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

A Dystrumpian Vision for LGBTQ People

Co-authored by Scot Nakagawa

San Francisco City Hall. Photo: Tom Hilton via Flickr.

Many are called but few are chosen during any presidential transition. That’s why it’s illuminating to consider who Donald Trump has chosen from the parade of possibilities for his transition team and senior administration appointments so far— and what they may portend for LGBTQ people.

The Christian Right, with few exceptions, backed the Trump ticket, with over 80 percent of White evangelicals voting for him, and now they’re being rewarded with traditional forms of political patronage. They’re scoring major appointments and have won a say in personnel and policy decisions on a scale far surpassing anything seen since the movement first arrived in Washington with the Reagan administration in 1980.

Since Trump himself has never held the kinds of values or displayed the kind of personal behavior prized by conservative Christians—and barely passes as any kind of a Christian at all—he and his backers needed a theological rationale for the Christian Right’s support. They found justification in biblical examples of God-anointed leaders who were ungodly themselves but who nevertheless delivered for God’s people. Christian Right leaders presented Trump in this way, it was broadly accepted by their followers, and Trump is now evidently making good on the deal.

Let’s look first at two early warnings from which all the rest flows.

The first is an important campaign promise affecting LGBTQ people. In November 2016, Trump told 60 Minutes that he was “fine” with gay marriage; at the Republican National Convention he described himself as “a supporter” of the LGBTQ community, and said he considers marriage equality a “settled” matter. But none of those statements amount to promises to LGBTQ people, to whom he is sending mixed messages He has also promised the Christian Right he would consider appointing justices who would overturn Obergefell v. Hodges, the decision that guarantees same-sex couples the right to marry.

Secondly, Trump has also positioned himself in the camp of establishing dangerously broad religious exemptions from all laws aimed at ensuring LGBTQ civil rights. He promised he would sign the First Amendment Defense Act (FADA) if it reached his desk. FADA, which was first introduced in 2015 and now has substantial support in both houses of Congress, would legalize discrimination in the name of “religious belief or moral conviction,” requiring nothing more than someone’s say so. The scope of the Act appears to primarily affect government departments and agencies, and federal contractors and grantees, including entities that may require federal accreditation or licensing, such as universities and hospitals. And maybe more.

Under FADA, denial of service could take many forms beyond matters of wedding cakes, flowers, and photographers, to include allowing hospitals to refuse treatment to LGBTQ people (or their children), businesses to refuse health benefits to a same-sex partner, and child welfare workers to keep a child in foster care as opposed to placing them with a loving and qualified same-sex couple. If that’s not enough, FADA exempts non-profit organizations and businesses from non-discrimination standards. The proposal’s implications go well beyond issues of direct discrimination. FADA might allow federal employees to refuse being involved in processing federal benefits and rights claims to which they conscientiously object, such as any involving married same-sex couples. The bill exempts “any person regardless of religious affiliation, including corporations and other entities regardless of for-profit or nonprofit status” from following non-discrimination codes on the basis of religious beliefs.

If this is the benchmark approach to policy (regardless of the immediate future of the legislation itself) the federal government will be leading efforts to reverse historic gains of recent decades—attacking the basis for LGBTQ freedom and the dignity and rights of everyone else for whom a religious justification for denying service can be made.

But there’s more.

Trump’s selection of Mike Pence as his vice president was a transformational moment in the campaign, and arguably in American history. Pence may be best known for his theocratic political identity, proudly explaining at the 2010 Values Voter Summit in 2010, for example, that he is “a Christian, a conservative, and a Republican, in that order.” Donald Trump, via his son Donald Jr., reportedly called an aide to his first choice for veep, Governor John Kasich of Ohio, and told him that a president Trump would put Kasich in charge of both foreign and domestic policy, while the president himself would be in charge of “making America great again.” Pence hasn’t said whether he got the same deal, but his role as chair of the transition team suggests that he is already among the most powerful vice presidents in American history.

This does not bode well.

Pence’s tenure as governor of Indiana was marked by his signing a version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a law that would make discrimination against same-sex couples legally defensible. Pence signed the Act in the company of his state’s Christian Right leadership, marking him as a movement leader himself. Following national outcry, the legislature passed an amendment that explicitly stated that such discrimination was not the intent of the law.

Unsurprisingly, given both Trump and Pence’s history and views, much of the Christian Right agenda, particularly with regards to anything that affects LGBTQ people, will probably come wrapped in the flag of religious freedom. Some leading indicators of the direction the administration will take in this regard are visible in the transition team that’s proposing staff for the new administration and the appointments and nominations that have resulted from their work so far.

Ken Blackwell heads domestic issues for the transition team. A longtime Christian Right pol from Ohio, he is Senior Fellow for Human Rights and Constitutional Governance at the Family Research Council, the leading Christian Right lobby in Washington, D.C. Blackwell also serves on the board of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a Christian Right legal group that promotes religion based exemptions from the law.

Ed Meese leads the transition team for the Office of Management and Budget. He is one of the architects of FADA and served as Attorney General in the Reagan administration. He is joined by Kay Cole James, the former dean of the Pat Robertson School of Government at Regent University and a former head of the federal Office of Personnel Management. These figures know how the federal government works and how to ensure their people are well represented among the 4,000 positions that need to be filled in the West Wing of the White House, and throughout the federal government over the course of the Trump administration and beyond.

Ken Klukowski serves on the part of the transition team focusing on executive authority, responsible for “protecting constitutional rights.” He is the senior counsel for the Texas-based First Liberty Institute (formerly the Liberty Institute), a leading Christian Right legal group focused on religious exemptions from the law, especially LGBTQ rights. He is also the senior legal editor for Breitbart News.

Dr. Ben Carson is one of twelve vice-chairs of the transition team and Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Carson is a Christian Right leader and anti-LGBTQ ideologue known for harsh rhetoric in support of his beliefs. Carson has associated being LGBTQ with polygamy, pedophilia, and bestiality. He thinks that transgender people are “the height of absurdity” and he claims that marriage equality is a Marxist plot that may lead the country to go the way of the Roman Empire. He has characterized the kind of public housing he would oversee at HUD as “communism” and as Secretary he could undermine if not reverse the Obama administration’s efforts to curb discrimination against LGBTQ people in housing.

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) is a vice-chair of the transition team and Trump’s nominee for Attorney General. A senior member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Sessions is also a co-sponsor of FADA. The Huffington Post headlined an article about his nomination, “Pick Any LGBTQ Rights Issue. Jeff Sessions Has Voted Against It.” His Senate chief of staff, Rick Dearborn, is the executive director of the transition team.

Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) is nominated to be Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Price’s House voting record received a 0% rating from the Human Rights Campaign. He is a co-sponsor of FADA and supports a constitutional amendment to overturn Obergefell v. Hodges.

