The alt-right is suddenly getting a whole lot of attention these days, thanks largely to GOP nominee Donald Trump’s dual attempts to both distance himself and further embrace the movement.
Last week, Trump hired two new people to lead his campaign — veteran pollster Kellyanne Conway and Steve Bannon. As campaign manager, Conway is trying to massage Trump’s message so he can appeal to moderate voters and minorities that he desperately needs if he’s to even have a chance in November. Meanwhile, Bannon, head of Breitbart, is overseeing the whole operation, and is on board to burnish Trump’s standing with the alt-right. It’s an impossible balancing act, one that seems doomed to fail spectacularly from an election standpoint.
On Thursday, MSNBC host Joy Reid appeared on her colleague Tamron Hall’s program to explain to viewers just what the alt-right really is. With the knowledge that Hillary Clinton is devoting an entire speech linking the movement to Trump, many are probably wondering “What’s the big deal? Just who in the hell is the alt-right and why should it matter that they support Trump?” (Well, they can always check out the #AltRightMeans hashtag trending on Twitter.)
Reid, who has been discussing the alt-right more and more lately with the hiring of Bannon, pointed out that essentially, they are nothing more than modern-day white supremacists, just dressed up and with more sophisticated messaging.
“The alt-right consider themselves an alternative to traditional conservatism, which they think is weak tea. Their basic belief is that white Americans need to protect themselves against multiculturalism and immigration, which they believe are essentially watering down American culture and putting white people at a disadvantage. It’s interesting that the term ‘bigot’ was actually written into Donald Trump’s speech, it wasn’t an ad-lib, and that is actually a signal from the alt-right because they do believe that the real quote, unquote racism is racism against white Americans. So they’re mostly young, they’re very tech-savvy, they’ve been connected to things like Gamergate, going after women, going after people of color. What you’re seeing happen to Leslie Jones, that’s a prime example.”
Reid is talking about a few things here. One, you have Trump labeling Hillary a bigot during a rally speech Wednesday night. This was something written by his staff and included on the teleprompter, so this went through campaign leadership. While Conway and others surrogates have had a tough time explaining it publicly, Reid is stating here that he’s appealing directly to the alt-right, as they feel the real racists and bigots are those who aren’t tolerant of their views. (CNN Trumpkin Kayleigh McEnany made that very argument after the speech.)
Two, Gamergate was sort of the rise of the alt-right. It attracted more folks, specifically young white guys, than your usual Stormfront crowd as Breitbart and other conservative sites sided with the Gamergaters. Milo Yiannopoulos was a leading advocate for the cause, which essentially was about rejecting diversity or feminism in the video game industry. Gamergate emboldened the anti-SJW crowd, leading to Milo and others to rally their troops to more causes. (Which is how you get the whole Leslie Jones situation.)
Reid noted to Hall that there really isn’t any difference between the Ku Klux Klan and other white nationalist/supremacist groups of the past and the alt-right, except regarding how they see themselves.
“Well, just as David Duke took the KKK and dressed it up in a suit and tie, the alt-right is also white nationalism. But they differentiate themselves in their own minds, saying well, they are pro-white, and that they claim that that is not racism. So they are basically the next generation of what are traditionally the neo-Nazi movements, the KKK, they are essentially saying they are a pro white movement that wants to make America more masculine. They feel America has become to feminized, they’re against interventions in foreign wars and they peg neoconservatism as sort of a Jewish intervention in conservatism. So they are essentially — they are the same thing. But a new breed.”
And this is why Trump is in a no-win situation with this little dance he’s doing now. By softening his immigration stance and making outward appeals to minority voters, no matter how crave and insincere, it is going to come off like he is just another ‘cuckservative’ to the alt-right crowd. They are going to feel like he’s abandoned them and their hardcore, bend to no one principles.
Also, with Bannon aboard, and ex-Fox chief Roger Ailes and Fox News host Sean Hannity ‘informally’ advising him, it is blatantly obvious that Trump is looking to create his own media empire in the likely event that he loses in November. This new venture will appeal directly to the alt-right and extremely conservative crowd, just like Breitbart does now. They can’t risk alienating their base when they’re banking on them to be consumers down the road.
According to Reid, Trump is not going to be able to keep this up for much longer.
“He’s getting a lot of pressure from doctrinaire Republicans to try to in some ways reach out to people of color. So he’s doing this dual dance, where he has the alt right in his pocket, wants to keep their support, but he also wants to do something to change his numbers among people of color and Latinos. You really kind of can’t do both. But that is what he is trying to do.”
Meanwhile, Ann Coulter and others are starting to bellyache about Trump’s immigration shift. It will be interesting to see how long he can keep walking this tightrope.
Below is video of the segment, courtesy of Media Matters: