Republicans might not like the alt-right, but the alt-right likes Republicans
On August 15, The Georgetown Review, the conservative publication on campus, published an opinion piece called “The Alt-Right Are Not Conservatives.” The piece claimed that members of the alt-right “are not conservatives.” It further claimed that “they are not Republicans.”
I will grant them the first claim. The values held by Donald Trump and other members of the alt-right, including the KKK and other white nationalist or neo-Nazi groups, run contrary to conservative values on discrimination-related issues.
I might disagree with my conservative friends on the role that government should play in combatting structural discrimination against minorities. However, I say confidently that my conservative friends believe that people should have the same opportunities regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, or similar factors.
The second claim – that members of the alt-right are not Republicans – is false. Maybe conservatives don’t embrace the alt-right, but the Republican Party is not exclusively the party of conservatism anymore. There is a reason that the alt-right found a home in the Republican Party, not the Democratic Party.
Signs that the alt-right feels empowered and validated by the Republican president are everywhere. David Duke, the former Grand Wizard of the KKK who publicly supported Trump during the campaign, said that the white supremacists in Charlottesville were there to “fulfill the promises of Donald Trump.” He added, “That’s why we voted for Donald Trump.” This is the same David Duke that Trump failed to instinctively denounce during the campaign after receiving Duke’s support. Instead, Trump said he didn’t know enough about Duke’s background to denounce him, despite having been informed that Duke was the former Grand Wizard of the KKK.
After Trump failed to condemn white nationalists and neo-Nazis and instead blamed the violence “on many sides,” a white nationalist publication called The Daily Stormer called Trump’s comments “really, really good” because he didn’t condemn white nationalists directly. Then, just a day after Trump finally read a statement condemning the KKK, white supremacists, and neo-Nazis, he once again blamed the violence “on both sides” and said that the group of white nationalists in Charlottesville included some “very fine people,” again to the delight of David Duke.
Giving credit where it’s due, some prominent Republicans did call Trump out on his reluctance to condemn the alt-right. But those same Republicans seem willing to tolerate Trump’s weakness, as long as Trump will sign a repeal of the Affordable Care Act and tax reform. It’s no different from their reactions to Trump’s previous overtly bigoted statements directed toward women, immigrants, Blacks, Muslims, and other groups.
Is it really any surprise that the alt-right has found a home in the Republican Party? Maybe the conservative elected officials who used to dominate the party don’t embrace the alt-right, but they seem to tolerate it as long as they can pass the policies they want.
It’s one thing to tolerate policy differences. It’s another to tolerate a fundamental flaw in values.
This is not an indictment of my conservative friends at Georgetown, the vast majority of whom did not vote for Trump, some of whom even voted for Hillary Clinton. I applaud them for taking a stand against members of their own party who are too weak on this issue, but the Republican Party doesn’t just belong to them anymore.
While I am a Democrat, I am not even close to the far-left wing on campus. I detest the pervasive use of identity politics by many campus liberals. I am, by college standards, pretty moderate.
But no matter how my policy views evolve in the future, I could never call myself a member of the Republican Party, unless it undergoes a radical transformation. Until the GOP stops tolerating movements like the alt-right and the elected officials who tacitly enable those movements, I believe that many people will feel the same way.