Betsy DeVos, Trump’s nominee for Secretary of Education, is a longtime financier of Christian Right projects, particularly in the area of school privatization. Politico reports that DeVos has said her work in education is intended to “advance God’s kingdom.” She and her family, heirs to the Amway corporate fortune, have a long record of underwriting Christian Right and anti-LGBTQ projects and organizations for the same reason. They have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to organizations that believe in “conversion therapy”; they are major backers of Focus on the Family, whose founder, James Dobson, called the battle against LGBTQ rights a “second civil war.” (Liberty University president Jerry Falwell Jr., who steadfastly supported Trump through the campaign, was Trump’s first choice for secretary. Falwell said he declined in order to attend to other obligations.)

President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team and top level appointments should be taken as clear indicators of the direction of the Trump administration with regard to the dignity and civil rights of LGBTQ people. And if past is prologue, what Mr. Trump says may not be nearly as important as what he does. Continued vigilance regarding what his appointees do in his name will be vital.

Frederick Clarkson is Senior Fellow at PRA. Scot Nakagawa is a Senior Partner of ChangeLab, a national racial justice think-act laboratory, and served as Fight the Right Organizer of the National LGBTQ Task Force.

The Public Health Story Behind Trump’s Rise

On November 8, 2016, the majority of the White population in the U.S. voted for a leader who ran a campaign rife with fascist themes of restoring “greatness” through a program of xenophobia, misogyny and racism. What we know about income and Trump voters suggests that they are not the poorest Whites, but those who see their communities losing ground. In the New York City and Long Island metropolitan area, for example, the two counties that went for Trump were Suffolk and Richmond. Suffolk County, on Long Island, has a median family income of $102,125, a family poverty rate of 4.8 percent, and 33.5 percent of residents 25 years or older have a BA or higher degree. Richmond, on Staten Island, is somewhat less well-off but still far from poor, with a median family income of $86,619, a family poverty rate of 9.8 percent, and 30.6 percent of residents holding at least a BA. 1)American Community Survey, 2014. Data available at census.gov

There has been some debate about the relative places of and interconnections between bigotry, racialized class consciousness, alienation, and economic struggles, in explaining voting patterns among Whites, particularly those outside of major cities. Both before and since the election, there has been a thread of discussion among progressive organizers about the impact of socio-economic dislocation and pain among non-elite Whites, which often leads into very real issues about continuing privilege and relative definitions of “marginality.” Median household income among African Americans in New York City, 2)Bergad, L Trends in Median Household Income Among New York City Latinos in Comparative Perspective, 1990 – 2011. Latino Data Project, report 54, Oct 2013 Center for Latin American, Caribbean and Latino Studies, Graduate Center, City University of New York for example, is in the middle of the range for median incomes in the largely White, and much less expensive, small cities and rural counties in New York State that voted for Trump.3)American Community Survey, 2014. Data available at census.gov

Public health data offers a different perspective on the severity of the situation experienced by the primary Trump electorate, although it provides no political analysis or solutions; middle aged Whites are the only population in the U.S. whose life expectancy has decreased in the 21st Century.4)Case, A and A Deaton (2015) “Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among White non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol 112 (49) pp 15078 – 15083. http://www.pnas.org/content/112/49/15078.full In fact, they are the only population in any wealthy country whose life expectancy has declined,5)Case, A and A Deaton (2015) “Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among White non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol 112 (49) pp 15078 – 15083. http://www.pnas.org/content/112/49/15078.full and might be the only population globally whose life expectancy has declined outside of the context of significant social upheaval such as war, epidemic, or national economic collapse. The increase in both mortality and disability largely comes from drug and alcohol poisoning, suicide, and liver disease.6)Case, A and A Deaton (2015) “Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among White non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol 112 (49) pp 15078 – 15083. http://www.pnas.org/content/112/49/15078.full

Middle aged and older Whites who don’t live in major cities are the core population of Trump voters. They are facing declining communities, destructive substance use in themselves and their children, and the literal loss of lifespan—experiences which the Trump campaign effectively channeled into support for a populist demagogue who offered to restore their former privilege while mobilizing racist, xenophobic, and misogynist language and rage. History demonstrates the consequences when loss of status fuels right-wing politics, and the public health data measures the depth of crisis in White middle and working class populations. If progressives do not recognize and respond to the situation in these communities, then the fuel for right-wing firestorms is likely to grow.

 

References   [ + ]

1, 3. American Community Survey, 2014. Data available at census.gov
2. Bergad, L Trends in Median Household Income Among New York City Latinos in Comparative Perspective, 1990 – 2011. Latino Data Project, report 54, Oct 2013 Center for Latin American, Caribbean and Latino Studies, Graduate Center, City University of New York
4, 5, 6. Case, A and A Deaton (2015) “Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among White non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, vol 112 (49) pp 15078 – 15083. http://www.pnas.org/content/112/49/15078.full

Trump’s “Second Amendment People”?: The U.S. Patriot Movement Today

Click here to download the article as a PDF.

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

Judging from his recent statements, Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump seems to be making plans for post-election violence if he’s defeated. At the beginning of August he warned, “I’m afraid the election’s going to be rigged.”1). Jeremy Diamond, “Trump: ‘I’m afraid the election’s going to be rigged’,” CNN, August 2, 2016, www.cnn.com/2016/08/01/politics/donaldtrump-election-2016-rigged. He went on to issue a seeming call for supporters to intimidate Democrats at the polls, telling his supporters to go with their friends and family to “watch.” (“And when I say watch, you know what I’m talking about, right?”2)Rebecca Savransky, “Trump to supporters: ‘Go out and watch’ on Election Day,” The Hill, August 22, 2016, http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/ presidential-races/donald-trumprigged-system-hillary-clinton-go-outand-watch-you-know-what-im-talkingabout.) Ultimately he declared that if Hillary Clinton “gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do folks. Although the Second Amendment people—maybe there is. I don’t know.”3)Eli Watkins and Rachel Chason,
“Trump campaign doubles down on election fraud claims,” CNN, August 13, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/12/politics/donaldtrump-pennsylvania-cheating; Jack
Holmes, “Donald Trump: ‘The 2nd Amendment People’ Can Do Something
to Stop Hillary Clinton,” Esquire, August 9, 2016, www.esquire.com/newspolitics/videos/a47491/donald-trumphints-at-hillary-clinton-assassination.

While Trump claimed he was merely suggesting an electoral remedy, where gun rights advocates become a pivotal voting block, the more obvious interpretation—the one understood by many listeners—was that Trump was seeding the idea in followers’ minds of an armed revolutionary struggle, or an assassination, to overthrow a democratically elected president. It’s likely that at least one constituency is already thinking the same way. When it comes to Trump’s so-called “Second Amendment people,” the prime candidates for the role are the members of the heavily armed, Hard Right “Patriot movement.”

For example, the next month, NPR talked to one Georgia man who was already making plans to join a militia. His reason? “Should martial law, civil war—whatever—break out in this country, they will uphold the Constitution and rebuild our loss…The war that’s going to break out if Hillary Clinton’s elected, if that happens. Your patriots are going to overthrow the government.”4)Travis Gettys, “Georgia voter predicts civil war if Clinton wins: ‘Patriots are going to overthrow the government’,” Raw Story, September 26, 2016, www. rawstory.com/2016/09/georgia-voter-predicts-civil-war-if-clinton-winspatriots-are-going-to-overthrow-thegovernment.

