While black America giggled at the Melania Trump memes all over the internet, a far more troubling situation presented itself at this year’s Republican National Convention. An overlooked contingent has quietly infiltrated America’s two-party system and embedded itself into the mainstream of of the GOP.
The 2016 RNC might look like the same old pomp and circumstance, but this year’s Grand Old Party assemblage is not just a convention. It is also shaping up as a debutante ball for a little-known offshoot of the conservative movement rife with racism and far-right philosophy that threatens to both undermine and overtake the entire Republican Party. The white-nationalist sentiment that caused Brexit and is virally spreading throughout Europe has come to America.
The mainstream media will not talk about it. The right-leaning, “fair and balanced” news outlets incorporate its more subtle arguments without explicitly mentioning it. The left-of-center organizations either pretend that it doesn't exist or have their heads buried in the sand, but it is the major reason for the rise of Donald Trump. When pundits mention that Americans are “angry” or “fed up,” they are covering up for the group that is throwing coal in the boiler room of conservative anger.
Commonly referred to as the “alt-right,” this group of smart skinheads and intellectual white supremacists has emerged from the shadows and positioned itself as a formidable force in the party of Lincoln and Trump. Its members are young, energetic, educated and persistent. They are homophobic and xenophobic, and they are dangerous.
Meet the alternative right.
On Monday night Steve King, the anti-Muslim, racist-cartoon-tweeting Republican lawmaker from Iowa who once walked out of the State of the Union because he dislikes Obama so much, revealed in a nationally televised interview on MSNBC that he believed everything good in America and the world came from white people, and he was tired of white people losing.
When a panelist, Esquire's Charles Pierce, warned him that the convention floor was filled with “unhappy, dissatisfied, old white people,” King replied: “This ‘old white people’ business does get a little tired, Charlie. I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out, where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you're talking about? Where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?”
Chris Hayes asked: "Than white people?"
"Than, than Western civilization itself,” King said. "It's rooted in Western Europe, Eastern Europe and the United States of America and every place where the footprint of Christianity settled the world. That's all of Western civilization.”
Welcome to Main Street, alt-right.
To be clear, racism and white superiority are not a part of the alternative right’s philosophy. It is the whole of their philosophy. They root themselves in the principle of “natural conservatism”—the theory elucidated by Jonathan Haidt that Republican voters value tradition, homogeneous communities and Christian values above all else. They believe that white people should live in a white world run by white people.
These are not the old shaved-head, thug white supremacists. They call themselves “1488s.” The “14” stems from the 14 most important words of their movement and can be seen scrawled in the sand in the infamous photo of Dylann Roof, charged with the mass murder of nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”
If that is not scary enough, the “88” is a decades-old neo-Nazi symbol from the eighth letter of the alphabet—H—to insinuate “Heil Hitler.”
Unlike the “Bernie bros” on the left or the Tea Partiers on the right, the alt-right does not seek to work within the Republican establishment. It does not want to take over the Republican establishment. It wants to overthrow it.
Hence the nomination of Donald J. Trump.
There are many who wondered how Trump could win the nomination when the entire establishment was left aghast at his unconstitutional promise to stop Muslims from entering the country. How could he gain a toehold in the Republican electorate in a country that is becoming increasingly Hispanic after he referred to them as rapists and thieves? How was he building momentum despite his racist rhetoric?
The alternative right. That’s how.
They have emerged from internet chat rooms on 4chan to embed themselves into the intellectual class of the Republican movement. Thinkers like Milo Yiannopoulos have become conservative heroes to 1488-ers who parrot theories like how the average IQ of different races proves white superiority, or how—as Rep. King says—white people are responsible for all culture in the world.
To the alt-right, African Americans and other people of color are the reasons for America’s decline. Their laziness and “gimme culture” that prefers handouts and government assistance to hard work is the drip-drop of the erosion of American values. Unlike the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacists, they don’t think the answer is burning crosses and lynching miscegenists. They have a simpler and more systematic solution: Make America great again.
Trump embraced the alt-right before there was an alternative right. He spent a reported $85,000 to turn public sentiment against the Central Park Five, resulting in a wrongful conviction of five black men. He routinely shares the words and articles of one of the alt-right’s biggest champions, Jason Bergkamp. Trump also trumpets statistics and retweets ideas from the “white genocide” movement (whose leader—in the spirit of transparency—I have also interviewed).
Ultimately, the Republican Party has chosen to fall in line with Trump and, thus, the new white-power movement. They don’t refer to it in that manner. They use much smarter, more intellectual vocabulary, but make no mistake, it is all the same thing.
So if you’re wondering why this Republican convention seems different; why conservative phrases like “free market” and “small government” have been replaced with an anti-gay, anti- brown official party platform that promises building walls and rooting out Muslims, now you know.
The alternative right is here, and they’re going to make America white again.