Donald Trump’s candidacy for the US Presidency, and in particular his recent appointment of Stephen K. Bannon, the executive chairman of the right-wing media site Breitbart to head up his campaign, has brought fresh attention to the so-called “alt-right” in America. The term was first coined in 2008 and is commonly used to describe hitherto fringe groupings of far right activists, white nationalists/supremacists and fascists in the US. Their closest parallels are to European far right movements, but the history of slavery, segregation and Anglo-Saxonism gives racist and ethno-facism in the US particular specificity. That any of this has been brought anywhere near the mainstream of US conservatism is a measure of what Trump’s candidacy both represents and has become.
The Guardian has recently carried a primer on the alt-right, and an excellent long read on intellectuals associated with their activities. The Spectator has also discussed the phenomenon. Here the Washington Post talks to the racists “cheered by Trump’s latest strategy”.
Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric may be seen as a resurrection of the Republicans’ erstwhile “Southern Strategy”, as the Atlantic outlines here, substituting Islam for godless communism. Unsurprisingly, his ratings amongst African-Americans are rock bottom. Conversely, his support amongst conservative evangelicals is holding firm – chiefly because they see him as their only hope for preventing a liberal swing in the Supreme Court. The New York Times also examines how to think about the Latino vote here.
In a welter of comment and analysis, a couple of older pieces are also worth reading, to give historical context to Trump and the alt-right. The invention of race in the fledgling USA, as a means ideologically to justify and sustain slavery, was the subject of an essay by Barbara Jeanne Fields in the New Left Review in 1990.
And this wonderful piece by Richard Hofstader from 1964 on “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” shows just how many alt-right political themes echo paranoid conspiracy theories of plots, invasions and moral degeneracy that crop up throughout US history. Well worth a read.