bright-side-of-illegal-immigration/

[92] Richard Spencer, “The Majority Strategy: The Essential Argument—Why The GOP Must Win White America,” V-Dare September 8, 2011. http://www.vdare.com/articles/the-majority-strategy

[93] Richard Spencer, “Facing the Future as a Minority,” The National Policy Institute April 30, 2013. http://www.npiamerica.org/the-national-policy-institute/blog/facing-the-future-as-a-minority

[94] Ted Sallis, “Democratic Multiculturalism: Strategy & Tactics.” Counter-Currents Publishing, November 19, 2014. http://www.counter-currents.com/2014/11/democratic-multiculturalism/

[95] Hunter Wallace [Brad Griffin], “Trump, White Nationalists, The Media.” Occidental Dissent, December 10, 2015. Comment by Hunter Wallace, December 10, 2015 at 8:53 pm. https://web.archive.org/web/20160114034742/http://www.occidentaldissent.com/2015/12/10/trump-white-nationalists-the-media/

[96] Traditionalist Youth Network, “The Trump Train and the Southern Strategy: The Only Hope for the GOP.” Traditionalist Youth Network, October 2015. http://www.tradyouth.org/2015/10/the-trump-train-and-the-southern-strategy-the-only-hope-for-the-gop/

[97] Professor Evola-Hitler, “Trump’s Our Guy for the 2016 Election. We Have No Choice.” The Right Stuff, April 29, 2016. http://therightstuff.biz/2016/04/29/trumps-our-guy-for-the-2016-election-we-have-no-choice/

[98] Auschwitz Soccer Ref, “Trump’s Not Our Guy. It’s Time to Stop Pretending Otherwise.” The Right Stuff, April 25, 2016. http://therightstuff.biz/2016/04/25/trumps-not-our-guy-its-time-to-stop-pretending-otherwise/

[99] Jack Donovan, “No One Will Ever Make America Great Again.” Jack Donovan, July 7, 2016. http://www.jack-donovan.com/axis/2016/07/no-one-will-ever-make-america-great-again/

[100] Keith Preston, “The Alternative Right — An Autopsy.” Attack the System, May 21, 2016. https://attackthesystem.com/2016/05/21/the-alternative-right-an-autopsy/

[101] Joseph Bernstein, “Behind The Racist Hashtag That Is Blowing Up Twitter.” BuzzFeed, July 27, 2015. https://www.buzzfeed.com/josephbernstein/behind-the-racist-hashtag-some-donald-trump-fans-love

[102] Ibid.

[103] Antifascist Front (2015), “#Cuckservative” op cit.

[104] Robert Evans, “5 Things You Learn Being Attacked By The Alt-Right.” Cracked, September 20, 2016. http://www.cracked.com/personal-experiences-2381-toddler-rape-threats-other-tactics-alt-right.html

[105] David French, “The Price I’ve Paid for Opposing Donald Trump.” National Review, October 21, 2016. http://www.nationalreview.com/article/441319/donald-trump-alt-right-internet-abuse-never-trump-movement

[106] Butch Leghorn, “Wedging Gays and Muslims,” The Right Stuff June 14, 2016, http://therightstuff.biz/2016/06/14/wedging-gays-and-muslims/

[107] Know Your Meme. N.d. “#DraftOurDaughters.” Know Your Meme. http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/draftourdaughters

[108] Eric Striker, “#DraftOurDaughters: Feminist Hillary Supporters Vow To Fight War With Russia For Us.” The Daily Stormer, October 28, 2016. http://www.dailystormer.com/draftourdaughters-feminist-hillary-supporters-vow-to-fight-war-with-russia-for-us/; Vox Day[Theodore Beale], “Draft our Daughters.” Vox Popoli, October 28, 2016. http://voxday.blogspot.com/2016/10/draft-our-daughters.html

[109] Abby Ohlheiser, “What was fake on the Internet this election: #DraftOurDaughters, Trump’s tax returns.” The Washington Post, October 31, 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2016/10/31/what-was-fake-on-the-internet-this-election-draftourdaughters-trumps-tax-returns/

[110] Ian Tuttle, “The Racist Moral Rot at the Heart of the Alt-Right.” National Review, April 5, 2016. http://www.nationalreview.com/article/433650/alt-rights-racism-moral-rot

[111] Stephen Piggott, “Is Breitbart.com Becoming the Media Arm of the ‘Alt-Right’?” Hatewatch, April 28, 2016. Southern Poverty Law Center. https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2016/04/28/breitbartcom-becoming-media-arm-alt-right

[112] Allum Bokhari and Milo Yiannopoulos, “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right.” Breitbart, March 29, 2016. http://www.breitbart.com/tech/2016/03/29/an-establishment-conservatives-guide-to-the-alt-right/

[113] Antifascist Front, “Going Full Fash: Breitbart Mainstreams the ‘Alt Right’.” Anti-Fascist News, April 5, 2016. https://antifascistnews.net/2016/04/05/going-full-fash-breitbart-mainstreams-the-alt-right/

[114] Antifascist Front, “Meet the Alt Lite, the People Mainstreaming the Alt Right’s White Nationalism.” Anti-Fascist News, November 3, 2016. https://antifascistnews.net/2016/11/03/meet-the-alt-lite-the-people-mainstreaming-the-alt-rights-white-nationalism/

[115] Sarah Posner, “How Donald Trump’s New Campaign Chief Created an Online Haven for White Nationalists.” Mother Jones, August 22, 2016. http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/08/stephen-bannon-donald-trump-alt-right-breitbart-news; Michelle Goldberg, “Breitbart Calls Trump Foe ‘Renegade Jew.’ This Is How Anti-Semitism Goes Mainstream.” Slate, May 16, 2016. http://www.slate.com/blogs/the_slatest/2016/05/16/breitbart_calls_bill_kristol_a_renegade_jew_is_disgusting.html

[116] Richard B. Spencer, “Make Trump Trump Again.” Radix, August 17, 2016. http://www.radixjournal.com/blog/2016/8/17/make-trump-trump-again

[117] Hunter Wallace [Brad Griffin], “Alt-Right vs. Alt-Lite.” Occidental Dissent, November 23, 2016. http://www.occidentaldissent.com/2016/11/23/alt-right-vs-alt-lite/

[118] Vox Day [Theodore Beale], “Trumpslide!” Vox Popoli, November 9, 2016. “http://voxday.blogspot.com/2016/11/one-last-chance-america.html; James Dunphy, “It’s Time to Turn Up the Heat.” Counter-Currents Publishing, November 2016. http://www.counter-currents.com/2016/11/its-time-to-turn-up-the-heat/

[119] Richard B. Spencer, “We the Vanguard Now.” Radix, November 9, 2016. http://www.radixjournal.com/blog/2016/11/9/we-the-vanguard-now

[120] Matt Parrott, “Trump Apocalypse Now.” Traditionalist Youth Network, November 2016. http://www.tradyouth.org/2016/11/trump-apocalypse-now/#more-53331

[121] Antifascist Front, “Let’s Watch as the Alt Right Implodes.” Anti-Fascist News, December 4, 2016. https://antifascistnews.net/2016/12/04/lets-watch-as-the-alt-right-implodes/

[122] Rory Carroll, “‘Alt-right’ groups will ‘revolt’ if Trump shuns white supremacy, leaders say.” The Guardian, December 27, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/dec/27/alt-right-donald-trump-white-supremacy-backlash

Statement from PRA on the 2016 Election

9 November 2016

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

This is a difficult moment for justice-minded people and anyone who believes in democracy.

Taken at the 2015 Donald Trump rally at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. Photo: Jamelle Bouie via Flickr.

A man who ran an insurgent campaign as a racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, and anti-establishment demagogue is now president-elect of the United States. In the coming days and weeks there will be extensive soul-searching and detailed analysis of the electorate and the dynamics that produced this result. There will be angry finger pointing. Both major parties, the news media, the polling industry, the Supreme Court (this was the first election since they gutted the Voting Rights Act) and large segments of civil society will have much to answer for. But let’s be clear: Trump built his campaign around a culturally exclusionary vision of America and mobilized White racial solidarity across class and gender—with unprecedented success. Whatever else was in play, the White vote handed Trump the presidency.

There is a good deal more reflection needed, but, there’s also no time to lose in preparing for what are sure to be difficult times ahead. We cannot be certain how a President Trump will govern, but if the coming administration bears any relation to the campaign that brought it into being, our human and Constitutional rights are in serious jeopardy.

Here are just a few possible battles we’ll have to fight together in the coming days:

  • Trump cannot possibly produce on all his election promises (more on that below), but to satisfy his base, Trump will need to be seen to make good on some of his bigoted—and eliminationist—policy proposals with respect to deporting unauthorized immigrants, punishing Muslims and refugees, and that southern border wall. (We can all anticipate who Trump will blame for his failures—the same liberal elites and undeserving dark-skinned/foreign/dangerous masses against whom he campaigned.)
  • We will likely face the elimination of the Affordable Care Act and collective bargaining for unions (“Right-to-Work” legislation).
  • We can expect a more regressive tax structure and curtailed/privatized social safety net & services.
  • We should anticipate heightened threats to abortion and funding for the largest nationwide provider of comprehensive women’s healthcare is in jeopardy.
  • Trump could define the Supreme Court for a generation.
  • Trump’s outspoken denial of climate change may be disastrous for the planet, the economy, and for the most vulnerable communities in the Global South.
  • White nationalists, buoyed by Trump’s campaign, are primed to seize the moment for a show of force, the Alt-Right will be trolling cyberspace, and everyday incidents of discrimination—already surging during the election season—may spike even higher.
  • There is a danger that police units across the country may view a Trump victory as a green light to unleash “blue rage” beyond even the rampant racial profiling and violence we’ve already seen.
  • Trump could continue his campaign practice of encouraging vigilante violence by naming and demonizing his detractors. Might he also amplify use of federal and local law enforcement as political police charged with repressing dissenters?
  • His administration may accelerate the erosion of democratic and civic institutions – including the press.
  • Trump’s election positions the Christian Right as king-makers, with pre-election polls placing Christian evangelicals as his most loyal backers. Trump has promised to repeal IRS rules barring church involvement in candidate races and to champion the cause of religious exemptions from (LGBTQ and other) antidiscrimination and labor laws, as his running mate Mike Pence has done as Governor of Indiana.

Any administration that would advance even a fraction of the above agenda would be unacceptable. Given that the president-elect’s party controls of both chambers of Congress and, at the state level, now hold trifectas (Governorship, House, Senate)  in 25 state governments, this agenda isn’t just possible, it’s likely.

What Then Must We Do?

We offer these takeaways as important lessons as we move forward into action:

  • The country is more racially divided that it has been in decades.
  • For most white people racism has been and continues to be economic suicide. For the past 40+ years, the Right Wing (and even centrist Democrats) has successfully used racist wedge issues to attack public services, the social safety net, and unions. In the months ahead we can expect to witness the further betrayal of working people—White and people of color—as Trump’s empty economic populism gives way to regressive taxation and private sector profiteering.
  • To adapt journalist Salena Zito’s formulation, many progressives have made the mistake of taking Trump literally but not seriously, while many of his supporters have taken him seriously, but not literally—voting for him in spite of rather than because of his full-throated bigotry. We must compete for those hearts and minds. Even those who voted for Trump don’t deserve what’s coming. None of us do.
  • Now more than ever, we need to invest in multi-racial organizing around a shared, integrated vision of, especially, racial and economic justice, and a shift in the culture of White anti-racist education and organizing away from notions of privilege and allyship and towards shared struggle in which White people take leadership in organizing other White people.
  • We must learn how to better present our social justice vision of racial, gender, and economic justice as a common, majoritarian, vision and not a partisan or set of special interest planks. We must boldly claim and compete for all of the country – including rural communities often abandoned to become zones of Far Right experimentation.

While reflection is critical, we can afford little time for mourning in the United States. Nature abhors a vacuum and the Right Wing abhors it even more. We must prepare to defend the targets of the coming administration and its supporters, including immigrants and refugees; Muslims, Jews and other religious minorities; and frontline organizers—including in rural communities. But we need more than defense. We must stop the momentum of the Right by pivoting now, and in a sustained way, to compete for the hearts and souls of white people drawn to regressive populism even as we remain firm in our commitment to advance racial, gender, and economic justice.  Trump promised jobs, manufacturing, and economic revival for working people in America. Perhaps we should demand it of him from the start, forcing and exposing his inevitable betrayal of working people as quickly as we can.

Current political and economic order is corrupt and some significant portion of Trump’s margin of victory came from the victims of neoliberalism—the bipartisan program of economic austerity and converting public services into profit centers. Especially in this populist moment we cannot win by burying our vision for justice and defending modest adjustments to the status quo. The electorate just repudiated that approach.

