The alt-right is all the rage these days as a point of attack. The rage was spurred on by two incidents- one monumental and one absolutely trivial. The trivial one is being called Salutegate or Heilgate which really disturbs and royally pisses off this writer every time some news outlet uses the “-gate” suffix. During an annual meeting of the National Policy Institute which is run by Richard Spencer, they saluted the election of Trump with a Nazi-like salute. This was portrayed as proof-positive to the Left that Donald Trump was a stealth card-carrying neo-Nazi in bad hair and orange glow.
These same outlets are ignorant of the fact that the gathering was a collection of about 200 miscreants and nothing more. Trump later sort of denounced the NPI and the alt-right, or at least the more radical elements of it. Regardless, a trip to any of the many alt-right websites reveals that Trump is still considered their Lord, God, and Savior. One website has his face photo-shopped onto that of Charlemagne and another onto Napoleon. Despite Trump’s denials, they (the alt-right) still deifies him.
As many on this website are aware, this writer does not view Trump as a conservative. And to the extent he may be influenced- knowingly or unknowingly- by the alt-right, a deep analysis of that movement reveals further proof that Trump is not conservative since the alt-right is not conservative. In fact, they share much in common with any ideology other than conservatism.
The alt-right’s philosophical underpinning belief of radical realism is akin to the Left’s belief in racial/sexual microagression nonsense. The Left has their white privilege education seminars; the alt-right has their “red pill.” They both may attempt to make arguments and provide examples, but at the end we are inevitably left with the impression we were fed a load of “bulls#@!.”
Both the Left and the alt-right are great at manipulating the media. In the Left’s case, except for a few outlets, they largely control the mainstream media. Instead of being the purveyors of news and distributors of facts where the populace can make up their own minds, they become the gatekeepers and the pundit class does the analysis for us. Likewise, the alt-right clearly manipulates social media through the dissemination of silly memes, attention grabbing Tweets, and the propagation of conspiracy theories.
On the economic front, there are the obvious differences. Entitlement reform is basically absent from alt-right beliefs and those that propose true conservative reforms are criticized and denigrated. In fact, they mostly advocate for the expansion of the social welfare state, but with a caveat- it should only be for those they deem worthy which usually translates into only white people of European lineage.
This is evident in their trade policies. There is a lot to be said about the effects of globalization, and facts showing that on the whole free trade has been a net plus, they care less about these abstractions. In their Utopia, Americans buy only from Americans even if the product is exorbitantly expensive and/or inferior in quality. In fact, this economic isolationism extends to their foreign policy which rejects the exceptionalism of the United States and the role this country plays in the world. In their Utopia, there are imaginary spheres of influence where the US is responsible basically for the United States and little more and cares less about Chinese influence in the Pacific or Russian influence in Europe.
But, these are the areas of visceral concern. There are deeper, philosophical differences between the alt-right and true conservatism. It is here that we see practically a mirror-image with those on the Left. Go to most any alt-right website and besides the obligatory article dressed up in language to make it look “intellectual” you will find the inevitable article decrying the influence of the Jewish lobby in the United States. When not expressing these ideas, there are articles describing Israel as an apartheid state. You may even find an article supporting the Left’s “Boycott, Divest & Sanction” campaign against Israel. Whereas the Left portrays their disdain for Israel as a human rights issue in support of Palestinians, the alt-right’s bare naked anti-Semitism is the motivation. Yet, the results are the same- abandonment of Israel because the US is a “Zionist Occupied Government.”
True conservatism looks to the Constitution for guidance. The alt-right would rather shred the Constitution and use other means to advance their agenda. That is because they know that piece of parchment places seriously roadblocks in the way of their agenda. Right now, one website is contemplating the division of the United States into various “states” or “countries,” each one defined by an ethnicity- black, white and Hispanic. This is that to which they aspire. That is because the alt-right believes that there are serious biologically-based differences between races and ethnicities and that nothing can overcome them. Is this true conservatism?
Of course, the Constitution stands in the way of their Utopia. They would never support a Presidential candidate like Ted Cruz who looks to the Constitution and the ideals within that document because they do not believe at their core that “all men are created equal.” They may rail against Obama’s overreach with his executive orders, but it is not based upon any rational philosophy other than it was overreach by a black President whose executive orders tended to benefit non-whites (such as DACA) or members of the LGBT community. But, rest assured they will celebrate any Trump executive order that advances their agenda. To the true conservative, the Legislative branch enacts laws and the Executive enforces them. Not so with the alt-right; it makes no difference as long as it meshes with their worldview.
And that is the biggest similarity between the Left and the alt-right. The over-reliance on identity politics cost Hillary Clinton the election, but what is the alt-right but identity politics? There is, philosophically, nothing inherently wrong with the concept of nationalism. Every country is nationalist to some extent and most citizens are proud of their country or lineage. Sometimes, nationalism is the glue that holds a country together during periods of crisis. Sometimes it becomes silly…usually every four years during the Olympics or soccer World Cup.
It is when nationalism becomes hyphenated that it becomes dangerous and rife with pitfalls as Clinton found out. Hyphenated nationalism is nothing but identity politics plain and simple. Unlike the Left which relies on a coalition of hyphenated groups (Hispanic-Americans, African Americans, Gay-Americans, etc.), the alt-right depends on a sliver of one group- White-Americans. True conservatism realizes there is only one group- Americans. As such, true conservatism is actually more pro-American and more truly nationalistic than the alt-right.
Like most things, there may be shreds of truth in the rantings of the alt-right. Wanton acceptance of refugees from particular parts of the world certainly increase the chances of terrorists slipping through the cracks. Open borders certainly place a strain on many social services and the educational system. Involvement in foreign wars where no American interests are at stake certainly place a strain on the Treasury and cost lives and blood. Multiculturalism has, to a certain degree, weakened the common bonds of being “American.” Black Lives Matter is a radical black nationalist movement. But, the alt-right’s solution to these truths are simple and simple-minded despite their attempts at intellectual justification.
Most importantly, true conservatism does not resort to these silly simple ideas because it is based on an idea that reflects the ideals of this country, not the ethnicity of it’s Founders. The United States has been a beacon for millions because of our ideals not because of restrictions on those ideals, or a rejection of them.
As long as there are illusory enemies to attack and denigrate and populist drums to bang, the alt-right will share more with the American Left than they do with true conservatism. The alt-right may call themselves the true conservatives and they may convince themselves they are in their insulated echo chambers of the Internet, but they share very little with conservatism. Their rendition is nothing new and exciting. Countries have been down their road before and historical outcomes are not on their side.