A Patriot movement member stands guard during the Malheur Wildlife Refuge Occupation in Oregon in January. Photo: Shawn Records.

A Patriot movement member stands guard during the Malheur Wildlife Refuge occupation in Oregon in January. Photo: Shawn Records.

The Patriot movement is a political tradition that dates back many decades. In the 1990s, when its “armed wing” expanded rapidly, it became well known as the militia movement.5)Chip Berlet and Matthew Lyons, Right-Wing Populism in America (New York: Guilford Press, 2000), 287. It gained infamy in 1995 when two of its participants bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 (including 19 children in a daycare center on site).6)FBI, “The Oklahoma City Bombing 20 Years Later,” accessed October 15, 2016, https://stories.fbi.gov/oklahoma-bombing. In more recent years, Patriot movement activists have repeatedly made headlines for anti-government actions. In 2014, members converged on rancher Cliven Bundy’s Nevada ranch to hold off federal employees at gunpoint and stop them from seizing his cattle for non-payment of grazing fees. In January 2016, Bundy’s sons were among the group of paramilitaries who took over the headquarters of the remote Malheur National Wildlife Refuge outside of Burns, Oregon, for 41 days. Originally demanding freedom for two local ranchers who had been imprisoned for arson, their main demand soon became that the federally owned refuge be transferred to county authorities that would allow it to be used for ranching with few or no environmental restrictions.

The Patriot movement is rooted in an idiosyncratic reading of the U.S. Constitution, which they claim prohibits almost the entire structure of the current U.S. federal government. They desire a completely unrestrained capitalist system on domestic matters, and denounce even the mildest state interventions in markets as “Marxism.” Federal ownership of most public land and any regulation of private firearms are also considered to be a violation of the Constitution.

The same holds for federal agencies that engage in almost any kind of regulation, including in economics, environmentalism, workers’ rights, health and safety, or civil rights for oppressed groups. The Patriot movement is saturated with anti-immigrant xenophobia and Islamophobia, and is driven by conspiracy theories concerning federal overreach, sleeper ISIS cells, and plans for a New World Order. (One popular claim is that the federal government is using Agenda 21—a non-binding United Nations white paper that promotes environmental sustainability—and environmental politics to drive rural people off the land and into the cities, where they will be disarmed and put in detention camps, so that the United Nations or China can invade.)

These conspiracy theories, which serve as the theoretical basis of the movement’s politics, provide easy explanations for complex problems. The basic narrative framework is based on centuries-old ideas and appeals to people across cultures; it casts participants as the heroes in a story in which good and evil are pitted against each other, sometimes in an apocalyptic battle.

One of the most interesting aspects of the movement is that, despite the fact that many of its tactics and talking points come from the White supremacist movement, it presents itself in a way that seems to avoid its racist background. One of the early Patriot movement groups, Posse Comitatus, was founded in 1971 on the West Coast as a vehicle for White supremacism and antisemitism. And yet, explains Daniel Levitas, author of the most comprehensive account of the group, Terrorist Next Door The Militia Movement & the Radical Right, the Posse (as it was called) didn’t look or sound like other White supremacist organizations. “Unlike most other right-wing groups that shared similar beliefs,” Levitas wrote, “the Posse succeeded at joining its conspiracy theories, bigotry, and zest for violence to more mainstream issues, such as banking, land-use planning, environmental regulations, property rights, gun ownership, and race.”7)Daniel Levitas, The Terrorist Next Door: The Militia Movement and the Radical Right (New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Griffin, 2002), 10.

Writing about the Patriot movement of the late 1990s, which had inherited many aspects of the Posse’s organizational model, researcher David Neiwert wrote in his book, In God’s Country: The Patriot Movement and the Pacific Northwest, that the movement “disguises the racial and anti-democratic implications of its agenda and emphasizes, instead, its populist appeal across a broad range of issues, all wrapped in the bright colors of American nationalism.”8)David A. Neiwert, In God’s Country: The Patriot Movement and the Pacific Northwest (Pullman, WA: Washington State University Press, 1999), 5.

One of the other curious elements of the Patriot movement is that it waxes and wanes in phases; in particular it has flourished under Democratic presidencies.

One of the other curious elements of the Patriot movement is that it waxes and wanes in phases; in particular it has flourished under Democratic presidencies. The militia movement coincided with Bill Clinton’s tenure, but soon after George W. Bush came into office, it faded. The current generation emerged with Barack Obama’s election. Apparently Democrats better fit the movement’s Manchurian Candidate-style narratives about the president being a secret Communist agent who is about to betray the nation and is more likely to push for gun control—a core issue for the movement.

Trump isn’t exactly the movement’s ideal candidate; Ted Cruz did more to court Patriots, many of whom supported him in the primary. But quite a number of Trump’s views—his toxic combination of bellicose patriotism, xenophobia and Islamophobia; implicit White nationalism; protectionist but pro-capitalist politics; as well as his thinly veiled threats of violence and penchant for wild conspiracy theories—all hit the same notes as the Patriot movement. And if Trump loses, and Hillary Clinton takes office, the movement could adopt a revolutionary stance. The Patriot milieu is flush with heavily armed followers who are already trained in military tactics. It would only take a small number of them to go underground and start an armed struggle, with the hope of igniting a larger uprising.

THE PATRIOT MOVEMENT’S THREE WAVES

In Right Wing Populism in America Too Close for Comfort, author Matthew Lyons and former PRA senior analyst Chip Berlet write that, “The Patriot movement was bracketed on the reformist side by the [John] Birch Society and the conspiracist segment of the Christian Right, and on the insurgent side by the Liberty Lobby and groups promoting themes historically associated with White supremacy and antisemitism.”9)Berlet and Lyons, Right-Wing Populism in America, 288–89. However, groups that are the backbone of the movement today are armed, or advocate actions that are beyond the bounds of the existing law—or both. This movement has had three identifiable waves.

The group that set the organizing template for both the 1990s militia movement and the most active elements of the current Patriot movement was the Posse Comitatus (Latin for “power of the county”). The proposed outline for the group was first published in 1971 by William Potter Gale, a self-proclaimed minister in the racist and antisemitic Christian Identity religion, which holds that Jews are children of Satan and people of color are “mud people.”10)Levitas, The Terrorist Next Door, 108. When the head of Gale’s church, Wesley Swift, died, the position was taken by Richard Butler. He moved the church to Idaho and renamed it Aryan Nations, and the church became a major player the 1980s and 1990s neo-Nazi scene. Gale, a veteran of several Hard Right groups, developed a new politics of White supremacy and antisemitism that took a different direction than post-war U.S. neo-Nazism, which at the time was still a newcomer to the political scene. Instead of seeking an authoritarian, centralized state government with references to mid-nineteenth century European political imagery and promises of active government intervention, Gale promoted a vision of radical decentralization that relied on the founding symbols and texts of the U.S. liberal system. Gale’s vision of White supremacy was dressed up in the Constitution and cowboy imagery—not Mein Kampf and swastika armbands.

Gale’s vision of White supremacy was dressed up in the Constitution and cowboy imagery—not Mein Kampf and swastika armbands.

