The US presidential campaign season is rounding the corner to its final stretch. September looms as the most recent Reuters/Ipsos poll shows the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton with a 12-point lead over her Republican opponent, Donald Trump.
There’s been enough news about how Trump’s campaign is crashing and burning; he has withstood several firestorms throughout his run. How many times can something begin to crumble, yet remain standing with just over two months to go until November? Whenever the conventional wisdom of the day determines that he’s gone too far, about Mexicans, about women, about Russian hacker attacks, about Muslims, his base has stood by him.
For posterity, I won’t call the election for Hillary, but it’s likely. Yes, Michael Dukakis was beating George H.W. Bush pretty good in the summer of 1988, but Trump’s is a taste left unacquired for demographics he has consistently maligned. Funny that. He’s also been rendered a bitter pill, at best, for many Republicans sticking by his side.
It’s not an impressive election for sure. Neither candidate truly inspires. Beneath their respective visages, we find an impulsive liar with the thin-skinned temperament of a Fox News anchor. On the other, a war criminal who has come full circle politically; beginning as a Republican Goldwater Girl and ending as a Republican Democrat. Indeed, Decision 2016 seems like more of a choice between a box of scorpions and a box of racist scorpions.
There’s always work to be done around elections. Before them, during them, and after them. However, most Americans slip into their political comas shortly after their winning candidate, emerges from the election results to deliver their victory speech. Preferring autopilot, many voters resign themselves from politics feeling confident that all of their wildest dreams are about to come true thanks to their candidate assuming the presidency.
Barack Obama was supposed to expand the “war on terrorism”, right? His administration was supposed to preside over the most deportations of immigrants in US history, correct? Most whistleblowers prosecuted? Wall Street being Jenga’d back into place? More free trade deals? The voters surely sought all of this from the beginning.
If anything, we learned that the political coma of the Obama-era was extremely costly for liberals and the left, too. As it turned out, 2008’s wasn’t the last election we would ever have. For two years, President Obama had a Democratic Congress to work with before the deluge of Tea Party politics overtook the sleepy Democrats and dominated the 2010 mid-terms bringing with it a wave of austerity, union-busting, bans on Sharia Law (because Tennessee apparently borders Afghanistan), climate change denial and more which cultivated what the base would become by the time the 2016 election season was upon us.
We withstood years of Sarah Palins and Michelle Bachmanns, Birther conspiracies and Victoria Jackson thinking people still cared about her expired humor. The Republican Party, right wing media and the conservative movement pandered to a perfect mix of voters lacking intellectual curiosity, and embracing racist and conspiratorial undertones that Donald Trump has since wrapped around his small fingers.
Here’s the thing, though, despite who wins or loses, we have another cultural issue that has broken through into the mainstream: The alt-right. If the Tea Party’s reactionary and libertarian sentiments could be strained into a cup, leaving behind the stupid, and mixed it with misogynist yuppie Millennials, you’d have most of what comprises the alt-right.
The remaining ingredient comes from the alt-right’s established white nationalist trends. It’s not so much a new political faction as it is an edgier conservatism in which its leading proponents come off sounding like Ann Coulter books with dicks.
One of the leading minds of the alt-right, 38-year-old Richard Spencer, who looks like every preppy antagonist movie trope since the 1980s, serves up the type of platitudes which make you think twice about whether he really means there should be things like white-only states, or if he’s got a disappointed, liberal father whom he is trying to stick it to.
Lamenting the soft, milquetoast effort of mainstream conservatives to fight for white male safe spaces, while playing to the politically correct pressures of the anti-free speech left, Spencer, who started the site Alternative Right in 2010, executes precision political correctness himself swapping words like “racism” for “socio-biology” in an attempt to convey a sophistication that I can only assume is a balance sought between William F. Buckley and Dick Cheney.
Spencer is a guy who wants a smart, sophisticated conservative movement, but then shits the following from his mouth: “There are races who, on average, are going to be superior.”
It’s the sort of assumption that white males should be revered as masters due to their role in erecting the institutions which “made America great”, per the Steve King version of world history, while propping race up as a determining factor and ignoring the role of racism in white achievements built from the stolen labor of indigenous people and African slaves.
Where conservatives have long drawn on the nostalgia of the 1950s for its family-oriented, patriotic blah, the alt-right promotes the same traditional view, but heaped with unflinching support for the period’s racial, gender and immigration policies. To beat a dead horse, Spencer has also advocated “peaceful ethnic cleansing”, which would entail shipping Black folks back to Africa.
Statements like that are an insight to what forms the crux of the alt-right; they seek traditional values, unmitigated by political correctness, or “pussification” via feminism. It rather promotes the ideals of a specific cohort of white males who don’t shy from accusations of white privilege; they demand it. Ironically, because part of the alt-right’s muster is in holding the dignity and humanity of those who aren’t WASPy males in mocking contempt, adherents ridicule the idea of “safe spaces” even as they seek to recreate a society-wide safe space for white interests.
The alt-right’s favorite tool to promote their brand is the Internet where these bastards have truly developed trolling into an art, but aside from that, a litany of online resources for the cause, like a virtual infoshop network, but for budding fascists. From Spencer’s own Alternative Right, to the eternal antagonists of Breitbart News (from which the new chief executive of Trump’s campaign, Stephan Bannon, is taking a temporary leave), which is arguably the alt-right’s most mainstream media front, there are dozens of websites dedicated to the advancement of white men who are very enamored with themselves and think you should be, too.
In the event of a Hillary Clinton victory, the table is already set for deeply misogynist critiques of her as president. Where the Tea Party helped incubate the racism of the Obama years, the vitriol has evolved and will not spare words for fear of merely “offending” people.
And this is why the honeymoon phase after a Hillary victory will be troublesome. The alt-right is here. It is a movement of educated elitists who connect with the “common man”, Ortega y Gasset’s “Mass Man” if you will, via their shared prejudices. Action will be required to mitigate their impact on the political fabric of the United States. No more sleeping at the wheel, allowing neoliberal policies adopted by both parties to alienate Americans who then flock to the most caustic and reactionary representation of their frustrations.
The success of the alt-right in the future is as dependent on the neutral-mindedness of those who fail to act against what they oppose as it has been on the very same behavior during its gestation. Fail to act, to speak up, and this is only going to grow bigger.