To understand the co-opting of the conservative message, it must be understood that a large majority of the surface content of the alt-right movement mirrors traditional conservatism.
The alt-right is real, and while they are still loosely organized and ill-defined, they have quietly co-opted the language and themes of traditional conservatism. Many are blind to its true existence and dangers, because they can only think of racism and xenophobia in terms of outward projecting classical ethnic superiority…they’re looking for swastikas and burning crosses and in their absence declare it a ploy of the left.
Adding more to this confusion is that many parts of the mainstream have, in the past, used the ploy that many have dubbed “the race card”. So many pundits on the right have grown accustomed to immediately dismissing the false claims of racism towards Republicans and Conservatives in general, their knee-jerk reaction is to also immediately dismiss the idea of a growing alt-right movement. This dismissal has been obvious in the way much of the conservative media has treated questions about the alt-right.
The truth is that many in the working class are being drawn to the language of the alt-right because they have been overtaken by racial resentment which has slowly unmoored them from traditional limited government ideals. Racial resentment is different than the popular idea of racism because it’s an inward projecting frustration towards what seems to be a slant in government, media, and popular culture towards the advancement of minority groups at the expense of the majority. Many in the working class are frustrated when they see their children struggle in a horribly recovered economy, get overlooked for college application because of affirmative action, see illegal immigrants and other minority groups living off of government welfare, and then are told they only have what they do have because of white privilege. This frustration turns to all out resentment and anger because they sense the cultural identity of the American Nation slipping away from traditional Judeo-Christian values and they sense that immigrants, both legal and illegal, are taking advantage of the system that grants them a livelihood without requiring assimilation. All of this is compounded by the feelings of lawlessness that arise from terrorist attacks, violence towards police officers, and riots in the streets.
These feelings and beliefs (whether based in fact or not) are the foundation for the rise of the alt-right, and by co-opting the conservative message they are able to push a new Ethnocentric Nativist Nationalism into the mainstream. If traditional conservatism does not recognize and resist the alt-right message, it will forever be tainted by their stain, not only by association with their divisive rhetoric but by the compromising of its intellectual integrity.
To understand the co-opting of the conservative message, it must be understood that a large majority of the surface content of the alt-right movement mirrors traditional conservatism. There is nothing new, nor inherently wrong, about the desire to control our borders, assert American sovereignty, re-assert the importance of Judeo-Christian values, and encourage the assimilation of immigrants into American culture. What is new is the untethering of these desires from the tenants of limited government and fiscal restraint and the new connections being built with strains of Ethnocentric Nativism and Aggressive Nationalism. Recognizing the influences of the alt-right will require us to learn and identify the subtle differences in the motivations and aims of their rhetoric as compared to that of traditional conservatism.
One of the greatest obstacles to combating the influences of racial resentment are the dangers of Line-List Conservatism. There are many pundits who purport to stand as gate-keepers to the conservative movement, and until this year many rank-and-file conservatives took these pundits at their word. Their method, seemingly sound until the circus of this election season, is to place candidates, politicians, and other political figures up against a Line-List of political positions in order to determine their conservative bona-fides. The dangers of this, discovered by the rise of such a figure as Donald Trump, is that political positions do not necessarily reflect the motivations and aims for those positions. Personalities such as Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter vociferously defended Donald Trump by constantly going down a list of conservative positions and then comparing whether Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton were closer to these positions, but this method ignores the fact that while Trump may have met the majority criteria of their litmus tests, the means and ends of many of Donald Trump’s plans are anathema to the principles of limited government, inclusive society, and constitutional theory.
With the rise of the alt-right, the Line-List Conservatism methodology may unwittingly become a guilty accomplice of the destruction of the Republican Party as a vessel for limited governance of an inclusive and free society. If classical liberalism, federalism, and originalist constitutionalism are to survive into the 21st Century, conservatives must move past a simple defining of their principles and tenants through lists of black-and-white stances and must learn to look at the full spectrum of the political thought which can create the ideological backbone for these various stances.
On immigration, conservatives must learn to differentiate between desiring controlled borders and effective legal immigration for the purposes of sovereignty and the rule of law as opposed to fears of cultural subversion at the hands of undesirables. On the War on Terror, conservatives must learn to differentiate between a global campaign against radicalized fundamentalists as opposed to a nativist exclusion of an entire religion. On Judeo-Christian values, conservatives must learn to recognize the difference between limiting the size and scope of government so as not to interfere with individual worship and family values as opposed to marginalizing non-traditional ideas and values using government influence. On cultural assimilation, conservatives need to understand the difference between empowering legal immigrants to fully embrace the cultural aspects of our free society that will allow them to thrive as our ancestors thrived as opposed to ethnocentric superiority that fears disenfranchisement at the hands of minority voters.
These are just a few issues where the surface language can appear in harmony with traditional conservative ideals, but when examined closely present glaringly opposite motivations and end results. Moving forward, conservatives must learn to recognize the differences between being conservative and being reactionary, between patriotism and nationalism, and between individual liberty and collective protectionism. The alt-right is not who the conservative movement truly is. Conservatives must seize the opportunity to save the political organizations which have traditionally represented conservative interests from the stain of alt-right influence. Conservatives must come to understand that the alt-right is real, it is dangerous, and while its language seems like a conservative message, in actuality it has nothing to do with the shared interests and values of those desiring limited government and a free society.
But…what do I know, I’m just a history school drop out.
-The Millennial Federalist
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