Alt-Right: Populism from an alternate reality

The alt-right is emerging onto the national scene, but they've been around for a while

For a Democratic government to effectively operate, there needs to be at least two opposing sides.

Rational disagreements on priorities create discussions that result in policy changes, which could potentially impact over 300 million Americans.

However, rationality seems to be eroding from our political discourse at an alarming rate. A new breed of conservatism is growing in America and much of the Western world. It is not defined by policy and there doesn’t seem to be a coherent message. Instead, they cling to jingoism, hate and ideological purity tests that Ronald Reagan himself would not pass.

They are the alternative right, or alt-right for short, and they are growing.

“They won’t call themselves racists, but they’re racists,” said David Wells, ASU political science professor. “I mean, that’s their big issue, is race ... They’re essentially white people, who would prefer to be around white people. They’ll phrase it in a way that’s about choice, but really, it’s racist."

Driven by a poisonous cocktail of xenophobic ideals and casual racism, the worst parts of the alt-right have become an unending source for controversial headlines since their proclaimed figurehead, Donald Trump, entered the 2016 presidential campaign. 

Now people like Jared Taylor, who has been the head of the magazine and website American Renaissance since 1990, have the ability to reach the masses.

“I think it goes beyond this presidential campaign,” said Wells. “Because Trump was a ‘birther,' and that’s a racist movement.” 

Wells referenced Trump’s 2008 attempt to discredit the then-future president Barack Obama based on an assumption that he wasn’t really American. At the time, Trump claimed to have private investigators digging up scandalous history on Obama, and also claimed he was a Muslim.

Of course, Obama is not a Muslim, although it shouldn’t matter if he is. Someone’s religion shouldn’t be a litmus test to enter the executive office. I feel confident in believing most average Republicans don’t think this way, which leads me to my next point.

Conservatives don’t, or at least shouldn’t, want to be associated with the fringes of the alt-right. If the alt-right is allowed to dictate the conversation from the right side of the political spectrum, the obstructionism we’ve witnessed in government over the last eight years will look like a cakewalk. 

As much as I disagree with someone like Ted Cruz, the senator from Texas, I can at least sleep comfortably at night being relatively sure that he doesn’t think America should ban non-white individuals.

Luckily, the alt-right movement seems to be a loosely-organized group of people. While white superiority is a common unifying belief, the alt-right features a wide-ranging span of opinions. Wells thinks a major reason the alt-right crowd is attracted to Trump is his immigration rhetoric

Not having immigration means America can get back to being a white country for white people, which is ironic because I would argue that this land has never belonged to white people.

It’s important to know that these people are out there, though. Despite the occasionally controversial preacher on campus, it’s easy to feel shielded while in college. People with ideas like, “I think white people should just associate only with white people” may seem foreign or alien to an 18-year-old freshman from a normal home. These people exist, and they’re right to expression and opinion is protected by the Bill of Rights.

We have to let them speak, but we don't have to agree with them. It’s important to stay informed, to stay open-minded and to remember that the world is moving towards being a globally united entity. The alt-right is here, and the only weapon we have in defense is logic.


Reach the columnist at cjwood3@asu.edu or follow @chriswood_311 on Twitter.

Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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