There’s an extraordinary amount of talk going around about the alt-right. But who are those guys?
Language is a tool for unclarity even in the best of circumstances and things get even dicier when the phenomenon to be considered (in this case, the alt-right) is fluid and uncertain. Things get worse when language users have an agenda, and positively value the unclarity that language can bring. So this will be an exercise in the rectification of names.
Consider a bell curve of political views on the alt-right. No, for this discussion let’s bear down on just one issue that the alt-right is concerned with: race. There are others (immigration for one). But for now let’s consider race.
At the far right edge we find the most extreme views. From what I can tell the numbers here are small, though they grow as you get closer to the middle.
From the edges in we find:
1. White supremacy. That’s the Nazi-like view that not only are whites superior to other races they must also have the power to keep other races down if not out.
2. White nationalism. Nationalists do not assert superiority but their view of “race realism” compels them to conclude that the races will never get along well. And since whites ought to have the same rights as other ethnic groups to self-segregate whites should favor a formal political affiliation, one that is separate racially but that is not bound to assert superiority and to promote associated objectionable measures.
3. White identity. As with #2 race realism compels a kind of self-segregation but of a softer sort. A separate political structure is not required. Under this view whites should feel free to voluntarily self-segregate as other groups do without fear of social approbation or the heavy hand of government requiring integration at every turn.
4. “Citizenism”. This is more or less nationalism, without most of the blood in blood and soil. A diverse nation is accepted as a fact but one can be skeptical about more difference always being better. The “historic nation” is respected but less out of white pride than a belief that most of the “proposition” in the term “Proposition Nation” derives from Western European ideas, and we risk losing the powerful thread of those ideas when we celebrate difference as a god thing in itself. Where race is concerned BLM and other movements are disfavored but not because of notions of white superiority. Rather the argument is that identity politics as practiced is ultimately divisive and does not support development of a coherent national sentiment, one that is based on the historically and geographically contingent ideas that inform the “proposition”.
It also needs to be noted that the bell curve continues on to the left, with most on the left closer to the center. Those nearer the center on the left can be thought of as close cousins to non-extremist citizenists–though the center left for the moment is not co-mingling very well with the center right. And as with the right side so with the left: one finds more extreme views (and fewer numbers) the further one progresses in a progressive direction.
Both sides of the center of the bell curve have things in common. And that’s where the people, and the votes, are. But when there’s a war on, each core gives credence and voice to more extreme parts of their own side of the bell curve. They think that is fine to do so with their own extremes but get very upset when they see the other side doing the same thing.
Moderate or liberal Democrats think it is fine to give up their microphone to members of BLM who take over the stage, and are often loath to condemn rioting if it is for a good (i.e., progressive) cause.
The alt-Right has the same tendencies, with the recent National Policy Institute Conference in Washington providing a good example. Richard Spencer, a white nationalist (#2 above), tried for some of the time to dominate the proceedings, appearing to speak on behalf of people like Jared Taylor, a white identitarian (#3) and Peter Brimelow, a citizenist (#4). Those closer to the center did not want to disavow those closer to the edge since the idea of the conference was to look for things in common and to work towards a kind of coalition. But there were no disavowals of white nationalism, just as there are no disavowals of the left fringes by elements closer to the center.
In this way, the edges have more visibility than their actual numbers warrant, and each side gets to score hate points against the other by lumping center and fringe together.
The system cannot help but create a gap where there should be co-mingling: right in the center of things. Each side feels confident that is has “the people” with it and since the extremes on each side are emboldened neither side is interested in re-occupying the middle. But nature abhors a vacuum.
If Trump was brilliant about anything in this election it was letting his business instincts loose in a vortex of political action that can only think politically, and that can’t help but make mistakes along a political dimension. Politicians instinctively think: how can my side gain tactical advantage? Businessmen instinctively think: buy low sell high! Look for the undervalued stock, the arbitrage opportunity, the vacuum that nature abhors but that the shortsighted cannot see.
In this election the vacuum to be filled consisted of all of the constituencies that the parties had stranded for their own political reasons and all of the voices that were choked off and strangled as a result. Trump won with that key business insight. But now we are in a new world, one that Trump helped create by capitalizing on his buy low sell high insight.