Gale’s Posse Comitatus was based on his own beliefs about the law, which combined an idiosyncratic reading of the Constitution, the Bible, and Anglo-Saxon common law. The most important claim of Posse Comitatus was that county sheriffs could decide which laws were constitutional—something that would allow them to ignore federal laws at a time when civil rights and environmental protection legislation were being passed. (This fixation on fighting the federal government is what helped it gain such wide appeal.) Gale’s primary concept on sheriffs’ authority eventually included the notion that sheriffs could reject Constitutional Amendments as well—especially the 14th, which would strip citizenship from many people of color.

Posse Comitatus also advocated setting up fake courts as part of the prefigurative legal system it envisioned. These “common law courts,” composed of movement adherents, claimed they had the legal right to try and sentence standing officials, typically for treason. In effect, they were kangaroo courts, which hold their trials in absentia (who would show up to one?), and have only been known to pass out guilty verdicts. The threatened punishments have ranged from issuing fines to execution.11)For threats of execution, see Neiwert, In God’s Country, 102, 175, 198, 223; for threats of kidnapping, see Levitas, The Terrorist Next Door, 305. This idiosyncratic reading of constitutional law later became the Sovereign Citizen movement.

A significant, more intellectual, part of the movement was the Hard Right anti-Communist John Birch Society, founded in 1958. The group promoted conspiracy theories that were based on old antisemitic tropes but which no longer named Jews as the agents of conspiracy. For example, they claimed the United States was controlled by a secret cabal of Communists who planned to implement an authoritarian New World Order. Still in existence today, the John Birch Society continues to promote Patriot movement staples such as the authority of the county sheriff to judge the constitutionality of laws and advocate the transfer of federally owned lands.

The Posse Comitatus experienced a revival during the 1980s farm crisis. An increase in interest rates by the Federal Reserve—from single digits to an average of 15.3 percent, and often higher—as well as changes in the international agricultural industry, led to widespread foreclosures of small farms, especially in the Midwest.12)Brian Lamm, “Banking and the Agricultural Problems of the 1980s,” FDIC, accessed October 10, 2016, www.fdic. gov/bank/historical/history/259_290. pdf. This is chapter 8 of the first volume of FDIC, History of the Eighties – Lessons for the Future, originally published in 1997; www.fdic.gov/bank/historical/ history/index.html. A protest movement, led by the American Agriculture Movement, arose in response. Their tactics included “tractorcades,” where thousands of farmers would drive tractors into urban areas as demonstrations, and “penny auctions,” where they tried to sabotage auctions of foreclosed farms. While the farm crisis affected thousands of farmers, a portion of the protesters were drawn to the Posse Comitatus politics, which claimed that an international conspiracy of Jewish bankers (who supposedly controlled the Federal Reserve) had dispossessed farmers of their land. By then the name “Christian Patriots”—a label which “said who they were without exposing them to quite as much criticism or surveillance” as Posse Comitatus, Levitas writes—had come into common use for the movement.13)Levitas, The Terrorist Next Door, 257

The 1990s militia movement, which formed the second wave of the Patriot movement, called for the formation of locally based militias to fend off looming tyranny—usually conceived of as a coming invasion by the United Nations, or domination by a secret cabal of elites. Although still present, those who openly espoused racist and antisemitic ideas were now a minority in the movement. The tactics and political goals remained the same, although the ideas of the John Birch Society had now become more prominent than the Christian Identity beliefs that animated the earlier movement. This second wave brought a mixture of different groups together, including White separatists, gun rights activists, right-wing tax protestors, anti-abortion activists, and Sovereign Citizens.

Then, as today, veterans were targets of recruitment by the movement—treated as objects of special veneration who could provide military training to other participants.

Starting in 1994, the militia movement expanded rapidly. Opposition to the Brady Bill, a 1993 gun control law, helped catalyze the movement. But many adherents were inspired by two incidents widely seen as evidence of federal government overreach or even tyranny. Then, as today, veterans were targets of recruitment by the movement—treated as objects of special veneration who could provide military training to other participants. The first was Ruby Ridge, a 1992 standoff between the FBI and the Weaver family, White separatists and Christian Identity followers in Idaho. During the 11-day standoff, two members of the family and one FBI agent were killed. The second was the 1993 siege of the compound of the Branch Davidian sect in Waco, Texas, where a total of 84 people died in a botched raid by the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF), which was followed by a standoff that lasted almost two months. Timothy McVeigh’s 1995 Oklahoma City bombing was retaliation for these incidents, as he made clear in a letter just before his execution.14)Tracy McVeigh, “The McVeigh letters: Why I bombed Oklahoma,” Guardian, May 6, 2001, www.theguardian.com/world/2001/may/06/mcveigh. usa. One side effect was that, even as the federal government amped up its infiltration of militia groups, it also apparently adopted a very hands-off policy in dealing with majority-White, Hard Right groups in order to avoid a repeat of these two tragedies, and the reaction that resulted. This practice has affected standoffs in recent years.

At its height, the militia movement had 20,000–60,000 active members, and perhaps five million people who agreed with its basic worldview. It was able to attract supporters in Washington, D.C., including U.S. Representatives Steve Stockman (R-TX) and Helen Chenoweth-Hage (R-ID). There were also state and local legislators like Colorado State Representative and Senator Charlie Duke.15)Kenneth S. Stern, A Force Upon the Plain: The American Militia Movement and the Politics of Hate (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997), 212–17. Gary Johnson, the 2016 Libertarian Party presidential candidate, even had a disturbing meeting with the militias in 1995 when he was New Mexico’s governor. Occurring about a week after the Oklahoma City bombing, Johnson emerged to call them “very patriotic” and say he shared their views about federal government overreach.16)Kenneth S. Stern, A Force Upon the Plain: The American Militia Movement and the Politics of Hate (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997), 215. But after George W. Bush’s 2000 election win—and then, even more so after 9/11—the movement, which has always been strongest in opposition to a Democratic administration, declined.

In late 2008, with the election of Barack Obama, the movement sprang back to life with a third wave. New organizations emerged, but they still promoted the doctrines that the county sheriff should interpret the Constitution; that most of the federal government was unconstitutional; and that it was essential to form paramilitaries and a parallel legal apparatus, such as movement-controlled court systems, in order to replace the current structure of government. After 2008 it became rare to find open, ideological White supremacist (or separatist) views among those in leadership positions. Islamophobia also largely supplanted antisemitism, with Muslims replacing Jews in recycled demonizing narratives.

THE NEW WAVE

While organized militias, which were popular in the 1990s, are still around, they are no longer the central organizing force of the movement. Since 2008, Patriot movement activists who engage in armed organizing, or other actions that overstep the law, usually fall into five main groups. The Oath Keepers are a membership-based organization of current and former police, military, and first responders who swear to “defend the Constitution.” (Others can join as associate members.) Oath Keepers swear not to enforce 10 hypothetical orders—mostly derived from staple right-wing conspiracy theories about how the U.S. government will disarm civilians and herd them into concentration camps to facilitate a foreign invasion. The organization attempts to operate within the law while also being armed, and to portray themselves as a cross between a veterans’ group and a community service organization. They were present at the Bundy Ranch standoff; sent members to Ferguson, Missouri, during protests against police killings; tried to recruit at Occupy Wall Street events; and offered to guard Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis when she refused to register same-sex marriages.17)Spencer Sunshine with Rural Organizing Project and Political Research Associates, Up in Arms: A Guide to Oregon’s Patriot Movement (Somerville: Political Research Associates, 2016), www.po – liticalresearch.org/up-in-arms, 7, 20.