You can count on PRA to be here for you, monitoring the threats and revealing what each of us can do to advance justice and democracy in these turbulent times. Here are our early suggestions:

What Else Must We Do?

  • Rethink/reorganize progressives’ path to power, including a much more robust inside/outside posture to electoral politics.
  • Develop a robust strategy for organizing white people around a shared, synthetic program of, especially, racial and economic justice, aligned with existing racial justice movements & strategies. The Right successfully linked race and the economy in this election; progressives generally either confuse one for the other or treat them as fundamentally separate goals, when they are not.
  • We must lead with courage, humility, and compassion. This is a time for truth telling and rethinking failed strategies—out own, as well as others’.
  • We must build on important local victories—from the defeat of Sheriff Arpaio in Arizona to the defeat of charter school expansion in Massachusetts, without becoming parochial; progressives must identify a path to state and ultimately national power.

We take courage and inspiration from our dialog with many social justice visionaries about how we move forward from this nadir. We are not fleeing to Canada or retreating to a safe space. There is no safe space aside from the ones we build together, that protect us all.

Ever forward.
Tarso Luís Ramos,
for Political Research Associates

Find more PRA resources for organizers, here.

The Transformation of a Goldwater Girl: Why It Matters in the Time of Trump

Click here to download the print version of this article.

A version of this article appears in the Fall 2016 edition of The Public Eye magazine.

This is, in some respects, a ghost story. A political ghost story in which the mythic, the symbolic, the demon archetype come to substitute for sustained engagement with ordinary human beings. Both major political parties love to tell scary stories about the other side, while offering their own followers a vicarious sense of power—of superiority—over those dehumanized opponents, those ghosts. It’s intoxicating stuff.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about what that means when it comes to Donald Trump.

The short answer: A lot more than one election and a fear- contempt- and ridicule-based campaign that demonizes not only Trump but his overwhelmingly White followers. Scot Nakagawa and Tarso Luís Ramos recently wrote at PRA about the need to increase the social justice movement’s capacity to disrupt and defuse the momentum of the Right, and to offer an appealing alternative to the likes of Trump:

We compete by going up against the Right and vying directly for the loyalty of those who make up the immediate projected base of their support: White working-class people. Most right-wing groups’ core support is drawn from the White middle class, but right-wing movements don’t stop there. They traditionally organize “down” the economic ladder and reach for working-class Whites, whose numbers are vital to their success. Successfully competing will require us to authentically express empathy and compassion to White poor people and to those who fear falling into poverty, and to do so while marrying economic justice to racial and social equity.

As it happens, I know something about winning over the Right’s rank and file supporters.

"Goldwater Girls" during Barry Goldwater's 1964 campaign for President. Photo courtesy of Marilyn M via Flickr.

“Goldwater Girls” during Barry Goldwater’s 1964 campaign for President. Photo courtesy of Marilyn M via Flickr.

When I was growing up in southern Colorado, the daughter of “respectable blue collar” parents in a lunch-bucket steel mill town, I was an ardent teenage supporter of Barry Goldwater during his failed but pivotal 1964 campaign for the presidency. Pundits said, and many believed, that his loss dealt a death-blow to the Right. It was a premature obituary.

Just four years later, former Alabama governor George Wallace (“Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, and segregation forever!”) ran a surprisingly strong third party, right-wing populist campaign for the presidency, at one point polling a possible 23 percent of the national vote. Then Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were assassinated, and Richard Nixon was elected president.

The Right had reinvented itself, but I’d changed, too. By this time, still in Colorado, I was a state college student, becoming ever more deeply immersed in movements to fight racism, support farmworker organizing, and oppose the war in Vietnam. My personal political transformation hadn’t been a “road to Damascus” epiphany. It was complicated and slow—often painful, always humbling, and sometimes shattering. But ultimately liberating.

I’m no expert in the science of political transformation, and I doubt that anyone is, or that there’s much science to it. Yet I believe my experience holds some relevance for the current political moment. Because even if Trump drops or is maneuvered off the Republican ticket tomorrow, or Hillary Clinton beats him by a landslide in November, this story won’t be over.

That’s because everything that Trumpism represents is so much larger and more complex than one man or one campaign. While the views of Trumpism are announced without the usual rhetorical filters and political sophistication, it isn’t an aberration. Its authoritarian and White nativist roots extend throughout all of American history; for decades, the conservative movement and the Republican Party have strategically stoked the racism and xenophobia animating today’s Trump phenomenon.

I don’t minimize the danger of Trump’s campaign, which is soaked in White supremacist and xenophobic fear, grievance, and suspicion, and blended with intense doses of braggadocio, narcissism, celebratory climate change denial, American exceptionalism, and triumphalism. Nor do I dismiss the influence of supporting groups of militant White nativists, “sovereign citizens,” and neonazis who constantly chum the political waters.

But here I’m talking about ordinary White blue collar and working class people who aren’t reflexively prone to racist violence or White supremacist fanaticism. Many of them just breathe in casual, normative racism like air, never thinking to question what is all around them. That’s what I did when I was growing up, as did my family and community—many of whom had been written off in a variety of ways for much of their lives, perhaps for generations. Pegged by society as losers or disposable workers, and treated with contempt and ridicule by those with greater social and economic status, they are recognized only at election times by opportunistic politicians struggling for greater standing.

Supporters of Donald Trump at a rally in Arizona this year. Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore via Flickr.

Supporters of Donald Trump at a rally in Arizona this year.
Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore via Flickr.

Because a sense of belonging is especially important in a society where you know your life matters little except to those closest to you, appeals to group loyalty—and a willingness to name and persecute those who challenge that loyalty—often carry special resonance. White identity permits even White people in economic free-fall that sense of belonging. And because White identity is so significant (even if not consciously acknowledged), these are people whose racial anxieties and prejudices are easily inflamed and manipulated.

I’m not suggesting we appeal to the Right’s lay supporters on the basis of economics and class alone. We can’t excuse or minimize the enduring emotional power and elastic utility of overt and coded appeals to White identity. But we also can’t simply write these people off as “tools,” “idiots” or “morons,” and expect them to miraculously disappear or instantly reverse course based on sudden insight. (“Oh, damn! I’ve been voting against my own interests! I need to stop doing that!”) Without actual engagement, these communities will continue to gravitate towards leaders who scapegoat communities of color, queers, Muslims, and immigrants. Some other demagogue will always be on hand to tap into this reservoir of racism—usually blended with legitimate economic grievance—and another right-wing populist crusade will commence.

Toward Transformation

My conservative Republican parents didn’t drag me into the 1964 Goldwater campaign. They weren’t rabid Right Wingers like the folks in the John Birch Society, whose billboards and literature denouncing Martin Luther King, Jr., the Civil Rights movement, and “the communist conspiracy” littered our civic landscape.

Campaign buttons for the Barry Goldwater (Republican Party) presidential campaign of 1964 Part of the Littlejohn Collection, Wofford College (via Flickr).

Campaign buttons for the Barry Goldwater (Republican Party) presidential campaign of 1964
Part of the Littlejohn Collection, Wofford College (via Flickr).

But our family was worried about the future; it seemed so tenuous. When I was very young, Dad lost a promising job that was supposed to be the first step on the ladder leading into the middle class, and he never got a better one. Mom, who was simultaneously furious over and humiliated by teachers’ inquiries as to whether my sister and I were getting enough to eat, went back to work, as a low-paid medical insurance secretary. And while my father was grateful for the lunch bucket job he finally got, monitoring gauges at pump stations for the local water works (a job he kept till he retired), he hated that he had to join the union. We desperately needed the benefits, but he believed guys on the way up didn’t belong to unions, that unions were for losers. He put on a good public front, but my father always felt like a failure. That was abundantly clear at home. Try as I might to feel optimistic, I often felt like a loser, too.

But even if we fell short in terms of economic status, at least we were White. Not Ku Klux Klan White, although the Klan once had an influential presence where I grew up. But the kind of Whites who thought Anglo domination was the right thing in a town that was probably almost half “Mexican” (as we said then), and which until 1963 still had a segregated black orphanage. The kind who, while not especially mean-spirited, nonetheless never questioned “respectable” expressions of bigotry or structural forms of racism.

When I was in ninth grade, a friend’s mother—who was a rabid Right Winger—seemed to sense my hunger to belong to something bigger and more powerful than myself. (For me, church and the Girl Scouts weren’t the answer.) She swept me into the 1964 campaign. As a young Goldwater Girl, I read endless right-wing screeds, poured hundreds of cups of campaign ginger ale (from promotional cans labeled “Gold Water”), and tromped from rally to meeting to state convention, alternately absorbing and parroting warnings about impending racial and communist doom.

The author prepares to ride her decorated bicycle with a contingent of Teen Age Republicans (TARs) in the Colorado State Fair Parade, circa 1964

The author prepares to ride her decorated bicycle with a contingent of Teen Age Republicans (TARs) in the Colorado State Fair Parade, circa 1964. Photo courtesy of Kay Whitlock.

Tailor-made for people anxious about their futures, Goldwater’s campaign was steeped in the fear of enemies. Civil Rights agitation, court rulings, and litigation constituted a criminal assault on individual liberty and states’ rights. The Civil Rights movement would produce a federal police state in which people, both Black and White, would lose the freedom to live their lives as they choose (that is, in segregation). Protest was framed as a breakdown of moral order and an indicator of criminal unrest. Such “welfare state” initiatives as Medicare (proposed at the time, but not yet enacted into law) and Social Security (longstanding) could only foster pathological and parasitical dependencies—primarily in Black communities, we understood. But vicariously, through Goldwater, we would beat back those enemies. We would win.

Liberals cheered Goldwater’s epic defeat. But their glee was misplaced. Even in losing, Goldwater changed mainstream political possibilities. He’d been willing to wage tactical nuclear warfare. His campaign helped set the stage for what would become the Republican “Southern Strategy,” which refined racist dog whistling to an art and ultimately delivered the historically Democratic South to the GOP. Fear, resentment, and the presumption of superiority were the glues that bonded people, including me, to his campaign. Paradoxically, to supporters, those sentiments had felt comforting, even hopeful. I was stunned by the magnitude of the loss, though I tried not to show it—our family ethos was “never let them see you hurting because they’ll think you’re weak.” That liberal glee, stamping me once again as a loser, cut to the quick.

My arc toward a more progressive direction began in 1965, during my last two years of high school, thanks to one courageous classmate and three remarkable teachers who challenged me to reconsider my views. They did it individually, in a multitude of ways, including sharing their own beliefs and telling me more about themselves. I never felt singled out as their conversion project. While often putting me uncomfortably on the spot, they were never demonizing, ridiculing, or demeaning. No one tried to tell me what I should believe. They listened as much as they talked.

One teacher said that if I could draw on credible sources to back up my arguments about Vietnam, and the history of French and American presence there, he would, every day for a week, announce before the class that I was right and he was wrong. After sequestering myself in the public library for many hours, I came away with piles of research that refuted my beliefs. But my teacher didn’t laugh at me. Rather, we sat together one day after class, and I talked to him about how much it meant that he took me seriously. When I could so easily have been a symbolic representation of everything they held in contempt, my classmate and these teachers looked more deeply and, with no guarantees, reached for the most human and the best in me. And at some point, I started to reach back.

The Goldwater folks taught me to build community by defining myself against enemies, but when you do that, you’re always anxious about anyone who isn’t just like you.

I began to see what was obvious, but what I’d never really paid attention to before. Poverty was widespread in my hometown, and it was intensely raced, as was every aspect of civic, social and economic life. The Red Scare was a way to avoid facing injustice at home while barricading yourself against danger and creating a military on steroids. The Goldwater folks taught me to build community by defining myself against enemies, but when you do that, you’re always anxious about anyone who isn’t just like you. There had to be a better way to exist in the world. These realizations gave me the motivation and psychic space in which to re-examine my (increasingly shaky) convictions—to see my community, and the world and other people, through new lenses.

It’s excruciating to feel your own edifice of defense begin to crumble, to see your own beliefs, assumptions, and behaviors in a clearer, harsher, light. But those three teachers and that classmate made it possible for me to come through it without feeling so cornered that I had no choice but to hit back out of anger and shame. What could have been only mortifying was instead mortifying and transformative, within a context of building genuine, trustworthy relationships.

This is why I think it’s so important to try, as progressives, to compete for the part of Trump’s audience that may be reachable. People didn’t write me off. I must do the same.