Where is the new gap, the new vacuum, the new buy low sell high? It is at the interface of the two center parts of the bell curve, still a no-man’s land but destined for a gold rush some time soon. Whoever fills that space wins the next election.
Citizenism is fragile. It’s only ever been practiced well by LKY as far as I can tell. The rest of Asia is still blood and soil.
Based on demographics I think we are past the point he made work in Singapore (basically a 15% Malay minority and a 7.5% high functioning Indian minority). He also had that whole quasi-dictator thing going for him and extreme loyalty from the Chinese majority in Singapore (they didn’t fight a civil war like whites in the West did). Still unknown if Citizenism can survive a 1.0 TFR.
Nonetheless, having recently been there it is quite a thing to behold. He knows how to subsume (not destroy) minority ethnic identity into a superseding nationalist identity. You can see the markers of success across the country.
Citizenism would have been a good solution 30 years ago when the under 18 demo was more sustainable. It also would have required a different culture (its no surprise that LKY was a hard nosed eugenicist who could tailor effective policy around facts of life).
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A very good delineation of the Alt-Right I must say.
The left will have a hard time finding a Trump of their own to occupy that space. Such a person would have to copy Bill Clinton’s act in the 90’s but his type of charisma doesn’t hang on tress. Also, the liberal-left is quite beholden in rhetoric and values to its extreme wing.A new Bill Clinton would have to produce Sista Soulja moments again and that is far harder to pull off today because of the enormous conformity that is possible to enforce via social media for example.
Another barrier is that progressives do not tolerate push-back in their Wiggish ascent to utopia. As the finest purveyor of the left, Paul Gottfried, wrote recently:
“There is no way that the Left can retreat from what it has achieved in transforming society without the entire edifice of change being imperiled. This corresponds to Trotsky’s formula that if the revolution is made to retreat from stage D to stage C, then the entire march toward the new society could be reversed. Therefore the march out of the gloomy repressive past must be continued unconditionally, and any retreat from it is tantamount to counterrevolution — or in the leftist fear-mongering phrase, having women forced to have abortions in back alleys, re-imposing racial segregation, and jailing homosexuals.”
Trump’s major achievement was to prove that the rightwing segment was insufficiently defended by an right wing elite who were afraid of the liberal-left megaphone but whose constituency were not beholden to the liberal values. But a new Bill Clinton would have to literally drain his backyard and transform it. The only way such a change could happen is if the cultmarx left suffers serious defeats that discredits it. And top of that you have to give the left a new utopia to strive for. Clinton was himself an attempt to steer off the old left out and bring in the new left and its cultmarx ideals. If Trumpism becomes the Republican orthodoxy then the other side will struggle to reconcile itself to the new order.
Getting Marxist about it for a moment doesn’t change happen via a dialectic of sorts, through the struggle of opposing forces? Actors inside the political system envision a Manichean universe in which they represent for forces of light against darkness. Zoom back a distance, or add a hundred years, and we see that it is all part of a kind of fractal system. I think you are right that the left is hobbled by its devotion to its fringes, and people caught up in that are essentially stuck. What will unstick them so that they can progress? The enemy!
Who knows if Trump will survive, not to mention whether he will turn out to be effective in mounting an effective populist program. But what if he does? It will not entail a direct attack by Trumpists against the Dem fringes. It could mean a chip-chip-chipping away at things such that the epoxy that binds the Dem coalition together begins to melt. The discrediting of the extremes, such as the snowflakes and rioters, does not have to happen overnight. But if jobs are created over here and wages rise over there you may see more open ridicule of left fringes, or incremental new votes from black or hispanic voters persuaded that a job with good wages is a better thing than the permanent protest recommended by their leaders. As my parents often told me, we’ll see.
You may well be right but I don’t think pragmatism will do for the left but only a new project. I follow Gary North in believing that the real election to win is 2020 because the coming economic crisis will be pretty severe and the sitting president/party will always be blamed, regardless of his actual complicity.* The 08 crisis didn’t create as many reverberations in Western politics as could have been expected but another punch will be quite definitive. Those sort of external shocks inevitably create a new paradigm shift.
If Trumpism takes root in the Republican party he might just about be able to demagogue bankers, the central bank, the political establishment his way into a reelection. But a Elisabeth Warren would probably beat him in such a scenario anyway. So anything that promotes more SJWism is good.
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