Ever since he entered the race to become the Republican candidate for president, Donald Trump has been accused of being a bigot, a racist, an antisemite, a xenophobe, a nativist, a right-wing populist, and a fascist.
He has been compared to, among others, Benito Mussolini, Silvio Berlusconi, Juan Peron, Vladimir Putin, even Adolf Hitler.
David Duke, the Louisiana neo-Nazi and one-time Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard, expresses approval of Trump’s positions. As he told National Public Radio, “Nobody will be more supportive of his legislative agenda, his supreme court agenda, than I will.”
The leader of the American Nazi Party, Rocky Suhayda, has asserted that the election of Trump as president would present “a real opportunity for people like white nationalists” to start “acting intelligently.”
This is not good news for Trump, because Hillary Clinton is doing her best to lump him with the so-called “alt-right” movement. Her new campaign ad seeks to paint Trump as an ally of white supremacists.
The voices in Clinton’s television spot express support for Trump and his policy positions on immigration, as well as his proposed Muslim ban. Near the end of the video, these words appear: “If Trump wins, they could be running the country.”
On Aug. 25, in an address in Reno, Nevada, Clinton accused Trump of pushing conspiracy theories with “racist undertones,” and heartening racists across the country by submitting to an “emerging racist ideology known as the alt-right.”
Clinton said that while this “paranoid fringe” had always existed in politics, “it’s never had the nominee of a major party stoking it, encouraging it and giving it a national megaphone, until now.
“This is someone who re-tweets white supremacists online,” she declared. “He is taking hate groups mainstream.”
The alt-right movement is largely a rebranding of various white supremacist groups whose essential character is one of strident ethno-nationalism. It rejects “political correctness,” multiculturalism, diversity, and a globalist philosophy it considers elitist and anti-Western.
“Alt-right” is short for “alternative right,” to distinguish the movement from mainstream conservatism. It is often associated with efforts to preserve “white identity.” Some adherents refer to themselves as “Europeanists,” and want to curb or block immigration to the United States, while others would remove minorities from the country.
The movement includes a whole range of people, including libertarians, men’s rights activists, futurists, fundamentalist Christians, traditionalists, and neo-Nazis.
It began with a speech the “paleo-conservative” writer Paul Gottfried gave in 2008, following the election of Barack Obama to the presidency.
Gottfried, a retired professor of humanities at Elizabeth College in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, called for an “alternative right” that could defeat “the neo-conservative-controlled conservative establishment.” That idea was soon adopted by the “identitarian” nationalist Richard Spencer, head of the National Policy Institute, a white nationalist think tank,
Spencer maintains that white Americans need to “resist our dispossession.” In an interview with the Associated Press at the Republican National Convention last July, Spencer advocated removing Blacks, Hispanics and Jews from the country.
Kevin MacDonald, a former psychology professor at California State University in Long Beach, CA, and an alt-right theorist, remarked that “white people in America are becoming a minority that is increasingly being victimized, and there’s a cost to multiculturalism and immigration.”
Another alt-right supporter, Jared Taylor, founder of the American Renaissance online magazine, recently told Fox News Radio that “the melting pot ceases to work very well when you have to melt across racial lines.”
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the website Breitbart News Network has become a popular outlet for alt-right views. Stephen Bannon, who has been serving as its executive chairman, was named the Trump campaign’s chief executive on August 17.
It is true that Trump’s “America First” campaign slogan has attracted many on the alt-right, drawn in particular to his pledges to deport the estimated 11 million people living in the country illegally and to temporarily bar foreign Muslims from the U.S.
But Trump campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks has responded to charges that Trump has encouraged the movement by stating that he has “never used or condoned that term and continues to disavow any groups or individuals associated with a message of hate.”
Henry Srebrnik is a professor of political science at the University of Prince Edward Island.