Beyond Goldwater, Wallace, and Trump

In 1968, in the wake of the assassinations of King and Kennedy, so-called “race riots” broke out in more than 100 U.S. cities. Anti-war protesters at the Democratic National Convention were met with violent responses from Chicago police. And George Wallace ran for president as an independent. Although he ultimately lost, I was shocked by how much support he elicited in my hometown, then a reliably Democratic stronghold. (I shouldn’t have been. The political center was already shifting to the right. Nixon won the local vote that year.)
georgewallaceAlthough many of Wallace’s supporters were openly racist, some people I knew personally were not and did not think of themselves as bigoted. But most of them, including many of the same blue-collar people who’d voted for Lyndon Johnson in 1964, were responding to the racial and economic anxieties that formed the taproot of Wallace’s campaign. Where Goldwater had stood at something of a remove from working class White people—relying on coded phrasing to convey his racial views, largely ignoring class—Wallace spoke bluntly and emotionally, directing his message to blue collar Whites in ways that honored them, even as they reinforced racist themes.
From the outside, Wallace’s right-wing populist crusade looked like nothing more than crude demagoguery. But people I knew who supported Wallace felt that he alone understood their struggles and fears. The local steel mill, a huge employer, was already feeling the discomfiting stirrings of what, in a little more than a decade, would become a full-fledged steel market crash. Simultaneously, an emergent Chicano movement for cultural self-determination, political and economic power, and reclamation of stolen lands was making itself known. Anglo supremacist norms were being challenged. The world they knew was coming apart, and they desperately wanted someone to put it back together. In Wallace’s vision, their lives became meaningful, their futures more hopeful. Unlike Goldwater, Wallace played directly to people whose lives were of no concern to those who dominated the political discourse.

Rachel Maddow compared the George Wallace campaign of 1968 with the 2016 campaign of Donald Trump on MSNBC.

Rachel Maddow compared the George Wallace campaign of 1968 with the 2016 campaign of Donald Trump on MSNBC.

I see so much of Wallace in Trump. Like the former governor, Trump has an instinct for tapping the same racial and economic anxieties in emotionally-charged and, to many, compelling ways. But ghost stories, whether told by the Right or the Left, only amplify anxiety. They don’t produce more just societies. Demonizing Trump’s followers won’t dismantle White supremacy, or transform an oppressive criminal legal system, or produce the kind of economic justice that extends beyond the middle class. (Nor will a Democratic victory produce these things just because it stands in opposition to Trump. But that’s a discussion for another time.)

Somebody’s got to do the work of engaging ordinary White folks who support Trump, as well as other right-wing agendas.

Somebody’s got to do the work of engaging ordinary White folks who support Trump, as well as other right-wing agendas, and initiatives from both major parties that solidify the racial and economic status quo. If we don’t, right-wing populism will reappear again and again, in forms that have evolved to adapt to changing conditions. White people—including me—bear primary responsibility for this task.

It’s not sexy work. It requires a kind of radical compassion that resists the easy politics of contempt and dehumanization. And it can’t be our only work. Even as we compete, with imagination and persistence, for the loyalty of blue collar and working class White people, we must balance that with support for anti-racism and anti-Islamophobia struggles, immigrants’ rights, Indigenous sovereignty, environmental protection, and more.

It would be so much easier to simply distance ourselves from people we’ve come to regard as bigoted, benighted, and lost—the “basket of deplorables,” if you will. But “easier” never created political transformation. And believe me, as someone whose almost 50 years of progressive activism speaks to the power of engagement with real human beings rather than demonized ghosts, I know that it can be done.

About the Author

Kay Whitlock is a writer and activist who has been involved with racial, gender, queer, and economic justice movements since 1968. She is coauthor of Considering Hate: Violence, Goodness, and Justice in American Culture and Politics with Michael Bronski, the award-winning Queer (In)Justice: The Criminalization of LGBT People in the United States with Joey L. Mogul and Andrea J. Ritchie, and cofounder and contributing editor for the weekly Criminal Injustice series at CriticalMassProgress.com. She lives in Missoula, Montana.

What time is it?: Why we can’t ignore the momentum of the Right

Taken at the 09/14 Donald Trump rally at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.

Last month, a nationally influential group of community builders and advocates for social, economic, and environmental justice gathered in rural Washington to address what we believe to be a critical turning point in American politics. In tribute to the great activist-philosopher, Grace Lee Boggs, we asked ourselves the question that she would often start meetings with: What time is it on the clock of the world?

Broadly speaking, the consensus is that we’re in a time of great instability, revolt, and possibility. History teaches us that in times like these, we need to be both bold and vigilant. Authoritarian, chauvinistic, and bigoted movements assert themselves most aggressively when people feel socially and economically threatened. We know the drill. We’ve lived it again and again.

But this time is different. This time, traditional sources of stability and leadership are being rejected on all sides, and people are seeking radical, or at least non-establishment, solutions. Our fear is that the Right Wing may be better positioned than we are to capitalize on this moment amongst white people – including white voters – and better positioned than ever before.

The Right Wing may be better positioned than we are to capitalize on this moment amongst white people.

The presidential primary season makes the case that rebellion is afoot. Bernie Sanders’ strong showing seems to signal the rise of a progressive, post-Occupy electoral rebellion, especially among younger voters. Meanwhile, Donald Trump’s lock on the GOP presidential nomination seems to indicate an equal opposite of sorts. The primary election results speak to a broader, multi-dimensional rebellion against elites that threatens both major parties. That rebellion is causing old norms to fall, opening the door for a major fight over which sector will define the new normal in U.S. politics.

What Trump and Sanders supporters share is a passionate anti-elitism and deep frustration with an “establishment” viewed as having failed American workers. These competing forces appear to have the most political momentum, if not yet the numbers or resources necessary, to directly define the “middle” of national electoral politics.

Not yet is the operative term here. Beating right-wing forces to the punch will require us to bring the fight to elites and the institutions of power that they dominate, and to blunt the progress of those on the Right who are competing with us for influence over those institutions.

Eight Conditions That Make the Right Especially Dangerous Now

First, in a time when people on both ends of the political spectrum are rejecting the middle, and what many on both sides refer to as the establishment, the best organized and most compelling radical force is likely to exercise the most direct and profound influence.

We believe the Right has put itself in this position. Most right-wing groups, the Tea Parties being an especially good example, talk like conservatives, citing the “original construction and intent of the Constitution” as the template for their political agendas. But, the reality is that they’re subverting the Constitution and other symbols of middle-Americanism – everything from cowboy boots and three-cornered hats, to the founding fathers, the American Dream, and key tenets of liberalism, like liberty and individual freedom – to use as talismans in service to radically repressive, exclusionary, anti-democratic, and authoritarian agendas.

It is also notable that Bernie Sanders’ advocacy of progressive policies heretofore considered completely unviable to most establishment liberals has both directly influenced the Clinton campaign and made an opening for progressive legislators like Elizabeth Warren to expand their influence. Of course, Clinton’s candidacy represents the establishment elite, while Trump appeals to those who would reject the middle. Moreover, Trump’s advocacy of unconstitutional and anti-democratic measures is making a hard Right legislator like Ted Cruz appear almost reasonable by comparison.

Second, the Right’s immediate projected base – economically insecure, socially conservative whites – are simultaneously feeling the pinch of racial demographic change, which many view as a threat to the meaning of “American,” and bearing witness to the collapse of the middle class. The Right has popularized the idea that there’s a cause-and-effect relationship between the two. The resulting rising tide of fear and rage among many whites is lifting the hopes of white nationalist groups, some of which have “by any means necessary” approaches to political struggle.

Third, right-wing groups – ranging from those whose tactics are mainly confined to public policy and elections like the Tea Parties, to paramilitary groups who are attempting to take control of local governments through intimidation and direct action, such as the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters – are reading Trump’s rise as a sign that this may be their time. For some, Trump’s success is creating the impression that a European-style fascist movement such as we saw in the WWII era is viable in the United States.

The danger that right-wing paramilitary groups pose is especially serious in rural parts of the country where a collapse of investment in public infrastructure…is preventing local governments from providing adequate first responder services.

The danger that right-wing paramilitary groups pose is especially serious in rural parts of the country where a collapse of investment in public infrastructure, including traditional law enforcement, is preventing local governments from providing adequate first responder services. This creates an opening for armed militias to compete for power in settings where, increasingly, whoever has the most guns has a distinct advantage. Those who jokingly dubbed the Bundy militia – which recently seized and occupied a federal bird sanctuary in Harney County, Oregon – “Vanilla ISIS” aren’t too far off the mark.

Fourth, there is less standing in the way of the Right today than in the past. By many measures of political capacity including mass organizations like unions, mainline Protestant churches, and mass movements, key sectors of the Left have not recovered from the defeats dating back to the Reagan “revolution.”

There are certainly vibrant, innovative progressive movements including Black Lives Matter, alt labor, climate justice, and Not1More. Each of these movements is having powerful positive social and cultural impacts, transforming debates on critical issues in the U.S. and around the world, and creating the potential for urgently needed political changes.

However, today’s movements don’t have the institutional infrastructure and concentrated power that traditional New Deal/Great Society/Left groupings had prior to the Reagan ’80s. And – critically – the liberal/progressive/Left has fewer institutions that regularly and meaningfully engage the people being organized into right-wing populist movements. At a time when the Right is quickly building its base, we are in a weaker position to out-organize them among those they are targeting for recruitment: white working-class people.

Fifth, we now have a much denser concentration of right-wing populists predisposed to support authoritarianism within one of the two major political parties: the GOP.

In order to shed the elitist image that the GOP developed in the wake of the Great Depression and throughout the Democrat-led economic recovery of the last century, the GOP created what is now widely known as the Southern Strategy. They believed that white Southern voters would reject the Democratic Party, which was once the party of white supremacy, if they could reframe them as the party of Blacks and civil rights. They accomplished this in several ways: by deploying a combination of coded and more overt racism to scapegoat people of color, particularly Blacks, for the declining economic and social status of white workers; by inciting fear of foreign enemies threatening us internationally; and by demonizing “anti-American” elements on the Left as threatening us domestically. All of this served to justify a hawkish foreign policy, and a punitive law-and-order domestic policy.

The Southern Strategy didn’t just exploit right-wing movements in order to build the GOP’s base; it popularized authoritarian, anti-democratic, and bigoted ideas that pushed the whole political spectrum to the Right. Perhaps most influential among these ideas are:

  • That the private sector is inherently more efficient and cost-effective than government (think Trump, the deal maker), and
  • That government, especially national government, is controlled by elites who are wrongly expropriating the material and social capital of real, productive Americans (“makers”) to redistribute as patronage to the sinful, lazy, and dangerous classes (“takers”) in exchange for political support.

Among the “takers” that most drive the rage machine are Black people, immigrants of color, and poor people of color – especially poor single mothers of color, who they claim live in a dysfunctional culture of dependency that can only be cured through austerity. The Right was so successful at popularizing these ideas that they would be articulated through the public policy agenda of a Democratic Presidential administration (Bill Clinton’s) by the 1990s.

By positioning itself as the party of traditional values and law and order, the GOP has consolidated a previously bipartisan right-wing populist constituency large enough to buck its own party establishment and select their own candidate. (They just did.)

Sixth, the racial demography of the U.S. is rapidly changing. In 1980, more than 85% of the American electorate was white. Today, the electorate is only 67% white, and that percentage is rapidly falling. White voters are losing their ability to define and hold the middle of American culture and politics and this is contributing to the rage and fear that drove white support for regressive welfare reform, tough-on-crime policies and the prison buildup, repressive national security measures, and a wildly expensive and punitive deportation regime targeting undocumented immigrants of color.

Political scientist Jean V. Hardisty was among the first to demonstrate how sophisticated conservative organizers learned to cultivate and mobilize resentment over the erosion of white privilege. As the erosion of the status, privilege, and political influence associated with being white in the United States escalates, that resentment is building.

Seventh, the cruelty of the free-market ideology of “neoliberalism” is driving financial deregulation, austerity, privatization (resulting, in part, in increasingly underfunded and unresponsive government), falling wages for most, and a stagnant or shrinking economy for the bottom 90 percent of Americans.

The Democratic Party responded to the neoliberal “Reagan revolution” by opting to forge relationships with social issue liberals (LGBT, traditional race-based civil rights organizations, etc.) and neoliberal business elites. By doing so, they contributed to the widespread and increasingly popular right-wing trope that whites suffer more discrimination and have less influence on “liberal” government and media than Black people.

These changes have opened space for right-wing populist appeals for cross-class white racial solidarity as a response to economic hardship – with the implicit message that bigotry can bring prosperity.

Altogether, these changes have opened space for right-wing populist appeals for cross-class white racial solidarity as a response to economic hardship – with the implicit message that bigotry can bring prosperity.

Eighth, social scientists have found that many people – including those who might otherwise support basic social fairness – are driven to support authoritarian figures and approaches by perceived physical threats or by destabilizing social change. Given the wide array of real and perceived threats to social stability in contemporary society, this raises the danger of what we might call “disaster authoritarianism.”