5groupsFounded in 2009 by Stewart Rhodes, who had been an aide to former U.S. Representative Ron Paul (R-TX), the Oath Keepers are estimated to have just over 2,000 members (they claim a membership of 40,000). Rhodes, a graduate of Yale Law School, illustrates how cross-class this movement is, despite the stereotype of it being mostly poor, rural, and uneducated White people.

An affiliated group, the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association (CSPOA), is led by former Arizona county sheriff Richard Mack, who is also on the board of directors of the Oath Keepers. Mack became a hero of the Hard Right in the 1990s when he won a Supreme Court ruling that backed his argument that local law enforcement does not need to enforce the provision of the Brady Act, which required them to perform gun sale background checks.18)Ryan Lenz, “Former Arizona Sheriff Richard Mack Seeks ‘Army’ of Sheriffs to Resist Federal Authority,” Southern Poverty Law Center, November 11, 2012, www.splcenter.org/fightinghate/intelligence-report/2012/formerarizona-sheriff-richard-mack-seeks- ‘army’-sheriffs-resist-federal-authority. Like Posse Comitatus, Mack believes sheriffs can refuse to enforce federal laws, and decide whether amendments are constitutional. He has worked with Randy Weaver, the White separatist whose family was killed at Ruby Ridge, and previously worked for the radical group Gun Owners of America. The CSPOA refuses to make its membership list public, but it may include dozens of county sheriffs (they claim 400), in addition to other members.

One of those in the CSPOA’s orbit is Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, whom the group named their “Sheriff of the Year” in 2013. A speaker at the 2016 Republican National Convention and a frequent commentator on Fox News, he has called Black Lives Matter “purveyors of hate” and “black slime,” and tweeted, “Before long, Black Lies Matter will join forces with ISIS to being down our legal constituted republic” (sic). He has also made comments that imply he would welcome an armed revolutionary movement against gun seizures.19)“Sheriff David Clarke: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know,” Heavy, July 18 (updated August 15), 2016, http://heav y.com/news/2016/07/sheriff-david-clarke-milwaukee-blacklives-matter-republican-nationalconvention-you-tube-cnn-quotesdon-lemon-guns-baton-rouge-trump; Katherine Krueger, “Frequent Fox News Guest: ‘Black Lives Matter Will Join Forces With ISIS,” Talking Points Memo, October 28, 2015, http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/sheriff-davidclarke-black-lives-matter-isis; David
Neiwert, “Sheriff David Clarke Plays a Straight-Talking Cop on Cable TV, But His Agenda Springs From Far-Right Extremism,” Southern Poverty Law Center, October 30, 2015, www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2015/10/30/sheriff-david-clarke-plays-straight-talking-copcable-tv-his-agenda-springs-far-right.

The Three Percenters were co-founded in 2008 by Mike Vanderboegh, a 1990s militia activist, as a more decentralized version of the militias, which many believe are heavily infiltrated by law enforcement. Anyone can independently declare themself a Three Percenter, although there are organized local and national groups as well. This model of “leaderless resistance” creates a more difficult political milieu to infiltrate than standing, membership-based organizations, and illegal actions can then be taken with a greater level of anonymity. The name refers to the mythical portion of American colonialists who were said to have taken up arms against the British during the American Revolution. Three Percenters swear that they will forcefully resist new gun regulations—a promise that brings to mind Trump’s unnamed “Second Amendment people.” In general they have a similar ideology to the Oath Keepers, although with a greater focus on Islamophobia, and they tend to attract the more violent members of the movement. (Some Three Percenters are reported to have also joined the Soldiers of Odin, an anti-immigrant vigilante patrol group founded by Finnish neo-Nazis and recently active in the United States as well.)

Another grouping, the Sovereign Citizens, also follow the crank legal theories first developed by Posse Comitatus. They believe most federal laws do not apply to them. The growth of a new wave of Sovereigns, as they are called, may have been spurred by the economic crisis starting in 2008; some have attempted to declare ownership of houses that underwent foreclosures. There are an estimated 100,000 “hardcore” Sovereigns, and 200,000 additional sympathizers. While there is clearly a large audience for these ideas, organized groups only play a minor role.20)The organizations include the Republic for the united States of America, the National Liberty Alliance, and the new Continental Court System of the United States. Many websites and videos promote these fake legal theories, while individuals—known as “gurus”—who spread their own versions of Sovereign Citizen ideas go on speaking tours to cultivate followers.

Their tactics vary. Some file false liens against political opponents, engage in tax scams and fraud. Some set up their own courts and declare themselves judges. (At least two fake courts, overseen by self-proclaimed judges and targeting federal employees, were initiated by those connected to the Malheur occupation.) Some, like Scott Roeder, who assassinated abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, refuse to put valid license plates on their cars. Others have killed law enforcement officers, including Joseph and Jerry Kane, who in 2010 killed two police officers in West Memphis, Arkansas, before dying in a shootout.21)J.J. MacNab, “‘Sovereign’ Citizen Kane,” Southern Poverty Law Center, August 1, 2010, www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2010/sovereign-citizen-kane.

Despite the movement’s origins in the racist Right, today there are also a number of Black sovereigns. Veteran Gavin Long, the sniper who killed three police officers and wounded three others during a July 2016 Black Lives Matter march in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was part of a group influenced by Sovereign Citizen ideology.22)Brandon Ellington Patterson, “Baton Rouge Cop Killer Was a ‘Sovereign Citizen.’ What the Heck Is That?,” Mother Jones, July 20, 2016, www. motherjones.com/politics/2016/07/ gavin-long-sovereign-citizen-possecomitatus-patriot-militias.

