It must be true, it’s in the New York Times!—an editorial (September 5) denouncing Radix Journal’s Richard B. Spencer because he’s against immigration and, guess what, Donald Trump has also said “— in a line widely quoted on alt-right websites—‘There is only one core issue in the immigration debate and it is this: the well-being of the American people.’” Hang them now! (Spencer, VDARE.com’s Peter Brimelow, and American Renaissance’s Jared Taylor are scheduled to appear at a press conference on the Alt Right at the National Press Club, Washington D.C. 1-3 pm Friday, September 9)
General Motors CEO Charles Erwin Wilson famously remarked “What was good for our country was good for General Motors, and vice versa.” Most on the Alt Right have felt the same way about Donald Trump. Trump’s brash style combined with his America First platform helped legitimize the Alt Right. Meanwhile, the plan of the Alt Right is to meme Donald Trump to the White House by trolling his opponents.
Hillary Clinton has tried to use the Alt Right as an albatross around Trump’s neck. She notoriously gave a speech stating the Alt Right “has effectively taken over the Republican Party.” And her campaign has continued to highlight Trump’s supposed connections to the movement, such as Jared Taylor and Kevin MacDonald’s praise for Trump’s fantastic immigration speech. [Donald Trump’s immigration speech got rave reviews—from all his biggest fans, HillaryClinton.com, September 1, 2016].
Hillary’s attack has undoubtedly raised the Alt Right’s profile. As The New York Times acknowledged, “Attention from the Democratic presidential nominee was a moment in the political spotlight that offered a new level of credibility” as well as “a valuable opportunity for fundraising and recruiting” [Hillary Clinton Denounces the ‘Alt-Right,’ and the Alt-Right Is Thrilled, by Alan Rappeport, August 26, 2016].
Six years ago Jared Taylor received virtually no press coverage when violent Leftists shut down his conference. In contrast, after Clinton featured him in an ad for her anti-Trump speech, he appeared on dozens of talk shows.
Needless to say, the Clinton campaign would not have given a speech linking Trump and the Alt Right if she didn’t think the Alt Right was a liability. And Clinton’s campaign does not make any decision without running it by focus groups and consultants.
But is there really any evidence the Alt Right is actually hurting Trump?
Conventional Republicans and Conservatism Inc. castrati cower in fear whenever the Left accuses them of “racism”—even for the most reasonable statements and policy positions. And no doubt there are some voters who may generally support the GOP or even immigration patriotism, but get turned off by perceived “racism” or “extremism,” even if the MSM and Republican campaign consultants overstate their significance,.
Thus according to a Quinnipiac poll conducted in the week leading up to Clinton’s speech, 59% of voters including 29% of Republicans, 59% of independents, and 54% of whites agreed that “the way Donald Trump talks appeals to bigotry” [Clinton Tops 50 Percent, Quinnipiac University, August 25, 2016]. A Suffolk University Poll released on September 1, and conducted from August 24-29, asked “Just your own view, do you think Donald Trump is a racist?” Forty-four percent said yes, while 47% declined. This included even 11 percent of Republicans and 42% of independents.
Still, it should be noted that perceived “racism” is not a deal breaker for everyone. Some 7% of Trump voters, and 40% of undecided voters, believed he was “racist”—but were still supporting or considering supporting him anyway [National Issues Poll with USA TODAY, Suffolk University, September 1, 2016].
And it’s very unlikely the Alt Right contributes significantly, if at all, to these perceptions. Many liberals and non-whites make the same accusations about any Republican.
Funny thing—I could not find a single poll that asked this “racism” question about any other candidate. However, Pew recently asked voters if they thought the Republican and Democratic parties were “Tolerant and open to all groups of people.” Only 35% of voters said this was true of the GOP in February 2015—before Trump was running and back when Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio were the favorites. In contrast, 59% percent of people thought the Democrats were “tolerant and open to all groups of people.”
In March 2016, when Trump was the frontrunner, 32% of voters viewed the GOP as tolerant. Also in March 2016, 54% of voters believed the Republican Party was “too extreme”—the exact same percentage who shared that opinion in the fall of 2015 [Campaign Exposes Fissures Over Issues, Values and How Life Has Changed in the U.S, Pew Research Center, March 31, 2016].