Multiple crises could drive a populist demand to consolidate power in the executive branch of government. We have seen evidence of this in the fear-driven post-9/11 push to limit civil liberties and to rush to war. Climate change, infectious disease outbreaks, the rise of violent stateless totalitarian movements, extreme economic instability, same-sex marriage and other disruptions of traditional gender roles, racial demographic change – these and other trends could activate dormant support for demagogic leadership.

More immediately, could a San Bernadino-type attack or a series of crises in the months or weeks before the general election propel a law-and-order authoritarian candidate into the White House and/or consolidate support for further suspensions of civil liberties?  Maybe. But what is certain is the increasing pressure and insecurity will put steel in the arguments of those who advocate for strongman solutions.

November 2015 Donald Trump Rally in Springfield, IL.

November 2015 Donald Trump Rally in Springfield, IL. (Photo: Joseph Blewitt via Flickr, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/)

But Is It Fascism, Yet?

All of the conditions described here don’t necessarily add up to fascism, nor predict that a totalitarian movement will eventually seize our government. But, that doesn’t mean that nativist, white nationalist, and other right-wing movements can’t do great damage even while losing.

Here’s an example. In 1964, GOP presidential candidate Barry Goldwater lost the general election to Lyndon Johnson while taking only 38.5% of the vote. But, Goldwater’s direct appeals to xenophobia and racism won the South and flipped a significant number of white Southern Democrats into Republicans. Goldwater’s run was the template for the GOP Southern Strategy we referenced earlier. Moreover, right-wing leaders mined the donor lists of the Goldwater campaign, and the campaigns for president of an even more unpopular presidential candidate, former segregationist Alabama Governor, George Wallace, for direct-mail marketing campaigns. Those campaigns provided a big part of the original money used to build key right-wing organizations that we are still battling today.

The Call To Action: Join the Three-Way Fight

We need to wage a three-way fight. On one side, we need to fight with institutions of power that perpetuate injustice. On the other, we need to fight with those who are competing with us for influence over those same institutions. These two sides of the struggle are equally critical in the struggle for progressive change.

This may seem like a big ask, but we’re already involved in three-way fights on critical issues. The Right is already in the three-way fight, and their ability to exercise influence is dependent on beating us up.

Here’s an example. On the issue of immigration reform, right-wing anti-immigrant groups have used racism to vilify undocumented immigrants and to justify increasingly repressive immigration controls. They’ve turned a national policy debate over how to achieve a just resolution for undocumented workers into a fight over whether it is practical to deport more than 11 million people whom they have branded as a criminal class, and via Trump, as “rapists” and “drug dealers.” This reframing has forced many who support humane reform to reframe their arguments to back what is seen as the only viable reform proposal in Congress. That proposal would impose a more than 11-year path to citizenship on undocumented immigrants and institute what amounts to being forced into a highly exploitative guest worker program on undocumented workers, all while continuing to detain and deport growing ranks of criminalized immigrants.

Here’s another. On the issue of abortion access, the Right responded to Roe v. Wade by reframing the reproductive freedoms that it institutionalized as a struggle over religious freedom and the rights to life of “unborn children.” Advocates of equitable access to safe and legal abortions have been forced to respond to the Right’s framing of the issue and to a new and increasingly effective states’ rights strategy. In much of the debate, this minimizes advocacy for women’s self-determination and centers instead the most extreme cases where the life of the “mother” (suggesting that the fetus is a baby) is at risk. Meanwhile, access to comprehensive reproductive healthcare for poor women is evaporating, and we are now at pre-Roe v. Wade levels of abortion access.

Each time we enter into a political fight, whether it is about public education, income supports, trade, foreign policy, national security, labor, or even the U.S. Postal Service, the Right is there, reframing the issues and driving discussion away from practical, broadly beneficial solutions and toward exclusionary and regressive non-solutions and punishment. By doing so, they are effectively moving the goal post in our fights with institutions of power, requiring us to repeatedly change our playbooks, and making us less and less coherent to those on the downside of unjust power relations.

Trump Protest in Fountain Hills, AZ on March 19, 2016. (Photo: Chris Vena via Flickr, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)

Trump Protest in Fountain Hills, AZ on March 19, 2016. (Photo: Chris Vena via Flickr, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)

How Do We Fight the Three-Sided Fight?

First, we need to get better at fighting the Right. In order to do that, we need to incorporate strategies to Disrupt, Defuse, and Compete.

We disrupt the Right by separating right-wing leaders from their bases of support, a task often best accomplished in two ways: 1) by exposing the elitist interests behind right-wing leaders’ all-style-no-substance populism, and 2) by identifying and exploiting internal divisions within right-wing coalitions and organizations.

We defuse the tensions that the Right both drives and thrives on by defeating the bigotry and fear underlying those tensions. This means doing effective anti-bigotry work, while building coalitions broad enough to include populations that the Right is targeting. But, anti-bigotry efforts can’t just focus on the harm that bigotry does to those who are targeted, they must address the destructive force of bigotry on the kind of political culture necessary to support democracy and win meaningful political participation for all, and the broad negative effects of public policies that bigotry tends to drive.

We compete by going up against the Right and vying directly for the loyalty of those who make up the immediate projected base of their support: white working-class people. Most right-wing groups’ core support is drawn from the white middle class, but right-wing movements don’t stop there. They traditionally organize “down” the economic ladder and reach for working-class whites, whose numbers are vital to their success. Successfully competing will require us to authentically express empathy and compassion to white poor people and to those who fear falling into poverty, and to do so while marrying economic justice to racial and social equity. Doing this blunts the effectiveness of the Right’s scapegoating strategies. It provides better, more solutions-oriented explanations to those susceptible to right-wing recruitment.

We should also remember that white nationalist movements are identity movements. We must take seriously the sense among a growing number of whites that white identity is under attack.

White anti-racist activists are critical to successfully competing with the Right for the attention of those vulnerable to their appeals. We should also remember that white nationalist movements are identity movements. We must take seriously the sense among a growing number of whites that white identity is under attack. That older white voters seem to feel this threat most acutely could be a reflection of generationally bound values, but it is also very likely an indication of the vulnerability that many feel as they age.

Good organizing meets people where they are, and not where we wish they were. Moreover, good organizing focuses on the egos of those being organized, and not on the egos of the organizers. This isn’t a pissing contest over who gets “it.” It’s a fight for economic and social justice for everyone.

In consideration of these trends, justice-minded people and movements should consciously pivot our work in order to disrupt, defuse, and – critically – compete with the bigoted Right for its projected base of support. To do otherwise risks giving white nationalism room to consolidate as a national political force.

 

 

Trump and Right-Wing Populism: A Long Time Coming

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This article appears in the Spring 2016 edition of The Public Eye magazine.

Most Americans surveying the wreckage of the national political landscape amid the 2016 presidential election are startled, most of all, by the ugliness and violence that has suddenly returned to our electoral politics thanks to the prominence of racist Far Right ideology in the Republican contest. And they shudder at the prospect of what that might mean for the nation’s politics long after de facto Republican nominee Donald Trump departs the scene—whenever that may be.

Almost as suddenly as Trump himself emerged as a major player in the race, so too did an array of White Nationalists and supremacists, conspiracists and xenophobes, and even Klansmen and skinheads. For decades these figures had been relegated to the outskirts of right-wing politics, and many mainstream observers seemed to think they’d gone extinct.1

The brashly offensive statements made by Trump about any number of minority groups or other individuals have likewise confounded observers.

“He is defying the laws of political gravity right now,” exclaimed mainstream political consultant Michael Bronstein in January. “Inside the presidential race, any one of these lines, if they were associated [with] another candidate, it would’ve ended the candidacy.”2

Donald Trump speaking at a campaign rally in Fountain Hills, Arizona. Source: Gage Skidmore via Flickr.

But the normal rules simply do not apply with Trump. Although he presents himself as a truth-talking business conservative—having emerged largely from these ranks—Trump has transformed himself into a creature of the populist Hard Right, the movement to which he owes his electoral success. The ideology that is identifiable through the candidate’s braggadocious and at times incoherent speaking style is the “producerist” narrative,3 which pits ordinary White working people against both liberals—who are cast as an oppressive class of elites—and the poor and immigrants, who are denigrated as parasites.

Producerism has historically been tied to far-right movements, whether the Ku Klux Klan of the 1920s or the Patriot/militia movement of the 1990s and today. The rhetoric of the militia movement, which arose during the Bill Clinton administration, served to help mainstream the Radical Right. Most of these militias initially presented themselves as ordinary civic organizations devoted to protecting people’s rights and property, even as they gathered a large number of violent militants within their ranks. But any positive spin on the movement was derailed by acts of terrorism associated with the movement, like the Oklahoma City bombing. Marginalized, the Patriots largely went into hiatus in the early part of the new century, during the conservative Republican administration of George W. Bush, but the motivations that fueled their movement remained very much alive.

During the same years that militias were first organizing, right-wing media simultaneously arose as a separate propaganda organ that demonized liberals and presented conservatives as the only true American patriots. The following decade, during the Iraq War, conventional right-wing rhetoric on outlets like Fox News became vociferous and eliminationist: liberals were derided as “soft on terror,” and any criticism of Bush and his administration was denounced as “treasonous.” Meanwhile, conspiracist elements of the Far Right found fuel in the aftermath of September 11th, which produced an entire cottage industry devoted to proving the terror attacks part of a conspiratorial plot, giving fresh life to the already-hoary “New World Order” theories of the 1990s.

During the Bush years, the Far Right largely declined from their 1990s levels of organization but remained active and bubbling along on these conspiracist fringes. The candidacy and election of President Barack Obama in 2008, however, changed all that, sparking a virulent opposition. The mainstream Right, after years of right-wing media conditioning during both the Clinton and Bush years, seemed no longer able to abide the idea of sharing power with a liberal president and set out to delegitimize Obama by any means possible. And it was through that shared hatred that the mainstream Right and the Far Right finally cemented their growing alliance in the loose assemblage of conservative activists known as the Tea Party. Ostensibly a movement for low taxes and small government, in reality the Tea Party represented the mobilization of right-wing groups to oppose any and every aspect of Obama’s presidency.

Source: Christian Cable License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

“New World Order” theories are examples of the conspiracist element of the Far Right. Source: Christian Cable via Flickr.

In the rural and suburban red-voting districts where the Tea Party organized itself, the movement became the living embodiment of right-wing populism, evoking and popularizing producerism’s twin demonization of both liberals and the poor and immigrants. As with most varieties of right-wing populism, many elements of the Tea Party embraced conspiracism, the supposed “tyranny” of the president, and ideas that bubbled up from the Far Right, including “constitutionalism,” “nullification,” and even secession. The Tea Party became the main conduit for passing ideas that originated with the Patriot movement, and its far-right cousins, into the mainstream of American conservatism: the belief, for example, that the Constitution prohibits any form of gun regulation, federal land ownership, or federal law enforcement.4 It’s from these corners of the Right that the idea of the county sheriff as the highest legitimate law-enforcement entity in the land emerged.

Hand-in-hand with these beliefs about the Constitution came a panoply of conspiracy theories: that a nefarious New World Order is plotting to enslave all of mankind; that President Obama was born overseas and plans to institute Sharia law; that climate change is a scam dreamed up by land-planning environmentalists and leftists seeking to control every facet of our lives.

This is a universe in which facts, logic, reason, and the laws of political gravity do not apply. And early on, Donald Trump identified its politics with his own.

“I think the people of the Tea Party like me,” he told a Fox News interviewer in 2011, “because I represent a lot of the ingredients of the Tea Party. What I represent very much, I think, represents the Tea Party.”5

Trump in action has certainly delivered on that. The opening salvo of his campaign, in which he castigated Mexican immigrants as criminals and rapists and promised to erect a border wall, was straight out of the Tea Party’s hardcore nativist playbook. And his subsequent positions and rhetoric—attacking “the Establishment,” Black Lives Matter and “political correctness,” vowing to outsmart China on trade, promising to protect the Second Amendment, promising to overturn Roe v. Wade and suggesting that women who get abortions could be jailed—were similarly straight out of the right-wing populist milieu.

Most of all, his claim that his personal wealth would make him, as president, immune to the demands of the wealthy and other special interests, formed the foundation for his populist appeal, as someone who would look out for the interests of “ordinary Americans.” That appeal was bolstered by his promises to get the nation’s economic engine into high gear, voiced in common terms: “We’re going to get greedy for the United States,” he told a crowd in Las Vegas. “We’re gonna grab and grab and grab. We’re gonna bring in so much money and so much everything. We’re going to Make America Great Again, I’m telling you folks.”6

Trump has cannily tapped a large voting bloc that was already created by conservative movement activists, and made large by the very rhetoric and ideology that nearly all of the movement’s media organs embraced to some degree before his arrival on the scene.

Before the Trump campaign, these true believers of the Hard Right were thought to comprise the margins of the Republican Party, a tiny subset that had no voice and even less power. What the Trump campaign reveals, unquestionably, is that they are no longer so tiny, nor so powerless.