The size of these various wings of the movement is difficult to estimate. If based on the self-reporting of the CSPOA and the Oath Keepers, and online social media membership of Three Percenter group, it would appear that they represent a combined total of 130,000 activists—but this number is doubtlessly wildly inflated. It’s likely that their real numbers are between a quarter and a tenth of this.23)This upward figure is based on Richard Mack claiming the CSPOA has 5,000 members, the Oath Keepers claim of 40,000, and an analysis of closed online Three Percenter groups, showing a total membership of 85,000. (This is in separate from the estimate that there are 100,000 active Sovereign Citizens, and 200,000 sympathizers.) Even at these high numbers, there is a significant crossover of membership as well, lowering the total. See Rachel Tabachnick, “Profile on the Right: Oath Keepers,” Political Research Associates, April 23, 2015, http://www. politicalresearch.org/2015/04/23/ profile-on-the-right-oathkeepers; Mark Potok and Ryan Lenz, “Line in the Sand,” Southern Poverty Law Center, June 13, 2016, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2016/line-sand; Devin Burghart, “Oregon Standoff Fuels Growth of the Three Percenters (IREHR),” February 3, 2016, IREHR, http://www.irehr. org/2016/02/03/2415; “Sovereign Citizens Movement,” Southern Poverty Law Center, www.splcenter.org/ fighting-hate/extremist-files/ideology/ sovereign-citizens-movement. The movement is spread across the United States; in certain Western states, it has the character of a mass movement with some level of popular support, including in Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Utah, and Arizona. (For a detailed analysis of the Oregon movement, see the Political Research Associates and Rural Organizing Project report Up in Arms: A Guide to Oregon’s Patriot Movement.24)Sunshine, et al., Up in Arms)

THE MOVEMENT TODAY

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, this third wave peaked in 2011, before declining over the next several years. But when rancher Cliven Bundy staged his Nevada standoff in April 2014, over his longstanding financial dispute over grazing fees with the Bureau of Land Management, the movement swelled to his defense. When federal authorities came to seize Bundy’s cattle, Bundy called in his Patriot movement allies, which included armed Oath Keepers and Three Percenters. After a brief armed standoff, federal agents retreated—apparently following the government’s playbook instituted after Waco and Ruby Ridge.

For almost two years, there were no arrests and Bundy continued to not pay his grazing fees. Perhaps for the first time in the movement’s history, it appeared that the armed Patriot movement strategy—of deploying paramilitaries to stop the federal government from enforcing laws they opposed—had succeeded. This victory, achieved without casualties, inspired a sudden upsurge in movement activity and made the Bundys into movement icons.

For years, Republicans have attempted to transfer federally owned lands—which account for almost 50 percent of the land in 11 Western states—to state or county governments, effectively privatizing them in order to circumvent regulations on logging, mining, ranching, and development.25)The federal government controls 46.9 percent of the land in 11 western states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. See Carol Hardy Vincent, Laura A. Hanson, and Jerome P. Bjelopera, “Federal Land Ownership: Overview and Data,” Federation of American Scientists, December 29, 2014, 20, https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R42346. pdf, 20. Between the Bundy Ranch and Malheur wildlife refuge incidents, Patriot movement activists formed armed camps to support miners who were in conflict with federal agencies on at least two occasions. The first was in April 2015—the anniversary of the Bundy ranch standoff—at the Sugar Pine Mine in Josephine County, Oregon, and the second was at the White Hope Mine in Lincoln, Montana, in August 2015. Neither of these events garnered much national attention.

Ammon Bundy (left) at the Malheur occupation. Photo: Shawn Records.

Ammon Bundy (left) at the Malheur occupation. Photo: Shawn Records.

Then on January 2, 2016, Patriot movement activists held a march in a remote Oregon town to protest an unusual prison sentence for two local ranchers who had been convicted under the 1996 Terrorism Act for starting fires on federal land where they had grazing rights. At the end of the march, a small group of armed activists from other states—including Cliven Bundy’s sons Ammon and Ryan Bundy, as well as well-known Islamophobic organizer Jon Ritzheimer—occupied the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, where one of the fires had burned. They demanded the ranchers be freed, and the refuge be transferred to county control. They occupied the refuge for 41 days and engaged in an intense, unsuccessful struggle to win local community support for their efforts. One militant was killed when he refused to surrender at a police checkpoint. Those involved in the earlier Nevada standoff, including Cliven Bundy, were then also arrested. Twenty-six people were originally arrested for the Malheur Refuge occupation, and seven went to trial in September 2016; as of October 17, the trials are ongoing. The Bundy Ranch standoff trials are slated to begin in February 2017.

THE PATRIOT MOVEMENT AND THE REPUBLICAN PARTY

In the past, the Patriot movement’s politics were considered extreme even by fellow conservatives. Today—coming on the tail of the armed takeover of federal property—it’s an increasingly popular grassroots movement in rural areas of several Western states where there are high levels of federal land ownership. The Republican Party mainstream is moving into alignment with the politics, if not the tactics, of the Patriot movement. Some elected officials are open sympathizers, such as Nevada State Representative Michele Fiore, who helped negotiate the surrender of the last of the Malheur Refuge occupiers. When hardline Patriot movement activists ran in the May 2016 Republican primary in Oregon—the state where the Malheur takeover occurred—almost none advanced to the November election. However, members of the movement did move into the state’s Republican Party apparatus itself. Many Patriots had run for positions as Precinct Committee People, the lowest level officials in the party. At the state’s June 2016 party convention, a number of them took seats in the party infrastructure. One of them, Joseph Rice, then the state’s most prominent Oath Keeper, became a delegate to the July 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland. On the convention floor he unveiled a small banner emblazed with “Free the Bundys.”26)“Oregon Republican Party Delegate Selection Convention OFFICIAL RESULTS of the elections for National Convention Delegate-Elector-Con – gressional District Officer Elections as of June 20th, 2016,” Oregon GOP, accessed October 10, 2016, https:// oregon.gop/2016-official-resultsnational-convention-delegate-electorcd-officer; @transform6789, Twitter, August 6, 2016, 10:03 AM, https:// twitter.com/transform6789/status/761970990289223682.

Sign during the January 2, 2016 march in Burns, OR, claims that the Hammond family are allegedly victims of the Agenda 21 conspiracy. Photo: Jason Wilson.

Sign during the January 2, 2016 march in Burns, OR, claims that the Hammond family are allegedly victims of the Agenda 21 conspiracy. Photo: Jason Wilson.

While the tactics of the Patriot movement are not yet mainstream, the Republican Party platform has embraced the guiding conspiracy theories of the movement, noting that, “We emphatically reject U.N. Agenda 21 as erosive of U.S. sovereignty, and we oppose any form of Global Tax.” A new plank now also calls for the immediate transfer of federal land to state governments.27)“Republican Platform 2016,” Republican National Committee, https:// prod-static-ngop-pbl.s3.amazonaws. com/media/documents/DRAFT_12_ FINAL%5B1%5D-ben_1468872234. pdf, 51. The Patriot movement’s xenophobic scapegoating and Islamophobia, taboo in mainstream circles even a year ago, have become part of mainstream political discourse.

If Trump is elected, it’s possible that the Patriot movement’s most militant tendencies might subside as supporters see their politics represented on a national level—along the lines of what happened with George W. Bush’s win in 2000. (Alternately, it could expand if he provides a warm ideological home for them, possibly turning a blind eye to, or even encouraging, illegal actions—although politicians often became more moderate once they are actually in power.)

If Trump fails to become president, some Patriot movement activists may turn to an armed struggle approach: the “second American Revolution” they’ve long threatened to carry out. For years, the movement’s tactics have largely been in support of what they call “defensive” positions, such as defending Cliven Bundy’s ranch from perceived federal intrusion. By contrast, the Malheur refuge occupation seemed to be a shift towards occupier Robert “LaVoy” Finicum was an assassination by law enforcement, giving the movement a modern martyr. As Trump has sown the rhetorical seeds to legitimize revolutionary action, there is the possibility that escalated tactics could follow. If Hillary Clinton is elected, and her victory is portrayed by right-wing media as a stolen election, and she does promote further gun control measures—especially by executive orders or nominating a Supreme Court justice who supports them—armed revolt, by at least some members of this movement, would certainly be among the plausible outcomes.

