Time to John Birch the Alt-Right

Jonah Goldberg, National Review, August 31, 2016

Last week saw one of the most remarkable moments of this most remarkable political season. A major politician defended the conservative movement and the Republican party from guilt-by-association with a fringe group of racists, anti-Semites, and conspiracy theorists who have jumped enthusiastically on the Donald Trump train: the so-called alt-right.

“This is not conservatism as we have known it,” the politician said. “This is not Republicanism as we have known it.”

The politician was Hillary Clinton, and that’s what’s astonishing. {snip}

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This history suggests that Clinton’s attempt to distinguish the party of Paul Ryan from the alt-right was not the product of high-minded statesmanship, but political calculation. The goal was to demonize Trump so as to make moderate voters feel OK voting for a Democrat.

(Trump is not an alt-righter, but his political inexperience, his anti-establishment persona, and his ignorance of, and hostility to, many basic tenets of conservatism created a golden opportunity for the alt-righters to latch onto his candidacy.)

{snip} What’s truly extraordinary, though, is that Clinton is doing work many conservatives won’t.

There is a diversity of views among the self-described alt-right. But the one unifying sentiment is racism–or what they like to call “racialism” or “race realism.” In the words of one alt-right leader, Jared Taylor, “the races are not equal and equivalent.” On Monday, Taylor asserted on NPR’s “Diane Rehm Show” that racialism–not religion, economics, etc.–is the one issue that unites alt-righters.

{snip}

{snip} The alt-righters are a politically insignificant band. Why claim that a group dedicated to overthrowing conservatism for a white-nationalist fantasy is in fact a member of the conservative coalition? Why muddy a distinction the alt-righters are eager to keep clear?

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William F. Buckley recognized that the Birchers were being used by the liberal media to “anathematize the entire American right wing.” At first, his magazine, National Review (where I often hang my hat), tried to argue that the problem was just a narrow “lunatic fringe” of Birchers, and not the rank and file. But very quickly, the editors recognized that the broader movement needed to be denounced and defenestrated.

Buckley grasped something Hewitt and countless lesser pro-Trump pundits do not: Some lines must not be blurred, but illuminated for all to see. Amazingly, Clinton is doing that when actual conservatives have not.

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