Even if Trump were to fade away after 2016—something that is becoming an ever more unlikely event—those who rose up to support him will not, nor will their alternative universe shatter and fall. What they will become after the election will depend on how radicalized they are becoming during the election process, and on how the rest of society responds to the violence that emanates from their ranks. It will be a serious and significant challenge.

After all, the reality is that they have been around for a very long time—buried deep in the American psyche—and are now springing forth with renewed vigor, thanks to the encouragement that Trump is giving them.


About the Author

David Neiwert is a Seattle-based investigative journalist and the Pacific Northwest correspondent for the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, as well as the author of several books, including And Hell Followed With Her: Crossing the Dark Side of the American Border.


Endnotes

1 Chip Berlet, “‘Trumping’ Democracy: Right-Wing Populism, Fascism, and the Case for Action,” Political Research Associates, December 12, 2015, http://www.politicalresearch.org/2015/12/12/trumping-democracy-right-wing-populism-fascism-and-the-case-for-action/#sthash.ZwSafuvF.dpbs.

2 Chris Stigmal, “Donald Trump Defying The Laws Of Political Gravity,” CBS Philly, January 25, 2016, http://philadelphia.cbslocal.com/2016/01/25/donald-trump-defying-the-laws-of-political-gravity/.

3 “Right-Wing Populism in the United States,” Political Research Associates, 2009, http://www.rightwingpopulism.us/graphics/populism/populism-overview.jpg.

4 Spencer Sunshine, “Gunning for Office: Oregon’s Patriot Movement and the May 2016 Primary,” Political Research Associates, April 19, 2016, http://www.politicalresearch.org/2016/04/19/gunning-for-office-oregons-patriot-movement-and-the-may-2016-primary/#sthash.oCtq6Cl9.dpbs.

5 Dave Neiwert, “Donald Trump Claims To Be The Ideal Tea Party Candidate: ‘I Represent A Lot Of The Ingredients Of The Tea Party,’” Crooks and Liars, April 7, 2011, http://crooksandliars.com/david-neiwert/donald-trump-claims-be-ideal-tea-par.

6 “Transcript: Trump’s ‘winning, winning, winning’ speech,” Tampa Bay Times, February 24, 2016, http://www.tampabay.com/opinion/columns/transcript-trumps-winning-winning-winning-speech/2266681.

Beyond Trump: Disrupt, Defuse, Compete

The crowd goes wild at a Donald Trump rally in Dallas, Texas in September 2015. Credit: Jamelle Bouie via Flickr.

For justice-minded people, the unfolding drama of the 2016 presidential contest has been disorienting and frightening.  The usual jockeying for control of the Republican Party among Christian Nationalists, neoconservatives, and Chamber of Commerce types has been trumped by the rise of stridently bigoted populism. We’ve all witnessed ugly rhetoric in presidential campaigns before, but this is a different level of threat.

To defeat the current upsurge in right-wing populism, progressives will need to disrupt, defuse, and – critically – compete for portions of its constituency.

To defeat the current upsurge in right-wing populism, progressives will need to disrupt, defuse, and – critically – compete for portions of its constituency. Donald Trump’s torrent of racist and misogynist remarks and his fascistic policy proposals –barring Muslims from entry to the U.S. and deporting 11 million undocumented people – are aimed at the growing masses of White middle- and working-class people fearful of their declining economic and social standing. Amidst all the demonizing, explains PRA alum Chip Berlet, Trump’s supporters “are responding to rhetoric that honors them as the bedrock of American society.” From White suffering, he is mobilizing White rage.

It’s working. And the media circus around the primaries has pulled the national conversation to the Right, opening space for liberal politicians to abandon commitments to immigrant justice and other progressive demands. As we develop strategies and slogans to contest bigoted populism, we must think broader than any one candidate and beyond the current electoral calendar.

One thing we desperately need is a compelling story about race and the economy to upend the false but increasingly dominant right-wing populist explanation: liberal elites have usurped the wealth and social standing of “real Americans” and doled it out as patronage to communities of color and other undeserving masses of “takers.”

In reality, the racism that once helped to build the White middle class has for decades been strategically redeployed by the Right to undermine public support for democratic institutions and antipoverty programs. The result: falling real wages and accelerated income and wealth inequality even among Whites. Simply put, racism is destroying the American middle and working classes.

Simply put, racism is destroying the American middle and working classes.

But that story is not told clearly, loudly, or often enough. Most liberal discussion of the economy addresses race, if at all, in terms of disproportionate economic hardship. And much of the current national discussion about racism only addresses jobs and the economy in order to pivot away from the realities of racism. What we need is a synthesis.

As Heather McGhee and Ian Haney-López have argued, “The progressive movement should expand from a vision of racism as violence done solely to people of color to include a conception of racism as a political weapon wielded by elites against the 99 percent, nonwhite and white alike.” Call it the love child of Black Lives Matter and Occupy. Let’s make it clear that racism is not a viable vehicle for economic advancement for the growing White precariat. Only a multi-racial movement of and for working people can accomplish that.

To compete, we’ll have to build it. We can start by flipping the script on race and the economy and agreeing that we need to contest for some of those currently drawn to snake oil solutions to their suffering.

 

‘Trumping’ Democracy: Right-Wing Populism, Fascism, and the Case for Action

This article is part of the Winter 2016 issue of The Public Eye magazine.

The candidacy of Donald Trump has prompted a vigorous public debate over whether or not Trump is flirting with fascism. Some analysts suggest his political dance partner is leading him to the tune of right-wing populism. Other analysts say Trump’s marriage to fascism already has been consummated. Either way, Trump is stomping on the dance floor of democracy in a way that could collapse it into splinters. It’s a “scary moment for those of us who seek to defend civil rights, civil liberties, and democracy itself,” warns political analyst Noam Chomsky.1

Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. Image via Flickr, Gage Skidmore.

Donald Trump speaking at CPAC 2011 in Washington, D.C. Image via Gage Skidmore on Flickr.

Back in 2010 Chomsky started lecturing about the collapse of the Weimar Republic in Germany into the abyss of Hitler’s totalitarian Nazism.2 There are parallels to our current political climate than need to be examined cautiously, even though conditions in the U.S. are not nearly as bad as those faced by the Weimar Republic.

Is it really fair to suggest Trump—neofascist or not—poses a danger to civil society itself, as occurred in Germany at the end of the Weimar Republic? A review of Trump’s rhetoric makes this a legitimate question. Trump keeps gaining ground. As New York Daily News columnist Shaun King wrote in November:

For nearly six straight months, no matter how racist, sexist, anti-immigrant, or anti-Muslim Trump gets, he has maintained his lead in the polls. In fact, from all indications, it appears the more his public talk resembles that of a white supremacist, the more rabid and entrenched his support gets.3

The examples of Trump’s fascist-sounding rhetoric are numerous. In June, Trump tweeted, “I love the Mexican people, but Mexico is not our friend. They’re killing us at the border and they’re killing us on jobs and trade. FIGHT!”4 In July Trump falsely asserted, “The Mexican Government is forcing their most unwanted people into the United States. They are, in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc.”5

Trump’s sexism was displayed at the Republican debate on August 6 when he was asked by Fox News reporter Megyn Kelly about referring to women as “fat pigs, dogs, slobs and disgusting animals.” Trump later attacked Kelly on CNN, saying, “You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes. Blood coming out of her wherever.” The London Guardian reported that the “insinuation that Kelly was menstruating crossed a line for organisers of the Red State Gathering, a conservative event featuring GOP presidential hopefuls.” That group cancelled an appearance by Trump.6

Forging ahead, Trump claimed in September that the United States had become the “dumping ground for the rest of the world” for undocumented immigrants and proposed rounding up and deporting some 11 million of them, including their children, who are U.S. citizens.7 In a series of rambling and contradictory statements, Trump called for widespread surveillance of Muslims and refugees in the United States, and seemed to agree to the need for a federal database registering all Muslims, although he later backed off to say he was only considering it as a possibility. He confirmed that he wanted such a database for all Syrian refugees.8

As Trump’s viciousness ballooned, the corporate press shifted from portraying him as a carnival sideshow geek to recognizing that he posed a threat to civil society and even democracy itself.9

The media reported with palpable disgust when, during a press conference, Trump mocked the physical disability of New York Times seasoned political reporter Serge Kovaleski.10 Amid mounting disruptions of his campaign rallies by anti-Trump activists, Trump began to mock them, tried to silence them, and even ask that they be forcibly removed. In one incident Trump appeared to approve of the physical attack on a Black Lives Matter protestor who interrupted a November rally in Birmingham, Alabama.11

Supporters at a Donald Trump rally in Birmingham, AL, kick and punch a Black Lives Matter protester to the ground. Image via screenshot.

Supporters at a Donald Trump rally in Birmingham, AL, kick and punch a Black Lives Matter protester to the ground. Image via screenshot.

The Washington Post reported that Trump yelled, “Get him the hell out of here… Throw him out,” whereupon the protestor “fell to the ground and was surrounded by several white men who appeared to be kicking and punching him,” while CNN filmed video.12 Trump later remarked on Fox News that “Maybe [the protester] should have been roughed up, because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing.”13

This was the same rally at which Trump announced to his cheering supporters, “I want surveillance of certain mosques.”14

Trump’s appeal to White Nationalism became increasingly obvious. While Trump can’t control who supports his candidacy, the New Yorker’s Evan Osnos observed with disdain that even “the Daily Stormer, America’s most popular neo-Nazi news site, had endorsed him for President.”15

Writing about Trump’s nasty rhetoric, and the alarming welcome it has found during the Republican pre-primary media blitz, American Prospect journalist Adele Stan put it bluntly:

What Trump is doing, via the media circus of which he has appointed himself ringmaster, is making the articulation of the basest bigotry acceptable in mainstream outlets, amplifying the many oppressive tropes and stereotypes of race and gender that already exist in more than adequate abundance.16

A Weimar Moment?

The Weimar period is crucial to understand because it was that precise moment in Germany’s history when a broad united front, crossing traditional political boundaries to defend democracy, could have blocked the mass base of a right-wing populist movement threatening to morph into a fascist juggernaut.17

Professor Paul Bookbinder at the University of Massachusetts in Boston has studied the Weimar Republic as it eroded into fascism in Germany. His collection of essays at the Facing History and Ourselves website, in a section entitled “The Fragility of Democracy,” explores the moments when public interventions might have altered what happened in Europe.18

As Bookbinder told me, “right now our society is facing some of the same tensions as seen in the Weimar Republic. People didn’t take seriously the threat to democracy when they could have; and when they did see the dangers it was too late.”19 He continued:

There are certainly some similarities to the rhetoric of the Weimar Period in Trump’s speeches, but also in that of some other Republican candidates, and Trump especially seems to be playing to an audience of angry White men who have held a privileged status as a group, but now see their status being challenged by people who they see them as undeserving.

Some commentators now are referring to Trump as a fascist demagogue, and Bookbinder thinks “they have a point” since “Trump is a strange combination of a fascist demagogue and a late night talk show host comedian. But we shouldn’t laugh at him because his is dangerous. When I watch Trump, even his facial expressions have the character I associate with the fascist demagogue Adolf Hitler. Trump’s crude humor also plays to some of the prejudices of many in his audiences.”

Mass Media, Demagogues, and Scripted Violence

Perpetrators of ethnoviolence and attacks based on race, religion, or gender “often take their cues from what they hear in the media,” wrote Robert Reich in a column on his website after the deadly attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs in November.20 Reich, Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, warned that “the recent inclination of some politicians to use inflammatory rhetoric is contributing to a climate” in which fear of violence is real and growing among targeted groups.

Reich, now a professor at the University of California at Berkeley, was shocked when Republican Presidential hopeful Carly Fiorina continued to allege “that Planned Parenthood is selling body parts of fetuses,” even though the claim has been proven baseless. Fiorina isn’t alone, Reich continued. Mike Huckabee calls it “sickening” that “we give these butchers money to harvest human organs,” noted Reich. And after the Colorado shootings, Trump falsely claimed “some of these people from Planned Parenthood [are] talking about it like you’re selling parts to a car.” Much of Reich’s column consists of a horrific list of physical attacks on facilities operated by Islamic groups and Planned Parenthood in recent months.21

While violence is often used by ultra-right groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and various neonazi groups in the U.S., it is less common in conservative social and political movements. But Trump’s use of alarming right-wing populist rhetoric, aimed at mobilizing his predominantly White base, is changing that status quo.