About the Author

Spencer Sunshine is an Associate Fellow at PRA and is the lead author of the joint PRA/Rural Organizing Project report Up in Arms: A Guide to Oregon’s Patriot Movement. An earlier version of this article appeared in German in Der Rechte Rand #161.

References   [ + ]

1. . Jeremy Diamond, “Trump: ‘I’m afraid the election’s going to be rigged’,” CNN, August 2, 2016, www.cnn.com/2016/08/01/politics/donaldtrump-election-2016-rigged.
2. Rebecca Savransky, “Trump to supporters: ‘Go out and watch’ on Election Day,” The Hill, August 22, 2016, http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/ presidential-races/donald-trumprigged-system-hillary-clinton-go-outand-watch-you-know-what-im-talkingabout.
3. Eli Watkins and Rachel Chason,
“Trump campaign doubles down on election fraud claims,” CNN, August 13, 2016, http://www.cnn.com/2016/08/12/politics/donaldtrump-pennsylvania-cheating; Jack
Holmes, “Donald Trump: ‘The 2nd Amendment People’ Can Do Something
to Stop Hillary Clinton,” Esquire, August 9, 2016, www.esquire.com/newspolitics/videos/a47491/donald-trumphints-at-hillary-clinton-assassination.
4. Travis Gettys, “Georgia voter predicts civil war if Clinton wins: ‘Patriots are going to overthrow the government’,” Raw Story, September 26, 2016, www. rawstory.com/2016/09/georgia-voter-predicts-civil-war-if-clinton-winspatriots-are-going-to-overthrow-thegovernment.
5. Chip Berlet and Matthew Lyons, Right-Wing Populism in America (New York: Guilford Press, 2000), 287.
6. FBI, “The Oklahoma City Bombing 20 Years Later,” accessed October 15, 2016, https://stories.fbi.gov/oklahoma-bombing.
7. Daniel Levitas, The Terrorist Next Door: The Militia Movement and the Radical Right (New York: Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Griffin, 2002), 10.
8. David A. Neiwert, In God’s Country: The Patriot Movement and the Pacific Northwest (Pullman, WA: Washington State University Press, 1999), 5.
9. Berlet and Lyons, Right-Wing Populism in America, 288–89.
10. Levitas, The Terrorist Next Door, 108. When the head of Gale’s church, Wesley Swift, died, the position was taken by Richard Butler. He moved the church to Idaho and renamed it Aryan Nations, and the church became a major player the 1980s and 1990s neo-Nazi scene.
11. For threats of execution, see Neiwert, In God’s Country, 102, 175, 198, 223; for threats of kidnapping, see Levitas, The Terrorist Next Door, 305.
12. Brian Lamm, “Banking and the Agricultural Problems of the 1980s,” FDIC, accessed October 10, 2016, www.fdic. gov/bank/historical/history/259_290. pdf. This is chapter 8 of the first volume of FDIC, History of the Eighties – Lessons for the Future, originally published in 1997; www.fdic.gov/bank/historical/ history/index.html.
13. Levitas, The Terrorist Next Door, 257
14. Tracy McVeigh, “The McVeigh letters: Why I bombed Oklahoma,” Guardian, May 6, 2001, www.theguardian.com/world/2001/may/06/mcveigh. usa.
15. Kenneth S. Stern, A Force Upon the Plain: The American Militia Movement and the Politics of Hate (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997), 212–17.
16. Kenneth S. Stern, A Force Upon the Plain: The American Militia Movement and the Politics of Hate (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1997), 215.
17. Spencer Sunshine with Rural Organizing Project and Political Research Associates, Up in Arms: A Guide to Oregon’s Patriot Movement (Somerville: Political Research Associates, 2016), www.po – liticalresearch.org/up-in-arms, 7, 20.
18. Ryan Lenz, “Former Arizona Sheriff Richard Mack Seeks ‘Army’ of Sheriffs to Resist Federal Authority,” Southern Poverty Law Center, November 11, 2012, www.splcenter.org/fightinghate/intelligence-report/2012/formerarizona-sheriff-richard-mack-seeks- ‘army’-sheriffs-resist-federal-authority.
19. “Sheriff David Clarke: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know,” Heavy, July 18 (updated August 15), 2016, http://heav y.com/news/2016/07/sheriff-david-clarke-milwaukee-blacklives-matter-republican-nationalconvention-you-tube-cnn-quotesdon-lemon-guns-baton-rouge-trump; Katherine Krueger, “Frequent Fox News Guest: ‘Black Lives Matter Will Join Forces With ISIS,” Talking Points Memo, October 28, 2015, http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/sheriff-davidclarke-black-lives-matter-isis; David
Neiwert, “Sheriff David Clarke Plays a Straight-Talking Cop on Cable TV, But His Agenda Springs From Far-Right Extremism,” Southern Poverty Law Center, October 30, 2015, www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2015/10/30/sheriff-david-clarke-plays-straight-talking-copcable-tv-his-agenda-springs-far-right.
20. The organizations include the Republic for the united States of America, the National Liberty Alliance, and the new Continental Court System of the United States.
21. J.J. MacNab, “‘Sovereign’ Citizen Kane,” Southern Poverty Law Center, August 1, 2010, www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2010/sovereign-citizen-kane.
22. Brandon Ellington Patterson, “Baton Rouge Cop Killer Was a ‘Sovereign Citizen.’ What the Heck Is That?,” Mother Jones, July 20, 2016, www. motherjones.com/politics/2016/07/ gavin-long-sovereign-citizen-possecomitatus-patriot-militias.
23. This upward figure is based on Richard Mack claiming the CSPOA has 5,000 members, the Oath Keepers claim of 40,000, and an analysis of closed online Three Percenter groups, showing a total membership of 85,000. (This is in separate from the estimate that there are 100,000 active Sovereign Citizens, and 200,000 sympathizers.) Even at these high numbers, there is a significant crossover of membership as well, lowering the total. See Rachel Tabachnick, “Profile on the Right: Oath Keepers,” Political Research Associates, April 23, 2015, http://www. politicalresearch.org/2015/04/23/ profile-on-the-right-oathkeepers; Mark Potok and Ryan Lenz, “Line in the Sand,” Southern Poverty Law Center, June 13, 2016, https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2016/line-sand; Devin Burghart, “Oregon Standoff Fuels Growth of the Three Percenters (IREHR),” February 3, 2016, IREHR, http://www.irehr. org/2016/02/03/2415; “Sovereign Citizens Movement,” Southern Poverty Law Center, www.splcenter.org/ fighting-hate/extremist-files/ideology/ sovereign-citizens-movement.
24. Sunshine, et al., Up in Arms
25. The federal government controls 46.9 percent of the land in 11 western states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming. See Carol Hardy Vincent, Laura A. Hanson, and Jerome P. Bjelopera, “Federal Land Ownership: Overview and Data,” Federation of American Scientists, December 29, 2014, 20, https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R42346. pdf, 20.
26. “Oregon Republican Party Delegate Selection Convention OFFICIAL RESULTS of the elections for National Convention Delegate-Elector-Con – gressional District Officer Elections as of June 20th, 2016,” Oregon GOP, accessed October 10, 2016, https:// oregon.gop/2016-official-resultsnational-convention-delegate-electorcd-officer; @transform6789, Twitter, August 6, 2016, 10:03 AM, https:// twitter.com/transform6789/status/761970990289223682.
27. “Republican Platform 2016,” Republican National Committee, https:// prod-static-ngop-pbl.s3.amazonaws. com/media/documents/DRAFT_12_ FINAL%5B1%5D-ben_1468872234. pdf, 51.