Similarly, in July 2013, a few months after Romney’s defeat, 48% of voters thought the GOP was “too extreme” [Campaign Exposures Fissures Over Issues, Values and How Life Has Changed in the US – Full Report (PDF), Pew Research Center, March 31, 2016].
So this amounts to 3% of Americans who view the Republican Party as less “tolerant” and 4-6% who view it as more “extreme” after Trump announced.
These are miniscule figures.
What’s more, these marginal changes have a number of explanations besides Trump. Republicans always need to appeal to their conservative base during the primaries, and the MSM’s focus on supposed Republican extremism always intensifies as presidential elections approach.
It’s also worth noting more voters thought the GOP was “too extreme” in 1999 (56%) than do now.
Some voters may well have turned against Trump in a way they wouldn’t have against other Republicans. There are presumably some voters who may give Paul Ryan a pass, but believe any candidate who supports patriotic immigration reform or speaks out in defense of police officers is “appealing to bigotry.” There may even be those who won’t vote for Trump simply because of his “tone.”
But none of this has anything to do with the Alt Right.
Besides, the MSM and the Clinton campaign (to the extent that they can be distinguished) had already spent plenty of time trying to tar Trump through his supporters before noticing the Alt Right:
- Using the Frankfurt School’s “Authoritarian Personality” tests to suggest that Trump supporters are incipient fascists [The One Weird Trait That Predicts Whether You’re a Trump Supporter, by Matthew MacWilliams, Politico, January 17, 2016]
- Showing that Donald Trump supporters are more likely to live in areas with higher than average levels of “Google searches for racial slurs and racist jokes” [Donald Trump’s Strongest Supporters: A Certain Kind of Democrat, by Nate Cohn, New York Times, December 31, 2015]
- Taking polls that Trump supporters are more likely to have Politically Incorrect (albeit accurate) perceptions of blacks. [Exclusive: Trump supporters more likely to view blacks negatively, by Emily Flitter and Chris Kahn, Reuters, June 28, 2016]
- Finding every single Trump supporter with a Confederate Battle flag or who may have said uttered slurs [See, e.g., A Journalist Went to a Donald Trump Rally Yesterday And Came Back Shocked, Political Scrapbook, June 15, 2016]
- Finding supposed “racists” who support Trump like no-name Klan “leaders” and neo-Nazis. The only name most people would even recognize would be former Louisiana state representative David Duke.
As for Duke (who is currently running for U.S. Senate in Louisiana) he’s far less vulgar than many of the anonymous twitter accounts on the Alt Right. He’s also a former elected official—which for some reason is never mentioned by journalists who consistently identify him as a former Klan leader.
However, fair or not, Duke’s brief association with the Ku Klux Klan 35 years ago has made these attacks stick. Indeed, Clinton has mentioned Duke in almost all of her denunciations of the Alt Right. The reason: a large chunk of voters already know who David Duke is, and if they do not, saying “former Klan Leader David Duke supports Trump” needs little explanation.
In contrast, in order to smear Trump via the Alt Right generally, the MSM/ Clinton campaign first need to explain that Breitbart wrote a few articles that were not entirely negative about the Alt Right movement. Then they have to explain why this movement that few voters had heard of until recently is bad. Then they have to get into decoding Pepe memes and 4chan for the normies.
While this inspires journalists to write dozens of “think pieces,” I can’t imagine it is going to interest many voters, let alone scare them off.
For the Alt Right to harm Trump, there must be a significant segment of voters who will vote for Trump despite media smears about his immigration patriotism, his guilt by non-association with David Duke, his overhyped “Mexican rapist” comment, and his “authoritarian personality”—but will recoil from Trump’s tangential connection to Jared Taylor, Richard Spencer, and some anonymous twitter accounts who tweet frog memes at journalists as a bridge too far.
As Trump continues to close the gap with Hillary, even MSM journalists are beginning to notice Hillary has nothing to offer except condemnations of Trump [Five reasons Hillary could be blowing it, by Glenn Thrush, Politico, September 6, 2015]. The Alt Right isn’t hurting Trump. Concern trolling by journalists already hostile to Trump and the GOP generally should be dismissed.
And people like Jonah Goldberg, who have a vested interest in driving out the Alt Right, need to come up with a better justification for why people need to stop listening to the intellectual force now dominating the conversation among American patriots.
Alexander Hart (email him) is a conservative journalist.