First, what is the alt-right? I'm not going to spend a great deal of time defining the alt-right because others have done a very good job of doing so and being reasonably fair in their assessment. For those interested, see GotNews definition or Sargon of Akkad's piece on the alt-right. For those who like a simplistic definition the one from Wikipedia does an okay job, though I think the concept of the alt-right is far more complicated and more international than they give credit for:
For starters, I became interested in the alt-right as a political phenomenon because I'm a political scientist and the birth of any new political movement is academically interesting. But I first heard about what could be called the alt-right not in American politics but in European politics. The European variation is evidence that the west my be moving in the direction of a new, populist, and possibly authoritarian direction as a result of internationalist policies that include the erasing of borders, the harboring of immigrants, and the labeling anyone who takes issue with the behavior of Muslim migrants as Islamophobic. This despite many Muslims in Britain, Belgium and Germany bragging openly that those countries will be under Sharia law by mid-century. In Germany this has taken the form of a new segregation in some quarters, with train cars being assigned to men and women exclusively in at least one case. The cases of Rotherham and the New Years attacks across Europe that lead to many cases of sexual assault conducted by Muslims across Europe create fertile conditions for the rise of 'far right' political parties, as in the results of the recent Austrian elections. In the UK, moderates and conservatives have been trickling out of the Tory party for UKIP, a party focused on Britain leaving the EU and halting migration.
There has been an obvious rise in far right political parties in Europe since the advent of the Great Recession. At the time much of the success of these parties was blamed on the various currency and employment crises. John Oliver did a bit about this and reiterated this line on his national broadcast. Yet a driving force for the rise of these parties was the influx of immigrants from non-European countries. To be nakedly and brutally honest, these immigrants were largely Muslims from authoritarian countries with hideously illiberal cultures. Combined with an economic downturn and incompetent political response, an environment was created that has traditionally allowed 'far right' parties to emerge.
Maybe I'm speaking in generalities so here are a few concrete examples. In Hungary Jobbik has risen to power amidst rising immigration and economic stagnation. Like virtually every other 'radical right' party, Jobbik calls for national sovereignty and self determination. The European models are often if not always strikingly anti-EU, and strongly in favor of halting immigration. Jobbik's official website cite the demographic decline of Europe and the official remedy through limitless immigration as the source of increased tensions in Europe. "'"We urge the government to take immediate action, zero tolerance is needed and the overly liberal immigration system must be limited." pointed out Z. Kárpát Dániel. Jobbik wants to know how much of Hungarian taxpayers' money is spent on the maintenance of the non-restricted or semi-restricted refugee camps, on their health care services as well as what security risks Hungarian citizens are subjected to."
Hungary is the poster child for right wing race-based politics but other places, including Greece, have become prominent in far-right politics with the rise of Golden Dawn. The party gets labeled as 'Neo Nazi,' which may be fair given the obsession with Nazi imagery and 1930s Greek rightist nationalism. To their credit, Golden Dawn leadership openly calls for a return to military dictatorship in Greece instead of masking their intentions in some kind of call to traditionalism.
What's this have to do with the US alt-right? Honestly, not much. Social Justice Warriors have mindlessly repeated the charge that Donald Trump is an alt-right candidate, partially because the alt-right supports him despite his generally moderate position on most issues. His most closely-aligned positions are calls for restricting access to the US for Muslims (even an outright ban) and the building of the Great Wall of Trump. This, however, is a far cry from traditional extreme rightist positions. Trump is called a nationalist despite his pro-America rhetoric being in-line with previous Republican presidents who spoke about the greatness of America. Perhaps his rhetoric seems out of place because the current administration rarely engages in American exceptionalism.
The American alt-right is a hodgepodge of anti-Semites, intellectual racists (those racists who claim scientific legitimacy in racism), as well as more extreme anti-feminists such as Men's Rights Activists and other groups opposed to the radical agenda of the extreme feminist left. One extreme, it seems, breeds another. This is why I repeatedly say that Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are very, very similar candidates, as both are populists that appeal to voters outside the traditional mainstream of American politics.
It is this rising tide of populism that concerns me. I do think the future will be, at least briefly, alt-right....especially if Donald Trump is kept out of the White House using weird electoral tricks like the recent alliance between Ted Cruz and John Kasich. The next demagogue, either right or left, will be a far different beast than either Trump or Sanders. To quote a great piece from the American Thinker, Aristotle warned about the dangers of democracy and how, inevitably, they fell into despotism at the hands of a demagogue. ""Democracies, says Aristotle, tend to be pulled in one direction: toward a vilification of everything involving merit, hierarchy, inequality, proportion, and worth. For Aristotle, this type of democratic "energy" actually begins at birth: "People are prone to think that the fact of their all being equally free-born means that they are all absolutely equal."" Quoting Aristotle directly is this warning about private property: "In democracies the rich should be spared. Not only should their estates be safe from the threat of redistribution: the produce of the estates should be equally secure; and the practice of sharing it out, which has insensibly developed under some constitutions, should not be allowed." Both Trump and Sanders have targeted property through higher taxation based on class.
But the appeal of populism always tends in this direction. The populist must appeal to the rational self interest of each voter to get their support. Thus we see, in every election, every presidential candidate promising to cut taxes for the middle class. Obama did it, Clinton did it, Trump and Sanders promise the same thing, as does Hilary Clinton. Many armchair pundits, mostly on Youtube, have posited the idea that we are undergoing a political realignment in the west between authority and libertarianism, instead of between Left and Right. Their observation typically revolves around the resistance movement rising against feminism and the religion of social justice. Yet this is simplistic in that it doesn't account for the ability of the populist to lay claims on both sides. Thus we see the weird reports of Sanders supporters being willing to vote for Trump when Sanders inevitably concedes to Clinton. I'm not sure I believe that myself but then again many of the same people I know who previously backed Ron Paul now back Sanders.
I believe the West to move in the direction of the alt-right for two principle reasons: first, the utter and total failure of the governments of Europe and the United States to respond to increasing calls by their citizens to deal with immigration and refugee crises. Many of these governments brag about their official feminist positions and could all be painted as social justice warriors if one were not feeling charitable. The failure to respond combined with economic stagnation shows the failure of left wing economics opens the policy window for the rise of right wing organizations.
The second reason I think the future may belong to the alt-right is the continued decentralization of media, including social media, as well as the rise of right wing blogs, vlogs, and their associated social movements. The means of communication is now decentralized to the point that few can control it, though Twitter has tried by implementing their Orwellian-named 'Trust and Safety Council' comprised exclusively of left wing groups including radical feminist organizations, which has already been charged with censoring conservative voices.
If the future belongs to the alt-right then the western Left has itself to blame. My evidence for this will be the subject of my next piece. The subject will be why freedom of speech isn't simply a government prohibition but also a cultural value that democracy itself rests on. I attend Portland State University, which was the site of two recent Students for Trump rallies that members of the Regressive Left shut down in a defiant act of authoritarian censorship, all the while claiming that no one's free speech rights were being infringed. I'll explain why that view is not only wrong but dangerous for the health of a free society.