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.

 

Trump, Cruz, & Dominionism: Some Christian Right Leaders Fear a Crack-Up

The 2016 Republican presidential campaign has transformed American politics, likely forever. Everyone is making adjustments, but two recent illuminating episodes suggest that some Christian Right leaders are finding the changes to be unusually awkward and challenging.

trump cruzThe Christian Right, as a voting bloc, has never united behind a single candidate during the Republican presidential primaries (with the exception of Ronald Reagan’s and George W. Bush’s unopposed second-term races). Still, we tend to forget that the movement has never been monolithic and that there have always been political tensions between rival candidates and factions. But the factional tensions are different this year. And there are two main reasons for this.

The first tension is related to the unique, and uniquely divisive, candidacy of Donald Trump. Evangelical think tanker Michael Cromartie, in a curiously overwrought speech, widely-discussed in the evangelical press, has gone so far as to call it a conservative “crack-up.”  The second is the specter of Dominionism as it relates to Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) and his campaign. 

The Christian Post recently reported on the eyebrow-raising remarks of evangelical think tanker Michael Cromartie at a luncheon sponsored by the neoconservative Institute on Religion and Democracy in Washington DC.  (IRD is best known for its efforts to degrade the historic communions of mainline Protestantism.)  Cromartie runs the Evangelicals in Civic Life program at the Ethics and Public Policy Center (EPPC) in Washington, DC.

Cromartie is upset that the “new branding” of evangelicalism and the Christian Right is being ruined by evangelical and conservative leaders who support Trump. He said the movement has benefited from the rise of Jim Daly of Focus on the Family, and megachurch pastors and authors Tim Keller and Rick Warren. He believes that they better “present” the movement’s goals than such founding Christian Right figures as James Dobson, D. James Kennedy and Jerry Falwell, Sr.

But this rebranding, Cromartie says, has been undone because of the pro-Trump activities of noted Southern Baptists such as megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress, Liberty University president Jerry Falwell, Jr., and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.

The Christian Post continued:

“In the last six or seven or eight years, we now have new leaders to replace those leaders, so that it’s a new branding of evangelicals in our society,” Cromartie stated. “Now, that is all out the window, ladies and gentleman, when Jerry Falwell Jr. has the audacity to come out and endorse Donald Trump, when Robert Jeffress goes on and sells his soul every week on Fox News, encouraging the candidacy of Donald Trump.”

“If this is not a crack up,” Cromartie observed,” I don’t know what it is.”

As if to underscore his confusion about all this, Cromartie also cited blogger Matt Walsh, whose hyperbolic post “Let’s Remember The Cowardly Conservative Leaders Who Betrayed Us For Trump” leaves readers with little doubt that the faction fighting is getting bitter.

Speaking of Falwell and Jeffress, Walsh declared:

“They now promote Trump in direct defiance of Scripture, which clearly stipulates that anyone who desires to be a leader must be noble, respectable, temperate, and dignified (and probably not someone who brags about his adultery and thinks the nation’s largest abortion provider is ‘wonderful [sic]).  To claim Trump belongs in any of these categories is blasphemy.”

“Our ‘leaders’” he continued, “have subjugated themselves to the American Kim Jong Un simply for the publicity and the ratings and the chance to be friends with a billionaire celebrity.”

Meanwhile, the candidacy of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and his unexpected emergence as the leading candidate of both the Christian Right and much of the GOP establishment as an alternative to Trump is causing the movement other kinds of indigestion.

Catholic neoconservative strategist Robert P. George is apparently worried about how voters will react to the way Senator Cruz relates his religious views to public policy. Specifically, he is worried about Ted Cruz and Dominionism.

At the beginning of the presidential primary season four years ago, the Christian Right was similarly worried that Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) were receiving press attention for their well-established involvements in the theocratic politics of Dominionism.

In that race, those two candidates both dropped out early. But with Cruz actually having a shot at the nomination, George apparently hopes to squelch the emerging discussion about Cruz and Dominionism before it goes any further. This may be why he was featured in a recent article in Christianity Today, which sought to smear researchers who have published about Cruz’s dominionist roots, namely evangelical historian John Fea, evangelical psychology professor Warren Throckmorton, Daily Beast writer Jay Michaelson, and myself.

In the article, George claimed:

“The contemporary religious Left’s version of McCarthyist red-baiting is to smear opponents by labeling them ‘dominionists.’ … Ted’s not a dominionist; he’s a constitutionalist.”

This is as silly as it is wrong.  What’s more, although former PRA Senior Analyst Chip Berlet and I may have defined and popularized the terms “Dominionism” and “dominionist” in the 90s as a way to describe a tendency that is evident across a wide swath of evangelicalism, we have always sought to apply it fairly and accurately.

Nevertheless, George and the authors of the article did not offer a single example of the supposedly McCarthyist-style uses of the term by those of us named in the article or anyone else.

Also ignored by the authors and George is the fact that the term was part of the debate about Christian Reconstructionism in the evangelical community for years before Berlet and I used it for wider publics.1  The term has also been objectively employed in many scholarly books and articles.

As I recently told journalist Bill Berkowitz, who wrote about the discussion of Cruz and Dominionism for Truthout, “The question of whether Cruz is a Dominionist will linger because the available evidence suggests that he is.” John Fea has detailed how, in addition to Cruz’s own statements, Cruz’s father Rafael (who is also his principal campaign surrogate) is openly a 7 Mountains Dominionist, as is the head of Cruz’s Super PAC – revisionist historian David Barton. One of Cruz’s foreign policy advisers, Jerry Boykin of the Family Research Council, is also a well-known 7 Mountains Dominionist and a longtime board member of a 7 Mountains political project called The Oak Initiative.

The public debate about the Christian Right is usually limited to the tripartite agenda of what they term “life, marriage, and religious liberty” as put forth in The Manhattan Declaration.  But their agenda has always been broader and deeper than that, which is why Robert P. George, the principal author of the Declaration (and current Vice Chairman of EPPC) does not want to risk us talking about the political and economic dimensions of what they mean by “taking dominion” over society. This, combined with the bitterness of some about evangelical support for Trump, may very well signal a period of disunity rather than the politically homogenized evangelicalism preferred by Washington, DC think tanks and power brokers.


 

[1]  These usages are discussed in Christian Reconstructionism:  R.J. Rushdoony and American Religious Conservatism by Michael J. McVicar, University of North Carolina Press, 2015.; page 204.