The conservative Right generally tries to avoid this obvious and threatening sort of inflammatory language. In the Washington Spectator, political journalist Rick Perlstein, who has written several books about U.S. conservatism, observed of Trump that, “Previous Republican leaders were sufficiently frightened by the daemonic anger that energized their constituencies that they avoided surrendering to it completely, even for political advantage.”22 The Nazis cultivated the idea of an apocalyptic battle between good and evil. This, coupled with claims of a Jewish financial conspiracy and a sense of national humiliation that demanded redress, helped mobilize the mass base for fascism among the electorate in Weimer Germany. And it also legitimized the violence that followed Hitler’s rhetoric. Street fighting became rampant during the collapse of the Weimar Republic, as “Brownshirts” took to the streets to attack the targets singled out in Hitler’s speeches as a “threat” to Germany.

Similarly, Trump’s use of demagoguery aimed at scapegoated targets is laced with references to conspiracy theories involving President Obama—namely that he was not born in the United States. Tea Party conspiracists claim Obama is a secret Muslim and part of an evil plot. Trump also portrays Muslims in an apocalyptic framework, implying Muslims are a threat to the survival of the United States. Journalist Deborah Caldwell suggests this has touched a chord precisely because “people find his apocalyptic rhetoric enticing and familiar—because America has end-times obsession deeply embedded in its national psyche.” Conspiracism and apocalypticism are among the core components of right-wing populism, along with demonization, scapegoating, and “producerism,” which is the division of the population into “productive” members of society struggling against the “parasites” above and below who are subversive, sinful, or lazy.23

In their study of how media manipulation for political ends can help incite genocide, Mark Frohardt and Jonathan Temin looked at “content intended to instill fear in a population,” or “intended to create a sense among the population that conflict is inevitable.”24 They point out that “media content helps shape an individual’s view of the world and helps form the lens through which all issues are viewed.” According to the authors:

  • In Rwanda prior to the genocide a private radio station tried to instill fear of an imminent attack on Hutus by a Tutsi militia.
  • In the months before [conflicts] in Serbia, state television attempted to create the impression that a World War II–style ethnic cleansing initiative against Serbs was in the works.
  • Throughout the 1990s Georgian media outlets sought to portray ethnic minorities as threats to Georgia’s hard-won independence.

Frohardt and Temin found that demagogues facilitated the likelihood of violence against specific demonized and scapegoated target groups by creating a widespread fear in the general population that serious—perhaps lethal–attacks on them were “imminent;” even though “there was only flimsy evidence provided to support” these false claims. They continued:

When such reporting creates widespread fear, people are more amenable to the notion of taking preemptive action, which is how the actions later taken were characterized. Media were used to make people believe that “we must strike first in order to save ourselves.” By creating fear the foundation for taking violent action through “self-defense” is laid.

Thus demagogic rhetoric can produce “scripted violence,” in which the demagogue can claim there is no direct link between the inciting language and the violence of “random” perpetrators.25

Using the F-word — Why Terminology Matters

There are good reasons why Trump’s statements cause our progressive antennae to wiggle. Trump’s swaggering demeanor recalls that of Italian Fascist leader Benito Mussolini. A number of journalists have suggested that Trump is using rhetoric similar to that used by Adolf Hitler in mobilizing Germans to support fascism. Some just call Trump an outright fascist.26 In doing so, however, some writers have fallen victim to a hoax quote on fascism wrongly attributed to Mussolini: “Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power.”27

It’s not clear where this fake quote originated, but it confuses Italian corporatist syndicalism with modern business corporations. The spelling is the only major similarity. Mussolini and his adviser, fascist philosopher Giovanni Gentile, consistently wrote that under fascist rule corporations (and all other sectors of society) must bend to the iron will of the fascist ruler.28

Despite how loosely or inaccurately the terms are sometimes used, “fascism” and “totalitarianism” have very specific meanings. A totalitarian state is a central goal of fascist movements, including neofascism and neonazism. Totalitarian states enforce total control over every aspect of a person’s life—political, economic, social, and cultural—in order to reshape the individual and unify society. Totalitarianism is like authoritarianism on methamphetamines. Public debate and opposition are not tolerated. Core democratic systems are crushed. Dissidents are rounded up and sometimes executed. Political theorist and author Hannah Arendt argued that Nazism and Stalinism were the prime examples of totalitarian movements that gained state power.29

However frightening Trump’s ascent might be to progressives, the candidate is neither a neofascist nor a totalitarian ideologue, but a right-wing populist bully. And the distinction matters for reasons that go beyond simple taxonomy. Calling Republicans fascist or totalitarian leads progressive organizers into a dead-end of crafting the wrong tactics and strategies for the moment in which we live.

Professor Roger Griffin is a world-class authority on the subject of fascism, and author of several books including The Nature of Fascism.30 Griffin defines fascism as:

… a revolutionary form of nationalism, one that sets out to be a political, social and ethical revolution, welding the “people” into a dynamic national community under new elites infused with heroic values. The core myth that inspires this project is that only a populist, trans-class movement of purifying, cathartic national rebirth (palingenesis) can stem the tide of decadence.

Another expert, Emilio Gentile, author of The Sacralization of Politics in Fascist Italy, says fascism raises politics to the level of a sacred struggle seeking totalitarian control over society. It is “a mass movement with multiclass membership” that

…believes itself invested with a mission of national regeneration, considers itself in a state of war against political adversaries and aims at conquering a monopoly of political power by using terror, [electoral] politics, and deals with leading groups, to create a new regime that destroys [electoral] democracy.31

Despite Trump’s campaign slogan—the promise to “Make America Great Again”—neither of these definitions describe his program, even though he appears to be getting close to neofascist rhetoric. Trump’s obvious early mass appeal is built around right-wing populism. Matthew N. Lyons and I defined the term in our book Right-Wing Populism in America:

Populism is a way of mobilizing “the people” into a social or political movement around some form of anti-elitism. Populist movements can occur on the right, the left, or in the center. They can be egalitarian or authoritarian, inclusive or exclusionary, forward-looking or fixated on a romanticized image of the past. They can either challenge or reinforce systems of oppression, depending on how “the people” are defined.32

Populism is confusing because it is at once an ideology, a strategic organizing frame, and a rhetorical narrative storyline that names friends and enemies. While left-wing populism often organizes people around expanding economic fairness, right-wing populism relies on prejudice and bigotry, demonization and scapegoating of an “Other,” and fears of traitorous, subversive conspiracies.

Trump uses populist rhetoric to appeal to “the people,” even as he campaigns on his status as an elitist member of the one percent. Margaret Canovan, author of Populism, a key academic book on several populist variants, calls this “politicians’ populism.”33 It’s a cynical scam, but one with a history of short-term success in political contests as the means of one set of elites unseating the faction of elites currently running the government. Italian philosopher Umberto Eco called this a “selective…qualitative populism” and warned that there “is in our future a TV or Internet populism, in which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be presented and accepted as the Voice of the People.” Thus we now have Trumpism: the use of right-wing populism to mask the fascistic demonization of targeted groups.

Although they can look similar, right-wing populism is distinct from fascism. As the University of Georgia’s Cas Mudde, an internationally-recognized expert on global right-wing movements, told the Washington Post in an article on Trump, “The key features of the populist radical right ideology—nativism, authoritarianism, and populism—are not unrelated to mainstream ideologies and mass attitudes. In fact, they are best seen as a radicalization of mainstream values.”34

Mudde, author of Populist Radical Right Parties in Europe, sees Trump’s ideology and rhetoric as comparable to several European movements,35 particularly Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom in the Netherlands, Jean-Marie Le Pen’s National Front in France, and the Danish People’s Party. These right-wing populist movements flirt with fascist themes, but are not full-blown neofascist movements, although they share many similarities in terms of exclusionary rhetoric, organic nationalism, and nativist bigotry.36 The trickiest part is that many scholars now see right-wing populism as a building block of neofascist movements. Fascism emerges from right-wing populist mass movements when a faction of the one percent decides it is necessary to promote violence to regain control of a rapidly destabilizing nation facing a crisis. Fascism is the last resort of those in power trying to maintain control.

Fascism emerges from right-wing populist mass movements when a faction of the one percent decides it is necessary to promote violence to regain control of a rapidly destabilizing nation.

Terminological distinctions matter because some of the strategies and tactics we craft while organizing against a right-wing populist movement must be categorically different from organizing to block the rise of a totalitarian fascist state.

To challenge the current wave of vicious anti-democratic attacks in the United States we must study the forces that have unleashed them as well as determine the exact moment in history in which we struggle against them. People’s lives may depend on it.

As fascism builds toward grabbing state power, the situation quickly unravels.37 Sporadic attacks and acts of terrorism against the named scapegoats become more frequent and widespread. People need to focus on organizing around physical self-defense. This is not that moment. Things are bad, but not as bad as when Weimar collapsed into the hands of Hitler and his thugs.

During a period of right-wing populism, as we are experiencing now, the focus of organizing must be to defend the scapegoats targeted by demagogues like Trump. Millions of White people seem to be having panic attacks in the face of the changing racial demographics of our nation. Our task is to build citywide and even neighborhood coalitions to defend economic and social equality. The coalitions must be multi-issue and cross boundaries of race, gender, class, age, ability, and more.

The focus of organizing must be to defend the scapegoats targeted by demagogues like Trump.

Suzanne Pharr, author of In the Time of the Right, talks about “divisions that kill.”38 By keeping us divided, the defenders of the status quo have an easier time exploiting us. She suggests that in the current political climate, organizers must bring the discussion back to the neighborhood level. “We have to get people to talk about what duress they are experiencing and the losses their communities are experiencing. Then we need to talk about what has been stripped away from our community and family support systems.” This is how we can reach out to our neighbors and convince them to “stop blaming poor people and people of color and start looking in the direction of the forces holding us down.”

But be aware that the targeting by our right-wing adversaries is opportunistic and can shift in an instant to reproductive rights, the LGBTQ community, the environment, or “tax and spend” liberals. Back in 1994 the main target of the Right was the gay community, and right-wing strategists were using race as a wedge issue to get Black ministers to denounce the “Homosexual Agenda.”

The current crop of Republican candidates includes several active with the Christian Right and their agenda to curtail reproductive rights, force gay people back into the closet, and make women handmaids to male supremacy. Meanwhile, Carly Fiorina makes wildly inaccurate statements about Planned Parenthood and Jeb Bush is beating the militarist war drums with a frenzied ad campaign. Behind these candidates are millions of dollars of donations from wealthy “Free Market” fanatics pushing “neoliberal” policies to gut government services and cut taxes for the rich.

No matter who becomes the Republican candidate for President in 2016, the damage is already being done, and it is increasingly harming a range of scapegoated targets. This is a new political and social moment. Republicans have used bigoted rhetoric in the past, but anger has grown as buying power and status have shrunk among many Whites. This is producing a more virulent strain of White Nationalist nativism and masculinist rage.

Why Are These People So Angry?

The crowd listening to Trump’s stump speech in Massachusetts this October cheered his attacks on Mexican immigrants. The supporters my partner and I spoke with were fed up with the status quo, suspicious of President Obama, and very much liked Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.” Great for whom? Cleary not everyone. Trump supporters are angry. They resemble the folks in the film Network, who were told by a raving demagogue to open their windows and shout: “I’M AS MAD AS HELL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO TAKE THIS ANYMORE!”39 This is the quintessential right-wing populist primal scream. Who is kicking them down the ladder of success? Someone has to be blamed for turning their American Dream into a liberal, “politically correct” nightmare.

When Trump uses the phase “politically correct” he is using a concept re-engineered by the Right in the 1980s as a way to silence activists demanding equality for traditionally oppressed peoples and groups in the United States. This is similar to the propagandistic use of terms such as “radicalization” and “extremism” to demonize dissent on both the Left and the Right.

Image via Gage Skidmore on Flickr.

Image via Gage Skidmore on Flickr.

Trump’s rhetorical propaganda is aimed at appealing to a growing base of angry and frustrated White middle and working class people. In a script broadcast by Trump ad nauseum, he is telling them who to blame for their slipping economic, political, and social status. According to sociologist Rory McVeigh, people who join right-wing movements tend to be convinced they are losing or about to lose status, power, or privilege in one or more of three civic arenas: economic, political, or social.40

We have seen exclusionary, repressive, or right-wing populist movements in the United States before. President Andrew Jackson (1829-1837) was cheered as a champion of “the people” even as he kept Black people in chains and forced the Cherokee nation out of their ancestral homeland to make room for White pioneers.41 After the Civil War, the Ku Klux Klan launched a murderous wave of violence against freed slaves and their supporters in the South. The large populist movements of the late 1890s began as an overwhelmingly progressive force, seeking economic fairness and curtailing the abuses of economic elites, but some supporters later turned their anger against Jews and Blacks. The backlash against the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s frequently used populist-sounding conspiracist rhetoric, suggesting that communists and Jews were stirring up otherwise happy Black people in order to prepare the United States for a takeover by the Soviet Union. The presidential campaigns of George Wallace and Pat Buchanan were built using clear and coded right-wing populist appeals to a White nationalist base.42

In more recent history, the rise of the Tea Party exemplified right-wing populism, as an angry constituency was mobilized back in 2009.43 The Tea Party idea originated with supporters of uber-libertarian Ron Paul, but the franchise was scooped up by conservative billionaires who funded trainings and rallies around the country. Over time Christian Right activists played a leading role in local Tea Party groups, shifting the focus to a toxic blend of nativist anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric coupled with homophobia and antiabortion propaganda.44 Now the Tea Party grassroots is heavily populated by White nationalists.45 This is Trump’s voter base.

