It has not gone unnoticed that Donald Trump’s election day shocker was due largely to support from the so-called “Alt-Right” – a catchy new euphemism for white supremacy and Hitler salutes. But less conspicuously, even “mainstream” Republicans have been cozying up to white supremacy lately. And in general, the political landscape has shifted sharply to the far right in the last two years.
Mainstream conservatives are embracing the fringe.
The National Review
The National Review, which was founded by William F. Buckley in 1955, has struggled with and repeatedly purged itself of white supremacists but seems to be losing the battle. The magazine has had to fire John Derbyshire, who had a little racist sideline on Taki’s Magazine, where Richard Spencer was once an editor; John O’Sullivan, another NR writer who was on the boards of both VDARE and the Lexington Research Institute; Peter Brimelow, NR writer and former editor at Forbes, and a writer for Barron’s, Fortune, and the Wall Street Journal.
William F. Buckley devoted much of his time to weeding segregationists, “Birchers,” anti-Semites, and the lunatic fringe from the pages of the National Review. After he died in 2008 the garden he planted was overrun with weeds.
This week’s National Review, for example, has long-time NRO editor George Will defending Jeff Sessions, a KKK apologist too racist to be appointed as a federal judge but who may now be the Attorney General. Alongside this is a piece by forrmer NR editor Charles C.W. Cooke, who penned “Teach Holocaust Denial and be Proud of It.” And right next to that is a piece by Andrew C. McCarthy blasting Obama’s refusal to veto a UN resolution on illegal Israeli settlements. McCarthy is also the author of a book promoting the conspiracy theory that Obama is trying to bring Shariah law to the United States.
The Heritage Foundation+
The Heritage Foundation, whose opinion-shapers appear regularly in newspapers, has also been afflicted with the virus. Jason Richwine is the most notorious of these, penning a number of articles on blacks and Hispanics on alternativeright.com. President-elect Trump’s White House advisor Steve Bannon praised Richwine on his Sirius XM radio show. The Heritage Foundation wraps its white supremacy in “scientific studies,” like the one Richwine wrote that blasted immigration reform, claiming illegal immigrants would suck $9.4 trillion of benefits from upstanding white Americans – which one writer joked “will bankrupt the solar system.”
Besides racism, the Heritage Foundation also promotes Islamophobia. A 2014 panel the Heritage Foundation organized to draw attention to the Benghazi controversy soon devolved into a mudslinging match accusing President Obama of funding jihadist violence and promoting Shariah law. The Heritage Foundation had invited Brigitte Gabriel from ACT, which the Council on American-Islamic Relations has identifed as part of a well-funded Islamophobia Network. The panel was led by Chris Plante, a rightwing talk show host, who turned the discussion into an “Islamophobic freak show,” as Salon described it, and included Frank Gaffney, one of the fringiest of the fringe. The panel featured the trio attacking a Muslim student who rose to speak and demanding to know her nationality (it was “United States citizen”).
The Heritage Foundation’s president is Jim DeMint, a former U.S. Senator from South Carolina turned Tea Party leader, and “the most hated man in Washington” by one account. Under DeMint’s leadership the Heritage Foundation has lost credibility and clout. As Senator, DeMint was a divisive politician who went out of his way to greet a racist rally, a move that fellow Republicans slammed, with one warning that “freaks fill the void and define the party.” Call it an “unguarded moment” or a Freudian slip, but DeMint admitted that the purpose of disenfranchising blacks through Voter ID laws was to elect “more conservatives.”
It is not surprising that the Heritage Foundation was founded by Richard Mellon Scaife, who died recently. An heir to the Mellon fortune, Scaife set up a network of rightwing foundations and Islamophobic organizations. In the good old days, billionaires dabbled in art. Now they support hate groups.
(Dear newspaper editors – if you’re reading this – stop publishing garbage from the Heritage Foundation!)
No one could have imagined Ann Coulter’s fulminations could get any worse but now she is attending VDARE’s white supremacy conferences. We always thought Ann was just a fact-challenged provocatuese but now we know better.
The American Conservative Union, which runs the CPAC conference all Republican candidates are expected to attend, is another nexus of white supremacists and Klan admirers.
The Southern Poverty Law Center keeps tabs on all these homegrown Nazis – and it’s not like they didn’t warn us. The NAACP as well reported six years ago on the Tea Party’s deep ties to white supremacist groups and extremist militias.
Paleoconservatism and Trump
Before the Alt-Right there were the Paleoconservatives – anti-Semites and isolationist Eurocentric nationalists. Pat Buchanan, who was an advisor to both Nixon and Reagan, has written for Holocaust denying publications and cited the American Nazi Party’s William Pierce in one of his books. Over time paleoconservatives fell out of favor for their isolationism and were banished to the fringes where they became a natural magnet for the extreme right.
Stephen Mihm writing in Bloomberg News makes a good argument for Trump’s paleoconservatism. And Dylan Matthews writing in Vox suggests that Donald Trump is not merely an opportunist manipulated by the Alt-Right but an “imperfect Paleoconservative” himself. Both articles should dispel the image of Trump as a mere showman. Trump (like his father before him) has been at home in his white, white world a long time.
Sixteen years ago, William F. Buckley had this to say about the next President of the United States:
What about the aspirant who has a private vision to offer to the public and has the means, personal or contrived, to finance a campaign? In some cases, the vision isn’t merely a program to be adopted. It is a program that includes the visionary’s serving as President. Look for the narcissist. The most obvious target in today’s lineup is, of course, Donald Trump. When he looks at a glass, he is mesmerized by its reflection. If Donald Trump were shaped a little differently, he would compete for Miss America. But whatever the depths of self-enchantment, the demagogue has to say something. So what does Trump say? That he is a successful businessman and that that is what America needs in the Oval Office. There is some plausibility in this, though not much. The greatest deeds of American Presidents — midwifing the new republic; freeing the slaves; harnessing the energies and vision needed to win the Cold War — had little to do with a bottom line.
Today the magazine Buckley founded is nothing but a mirror for Trump to gaze at himself adoringly.