I just spent a very weird 15 minutes and 34 seconds watching a video of an alt-right commentator named Christopher Greene. He was sitting in his car, his face filled the image frame and he was riffing about shadowy globalists and New World Order overlords who are trying to hide the "truth" that Hillary Clinton is suffering from Parkinson's disease and may not survive the rigors of the presidential campaign.
For anyone wondering where Donald Trump gets his ideas, now you know.
The term "alt-right" is a fairly new one in the political lexicon. It encompasses a grab bag of anti-establishment, alternative right-wing folks who have bedeviled Republican Party leaders at least since they capsized House GOP Leader Eric Cantor's reelection run in 2014.
They are an eclectic bunch. On the periphery, there are serious neo-Nazis and white supremacists, the so-called "1488" cabal, but they are a small fringe disdained by other alt-right factions. Much of the alt-right's energy comes from young, irreverent Internet renegades who are less extreme, yet toy with racist, sexist and xenophobic satire and imagery in online memes meant to incense their adversaries on the overly sensitive, politically correct left. The "intellectual" drive of the alt-right comes from various writers and bloggers who defend the accomplishments of Western European societies and of "dead white men" from the attacks of multiculturalists on college campuses and in the media.
The broader base of the alt-right is a cohort dubbed "natural conservatives." These are white people who believe their culture, their religion, their economic well-being and their personal identity is imperiled by a dominant liberal ideology that they see as promoting disturbing shifts in American society — gay marriage, globalism, secularism, a flood of illegal immigrants and a mountain of white guilt.
Though the alt-right identifies Democrats and progressives as the enemy, a great deal of their antagonism is directed at the conservative establishment — the high-minded heirs of William F. Buckley at National Review, the neo-cons squired away in their think tanks, the big-money campaign donors trying to buy sympathetic politicians and, most of all, the leaders of the Republican Party who, they believe, have capitulated to the Democrats in the culture war and sold out to Wall Street on economic policy.
I have gleaned this description of the movement from a commentary titled "An Establishment Conservative's Guide to the Alt Right," found on the Brietbart News website. It is worth a read because, as obscure as the alt-right may be to most Americans, it is time to take notice. After all, the movement just stole the presidential nominating process from the GOP establishment.
For too long, Donald Trump was seen as a singular character, a political anomaly, a buffoon who was not taken seriously until he had swept the field in the Republican primaries. The smart crowd in the media and politics failed to recognize that Trump was an avatar, a somewhat unwitting and unexpected vessel into which the alt-right and millions of cultural conservatives were investing their hopes and ambitions.
Now, it is utterly obvious. Clearly, Trump has been getting most of his wackier ideas — on Barack Obama's birth certificate, Hillary's health, an immigrant invasion, a rigged political system, race in America — from alt-right sources. And now he has replaced his pro-Russia campaign boss, Paul Manafort, with Steve Bannon, the man who has been running Breitbart, the most coherent voice of the alt-right.
Bannon is anathema to the GOP establishment, having been a promoter of campaigns to oust Cantor, former House Speaker John A. Boehner, and Boehner's successor, Paul D. Ryan, as well as Arizona Sen. John McCain. One traditionalist conservative has coined the term "white, ethno-nationalism" to characterize the philosophy being pushed by Bannon, Breitbart and the alt-right. Now, that philosophy — chock-full of conspiracy theories and dark musings about Muslims and Jews and African Americans — is the driving force in the campaign of the Republican nominee for president of the United States.
Alarm bells should be ringing.