Folks who support the Tea Party and other right-wing populist movements are responding to rhetoric that honors them as the bedrock of American society. These are primarily middle class and working class White people with a deep sense of patriotism who bought into the American dream of upward mobility.46 Now they feel betrayed. Trump and his Republican allies appeal to their emotions by naming scapegoats to blame for their sense of being displaced by “outsiders” and abandoned by their government.

Emotions matter in building social movements. The linkage of emotion and politics are at the heart of a forthcoming book by University of California, Berkeley, sociologist and author Arlie Hochschild. In it, Hochschild reports on many conversations with Tea Party members in the South, where the movement is strongest.47 Many she spoke with long doubted that Obama was American; even after the publication of his long-form birth certificate some still suspect that he is Muslim and harbors ill will toward America. Hochschild also observes that this set of beliefs was widely shared among people who otherwise seemed reasonable, friendly, and accepting. How she wondered, could we explain this?

Her premise is that all political belief

is undergirded by emotion. Given the experiences we’ve undergone, we have deep feelings. These shape our “deep story.” And this is an allegorical, collectively shared, “honor-focused,” narrative storyline about what “feels true.” We take fact out of it, judgment out of it. A “deep story” says what happened to us from the point of view of how we feel about it.

The “deep story” of the Tea Party is that the American Dream has leveled off. Ninety percent of Americans between 1980 and 2012 received no rise in salary while dividends from a rising GDP rose dramatically for the top 10 percent.

Since the election of President Ronald Reagan in 1980, the one percent has enriched itself while pushing most of us into a downward spiral of exported jobs, lower wages, unsafe working conditions, and tax breaks for the wealthy. Government social services such as public health and food stamps have been slashed. Public works projects, from bridges to sewers, have been gutted. Shifting tax dollars to private charter schools has strangled public education, the keystone of democracy. This has been happening in communities of color for decades. Now it is front-page news because research shows it is devastating White working class and even middle class communities.48

Amid a rising gap between the rich and poor, the middle has been pressed out—especially blue-collar men, the bottom of the middle. Their search for other sources of “honor”—what Hochschild feels is an underlying crisis among Tea Party members—has also encountered resistance, and they have met with criticism, insult, and injury, from upper-middle class liberals who look down on them as “rednecks.”

Most Tea Party supporters feel the government is allowing them to be shoved aside, displaced, dispossessed, and disrespected by newcomers, outsiders, and immigrants who they don’t see as proper citizens (no matter their legal status).

Trump is popular among many Tea Party movement activists, although national leaders are remaining coy in terms of an endorsement.49 The Tea Party and Trump conspiracy theories feed off each other, and bolster a sense that there is a plot to disempower White people.

Trump and other Republican candidates capture their hearts and minds by telling them their anger is justified and then point them at scapegoats rather than the institutions that have failed them. A culture permeated by the legacies of White supremacy leads the White middle and working class to blame their real downward mobility on people of color and “non-White” immigrants, and in that way reproduces both structural racism and the class-based power of the one percent.

Much of this rhetoric, like Trump’s, began as a specific attack against Mexicans and Latinos, but it keeps expanding. There is a “Trump Effect increasingly sweeping through the country,” warned immigrant rights activist Pablo Alvarado, Director for the National Day Labor Organizing Network.50 For example, after the Paris attacks a number of Republican governors banned all refugees from entering their states.51 The Puente Human Rights Movement, a grassroots migrant justice organization based in Phoenix quickly responded with a statement declaring, “Scapegoating and xenophobia don’t make us safer.”52 But the attacks aren’t only coming from the Republican Right. Democratic Senator Diane Feinstein, for example, is now criticizing immigrant-sheltering sanctuary cities.53

The center of the entire political spectrum in the United States is being shifted to the Right. The political views of today’s “centrist” Democrats resemble the views of many Republicans during the Nixon administration. White voters have been maneuvered into choosing White racial privilege over their own economic security. This explains the question asked in Tom Frank’s 2014 book, What’s the Matter With Kansas?54 In 2015, the same mass base cheers Trump while he is mobilizing resentment. That tactic, which Jean Hardisty explored in her 1999 book of the same name,55 is a longtime part of right-wing politics in the U.S. But now, as demographers predict that the majority of the U.S. will be non-White by the middle of the century, the existing emotional response behind that resentment is getting stronger.

From Analysis to Action

The debate over what we should call Trump’s vicious political movement should not stop us from organizing now to protect the people being demonized and scapegoated as targets of White rage. The current wave of right-wing populism in the United States is breeding a backlash movement that will take creative and bold strategies and tactics as we organize to defend democracy and diversity in the public square.

Debate over what we should call Trump’s vicious political movement should not stop us from organizing now to protect the people being demonized and scapegoated as targets of White rage.

Trump is a political performance artist portraying the psychological Id of the American Dream. He unleashes the fearful and angry feelings of people who live in a society run as a zero sum game requiring the successful to climb up over those labeled as inferior. So as the old “Liberalism” consensus collapses from the center while the Right is on the rise, what do we do?

Our challenge is to expose the ideas and policies of Trump and his Republican cronies while competing for folks in their voting base who are legitimately concerned about their declining economic and social future. At the same time we need to put pressure on backsliding liberals who now have the space to abandon justice for unauthorized immigrants and other targets of Republican venom.

Our challenge is to expose the ideas and policies of Trump and his Republican cronies while competing for folks in their voting base who are legitimately concerned about their declining economic and social future.

Activists need to build broad and diverse local coalitions that tactically address local issues while strategically linking them to national struggles. Building broad, inclusive, and egalitarian coalitions is hard. Bernice Johnson Reagon is a progressive scholar, singer, and activist. She helped found the women of color a Capella vocal group Sweet Honey in the Rock. Reagon advises that, when doing real coalition building, “Most of the time you feel threatened to the core, and if you don’t, you’re not really doing no coalescing.”56

There are times when liberals and progressives can form alliances, but it can be frustrating. PRA’s founder, Jean Hardisty, explained this in her essay My On-Again, Off-Again Romance With Liberalism. At times when the Right is a growing threat and the Left is weak, she argued, “liberal reforms have to be defended. Now we are swimming against a tide that is thick with peril…and like it or not” progressives must “work with liberals, as well as with any other left-leaning sectors” in a “united front against the agenda of the Right.”57 Also keep in mind the right-wing backlash is a coalition that has fissures and cracks that can be wedged apart. We need to analyze and take advantage of the stress cracks in any right-wing coalition while making sure in our coalition work these strains are openly discussed and resolved honestly and equitably.

The late progressive activist Audre Lorde reminded us that there is “no hierarchy of oppressions.” Race, class, and gender issues are all complex and related, and no single form of oppression trumps another. That’s why the concept of intersectionality is so important. All systems of oppression need to be unraveled. Currently the focus is on the hierarchies of power and privilege that maintain the system of oppression on which this nation was founded: White Nationalism. That’s the primary text and subtext of the Trump campaign rhetoric. At the center of our struggle today is the idea of a “White Race”—which in scientific terms is nonsense. But in terms of the struggle we face, “Whiteness” is at the center. There is a White Race in the minds of millions of Americans. Whiteness is a social, cultural, political, and economic fact.

Right now we need to be organizing against right-wing populist scapegoating, especially racist White Nationalism and anti-immigrant xenophobia. White people need to reach across the political divide and engage White neighbors in conversations about how the nasty rhetoric is making it difficult to have serious discussions on how to fix what is broken. We all need to be engaging in struggles in our local communities, schools, workplaces—even on the supermarket checkout line.

White people need to reach across the political divide and engage White neighbors in conversations about how the nasty rhetoric is making it difficult to have serious discussions on how to fix what is broken.

Back in 2010 as the Tea Party Movement was first brewing, Chomsky raised the example of the Weimar period in Germany as a warning. At a meeting held by Z Magazine, Chomsky fielded a set of questions on how the Left should organize against the racist, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and antigay backlash arising out of the Tea Party.58

“First of all,” he said, “you need to understand it. They say to themselves ‘We work hard, we’re Christians, we’re White…and now They are taking it all away from Us.’”

Chomsky points out that, though often bigoted, these “feelings are genuine…and they have to be dealt with.” Organizing has to be “done in a way which doesn’t frighten people,” that doesn’t “elicit their worst emotions and reactions.” Hochschild’s sociological analyses and Chomsky’s political analysis reinforce each other.

According to Chomsky, we need to pay attention to the feelings of resentment which are “very understandable” from their point of view. You begin by recognizing that their anger “does have legitimate roots. People feel…seriously threatened…people’s way of life is being taken away from them.” It’s not the immigrants who should be blamed, however, but the greed of the financial sector, Chomsky says.

And when organizing, “You don’t want to brazenly flaunt in front of people your attacks on their values.” You need to help them understand that their values should lead them to tolerance instead of hate. Chomsky was asked how activists can build a successful movement. He replied to the whole room, “We all know how…by education, by organizing, by activism.”


Chip Berlet, co-author of Right-Wing Populism in America, has written scores of scholarly and popular articles on human rights, fascism, and right-wing movements. He served as a researcher at Political Research Associates for 30 years, and is creator of Trumpism.usAn expanded set of resources is being updated at Research for Progress.


Endnotes:

1 Correspondence with author.

2 Chomsky first raised the issue of Weimar at a lecture at Left Forum in New York City. Another Chomsky lecture mentioning Weimar presented at the Haven Center at the University of Wisconsin is available as a transcript, http://chomsky.info/20100408/

3 Shaun King, “King: Donald Trump shows he’ll do anything to appeal to his racist supporters,” New York Daily News, (updated) November 22, 2015. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/king-trump-hits-new-racist-tweet-article-1.2443413

4 Affan Chowdhry, “Trump leads in polls despite gaffes,” The Globe and Mail, July 15, 2015. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/trump-leads-in-republican-race-despite-gaffes/article25516246/.

5 Washington Post, “Fact Checker” column, July 8, 2015. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2015/07/08/donald-trumps-false-comments-connecting-mexican-immigrants-and-crime/.

6 Edward Helmore and Ben Jacobs, “Donald Trump’s ‘sexist’ attack on TV debate presenter sparks outrage,” August 8, 2015. http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/aug/09/megyn-kelly-donald-trump-winner-republican-debate.

7 David Leopold, “The shocking reality of Donald Trump’s plan to deport millions, MSNBC, 09/15/15. http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/donald-trump-shocking-reality-deportation-plan

8 Lauren Carroll, “In Context: Donald Trump’s comments on a database of American Muslims, November 24th, 2015, http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2015/nov/24/donald-trumps-comments-database-american-muslims/.

9 Jason Stanley “Democracy and the Demagogue, Opinionator – A Gathering of Opinion from Around the Web, The Stone, October 12, 2015, http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/10/12/democracy-and-the-demagogue/

10 The Guardian,New York Times slams ‘outrageous’ Donald Trump for mocking reporter’s disability,” November 26, 2015, http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/nov/26/new-york-times-outrageous-donald-trump-mocking-reporter-disability.

11 Jenna Johnson and Mary Jordan, “Trump on rally protester: ‘Maybe he should have been roughed up’,” November 22, 2015, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/post-politics/wp/2015/11/22/black-activist-punched-at-donald-trump-rally-in-birmingham/.

12 David Mark and Jeremy Diamond, “Trump: ‘I want surveillance of certain mosques’” CNN: Politics, November 21, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/21/politics/trump-muslims-surveillance/index.html  The video of the attack is in a section titled “Scuffle breaks out at rally,”

13 http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/22/politics/donald-trump-black-lives-matter-protester-confrontation/

14 David Mark and Jeremy Diamond, “Trump: ‘I want surveillance of certain mosques’” CNN: Politics, November 21, 2015, http://www.cnn.com/2015/11/21/politics/trump-muslims-surveillance/index.html  The video of the attack is in a section titled “Scuffle breaks out at rally,”

15 Evan Osnos, “The Fearful and the Frustrated: Donald Trump’s nationalist coalition takes shape—for now, The New Yorker, “The Political Scene,” August 31, 2015, http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/08/31/the-fearful-and-the-frustrated.

16 Adele M. Stan. 2015, “A Nation of Sociopaths? What the Trump Phenomenon Says About America,” American Prospect, September 9, 2015. http://prospect.org/article/nation-sociopaths-what-trump-phenomenon-says-about-america.

17 Paul Bookbinder, “Choices and Consequences in Weimar Germany,” Section: The Fragility of Democracy, (Weimar Republic Readings): four essays (Brookline, MA, Facing History and Ourselves, no date), https://www.facinghistory.org/weimar-republic-fragility-democracy/readings/choices-and-consequences.

18 Ibid.

19 Interview with the author, December 9, 2015.

20 Robert Reich, “Why Hate Speech by Presidential Candidates is Despicable,” November 29, 2015 http://robertreich.org/post/134235925280.

21 Ibid.

22 Rick Perlstein, “Donald Trump and the ‘F-Word’: An unsettling symbiosis between man and mob,” Washington Spectator, September 30, 2015. http://washingtonspectator.org/donald-trump-and-the-f-word/

23 Berlet and Lyons, Right-Wing Populism in America, 6-9. Terms explained in right sidebar here: http://www.rightwingpopulism.us/.

24 Mark Frohardt and Jonathan Temin, Use and Abuse of Media in Vulnerable Societies, Special Report 110, Washington, DC, United States Institute of Peace. October 2003, http://permanent.access.gpo.gov/websites/usip/www.usip.org/pubs/specialreports/sr110.pdf, (accessed 26/9/2012). Although an excellent study, the report is flawed by the failure to include a single footnote. See also Kofi A. Annan, Allan Thompson, and International Development Research Centre of Canada, The Media and the Rwanda Genocide (Ottawa: International Development Research Centre, 2007).

25 Chip Berlet. 2014. “Heroes Know Which Villains to Kill: How Coded Rhetoric Incites Scripted Violence,” in Matthew Feldman and Paul Jackson (eds), Doublespeak: Rhetoric of the Far-Right Since 1945 (Stuttgart: ibidem-Verlag, 2014). Excerpts at http://www.researchforprogress.us/topic/concept/scripted-violence/.

26 Chip Berlet, “Trump a Fascist?” Research for Progress. http://www.researchforprogress.us/topic/concept/trump-a-fascist/.

27 Chip Berlet, “Mussolini: The Fake Quote,” Research for Progress. http://www.researchforprogress.us/topic/concept/mussolini-fake-quote/

28 Benito Mussolini (with Giovanni Gentile), “The Doctrine of Fascism,” in Enciclopedia Italiana (1932); Benito Mussolini (with Giovanni Gentile), The Doctrine of Fascism (Firenze: Vallecchi Editore, 1935), this was the official English translation of the article in the Enciclopedia Italiana;  Benito Mussolini (with Giovanni Gentile), Fascism: Doctrine and Institutions (Rome: ‘Ardita’ Publishers, 1935), an expanded version of “The Doctrine of Fascism.” A discussion of the use of the fake quote is at

29 Hannah Arendt,  The Origins of Totalitarianism (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1951). See also: Hannah Arendt, Eichmann in Jerusalem A Report on the Banality of Evil (New York: Viking Press, 1963).

30 Roger Griffin, The Nature of Fascism (London: Routledge, 1993).

31 Emilio Gentile, The Sacralization of Politics in Fascist Italy, translated by Keith Botsford (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1996); See also regarding Nazi Germany as sacralized politics: David Redles, Hitler’s Millennial Reich: Apocalyptic Belief and the Search for Salvation (New York: New York Univ. Press, 2005); Klaus Vondung, The Apocalypse in Germany ( Columbia and London: Univ. of Missouri Press, 2000). An expanded bibliography is at http://tinyurl.com/toxic-mix.

32 Chip Berlet and Matthew Nemiroff Lyons, Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort (New York: Guilford Press, 2000) http://www.rightwingpopulism.us/.

33 Margaret Canovan, Populism (New York: Harcourt, 1981).

34 Cas Mudde, “The Trump Phenomenon and the European Populist Radical Right,“ Washington Post, The Monkey Cage, August 26, 2015 https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2015/08/26/the-trump-phenomenon-and-the-european-populist-radical-right/ .

35 Cas Mudde. Populist Radical Right Parties in Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007).

36 Berlet and Lyons, Right-Wing Populism in America.

37 Bookbinder, “Choices and Consequences in Weimar Germany.”

38 Suzanne Pharr, “Divisions that Kill,” in Eyes Right! Challenging the Right Wing Backlash, ed. Chip Berlet (Boston, MA: South End Press, 1995) http://www.publiceye.org/eyes/div_kill.html.

39 Network, Sidney Lumet and Paddy Chayefsky (Hollywood, CA: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer 1976), Full quote at Internet Movie Database. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0074958/quotes.

40 Rory McVeigh, David Cunningham, and Justin Farrell. “Political Polarization as a Social Movement Outcome: 1960s Klan Activism and Its Enduring Impact on Political Realignment in Southern Counties, 1960 to 2000 (American Sociological Review 79, no. 6 2014): 1144-171; Rory McVeigh, “Ku Klux Klan activism in the 1960s is linked to the South’s swing to the Republican Party, London School of Economics, the LSE US Centre’s daily blog on American Politics and Policy, December 17, 2014, http://blogs.lse.ac.uk/usappblog/2014/12/17/ku-klux-klan-activism-in-the-1960s-is-linked-to-the-souths-swing-to-the-republican-party/.

41 Berlet and Lyons, Right-Wing Populism in America, pp. 40-46; Google Educational Resources, “Jacksonian Era: Populism,” online resource, https://sites.google.com/site/jacksonianera/Home/populism.

42 Berlet and Lyons, Right-Wing Populism in America.

43 Chip Berlet, “Reframing Populist Resentments in the Tea Party Movement.” In Steep: The Precipitous Rise of the Tea Party. Lawrence Rosenthal and Christine Trost, eds. (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 2014); Devin Burghart and Leonard Zeskind, The Tea Party Movement in 2015, online report, (Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, 2015). http://www.irehr.org/2015/09/15/the-tea-party-movement-in-2015/.

44 Abby Scher and Chip Berlet, “The Tea Party Moment,” in Nella van Dyke and David S. Meyer, eds., Understanding the Tea Party Movement (Farnham and London: Ashgate, 2014).

45 Burghart and Zeskind, The Tea Party Movement in 2015.

46 Scher and Berlet, “The Tea Party Moment.”

47 The book is tentatively entitled Strangers in Their Own Land: a journey into the heart of the right, (New York: The New Press, 2016)

48 Michelle Chen, “Now White People Are Dying from Our Terrible Economic Policies, Too,” The Nation, November 6, 2015, http://www.thenation.com/article/now-white-people-are-dying-from-our-terrible-economic-policies-too/ Chauncey Devega, “Dear White America: Your working class is literally dying—and this is your idea of an answer?” Salon, Nov 6, 2015 http://www.salon.com/2015/11/06/dear_white_america_your_working_class_is_literally_dying_and_this_is_your_idea_of_an_answer/.

49 S.A. Miller, “Donald Trump enjoys support of tea party movement that refuses to fully embrace him,” The Washington Times, November 22, 2015, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2015/nov/22/donald-trump-enjoys-support-of-tea-party-movement-/.

50 Pablo Alvarado, “Reaction: L.A. Sheriff Reverses Course on Jail Deportations,” National Day Laborers Organizing Network, September 22, 2015 http://www.ndlon.org/en/pressroom/press-releases/item/1165-reaction-l-a-sheriff-reverses-course-on-jail-deportations

51 Scott Oathout “Gov. Ducey calls for immediate halt of new refugees to Arizona” KVOA Television, Nov 16, 2015 http://www.kvoa.com/story/30529819/gov-ducey-calls-for-immediate-halt-of-new-refugees-to-arizona.

52 “Puente Responds to AZ Gov. Ducey’s Announcement on Refugees,” Puente Movement, http://puenteaz.org/press-releases/puente-responds-to-duceys-announcement-on-refugees/.

53 Courtney Coren, “Dianne Feinstein Under Fire for Sanctuary City Bill,” August 3, 2015http://www.newsmax.com/Newsfront/Dianne-Feinstein-sanctuary-city-bill/2015/08/03/id/665214. Newsmax is a right-wing website cited here to encourage touring the page to review the rhetoric.

54 Thomas Frank, What’s the Matter with Kansas?: How Conservatives Won the Heart of America (New York, NY: Metropolitan Books, 2004), http://www.whatsthematterwithkansas.com/.

55 Jean V. Hardisty, Mobilizing Resentment: Conservative Resurgence from the John Birch Society to the Promise Keepers (Boston: Beacon Press, 1999). http://www.jeanhardisty.com/writing/books/.

56 Bernice Johnson Reagon, 1983, “Coalition Politics: Turning the Century” in Barbara Smith, ed., Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology, Kitchen Table Women of Color Press, 1983; Rutgers University Press, 2000. See also http://www.bernicejohnsonreagon.com/publications.shtml.

57 Jean Hardisty, “My On-Again, Off-Again Romance With Liberalism,” The Women’s Theological Center (now known as Women Transforming Communities), in the Brown Paper series, March 1996. Republished with permission by Political Research Associates, 2015 http://www.politicalresearch.org/2015/03/24/my-on-again-off-again-romance-with-liberalism/.

58 Chomsky’s comments are assembled by the author from a transcript of a videotape of the event. He was speaking at Z Magazine’s Media Institute (for progressive journalists). Video: “What Went Wrong: A Q & A with Noam Chomsky,” a Z Video Production. Chomsky confirmed these are still his views in an e-mail to the author.

Not Fascism: Trump is a Right-Wing Nativist Populist

Editor’s note: This article is an excerpt of the author’s forthcoming analysis of the new wave of right-wing nativism inspired by Donald Trump.

The outlandish populist rhetoric of Republican presidential wildcard Donald Trump has left many journalists at a loss for words—words such as bigotry, xenophobia, racism, sexism and demagoguery. These are the elements of the latest Nativist crusade.

Donald TrumpJournalists and scholars familiar with the rise of contemporary right-wing populist political parties and social movements in Europe recognize that xenophobic, anti-immigrant, and racist rhetoric can lead to acts of violence. The progressive press has done a better job of pointing out the potential for making some of our neighbors targets of White angst.

Adele Stan in the American Prospect (9/9/15) put it boldly:

What Trump is doing, via the media circus of which he has appointed himself ringmaster, is making the articulation of the basest bigotry acceptable in mainstream outlets, amplifying the many oppressive tropes and stereotypes of race and gender that already exist in more than adequate abundance.

Donald Trump Is an Actual Fascist” trumpets the headline in Salon (7/25/15) for Conor Lynch’s article. Undermining Salon’s headline, Lynch tells us the “GOP are obviously not fascists, but they share a family resemblance.” The resemblance, according to Lynch, is explained in the famous quote attributed to Italy’s fascist dictator during World War II, Benito Mussolini:

Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.

According to Lynch, this “definition may very well fit the GOP ideology: a kind of corporate fascism.” Alas, the quote is a hoax, widely circulated on the internet but debunked years ago. Mussolini never wrote or said anything like that, since the fake statement refutes Mussolini’s views on fascism. Nor is Trump an example of creeping totalitarianism, for which Hitler and Stalin were the analytical icons for Hannah Arendt in her masterwork The Origins of Totalitarianism.

Part of the confusion over Trump’s ideology is definitional: Scholars write entire books trying to map out the contours of right-wing political and social movements, especially the line dividing right-wing populism and neofascism. The pre-eminent scholar in this area, University of Georgia’s Cas Mudde, explained in the Washington Post (8/26/15):

The key features of the populist radical right ideology – nativism, authoritarianism, and populism – are not unrelated to mainstream ideologies and mass attitudes. In fact, they are best seen as a radicalization of mainstream values.

His ideology and rhetoric are much more comparable to the European populist radical right, akin to Jean-Marie Le Pen’s National Front, the Danish People’s Party or Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democratic Party of Russia. All of them use the common radical right rhetoric of nativism, authoritarianism and populism.

What fuels this sort of bitter backlash movement now? The late scholar Jean Hardisty who founded Political Research Associates argued in 1995 that a confluence of several historic factors has assisted the success of the right in the United States:

  • a conservative religious revitalization,
  • economic contraction and restructuring,
  • race resentment and bigotry,
  • backlash and social stress, and
  • a well-funded network of right-wing organizations.

Each of these conditions has existed at previous times in US history,” wrote Hardisty. She also noted they overlap and reinforce each other. This backlash is picking up speed. The Republican voter base in the Tea Party long ago shifted its attention away from fiscal restraint toward anti-immigrant xenophobia, banning abortion and pushing gay people back into the closet.

The demonization and scapegoating that accompanies right-wing populism in the United States is breeding a backlash movement that will take creative and bold approaches as we organize to defend democracy and diversity in the public square.

This article and the forthcoming analysis are adapted from the author’s previous piece in FAIR.