Author’s Note: This post was originally made on facebook during the 2016 election, and thus might be outdated to some degree. I still stand by the opinions professed here. Not presenting such opinions, for the sake of having or maintaining broader appeal, is cowardice.
Calling Trump’s followers the “alt-right” diminishes the impact, influence, and approval (tacit or otherwise) the more “traditional” political Right of this country has had on raising and shaping them.
When you say that Trump’s belligerent followers are something new, you are implying that Trump created not only a platform, but an entire culture and mentality. Even going so far as to say he awakened it in people is too much credit. It is the rhetoric that has passed for decades, once left to the outside to say. It is the coalescence of every news segment, every man on the street at right wing rally interview, and every absurd question thrown at right wing candidates by their more “out there” supporters that the news has seen fit to mock. He is not the progenitor or the prophet of the fears that Obama is an “Atheist Muslim Communist” as was once the stated by a Romney supporter. The moment where McCain responded to a woman claiming that Obama was an Arab, with a clearly derogatory tone, was a defining one for me, because what he said was to me interpreted at first as in response to her tone, and not an issue of offense.
He said, “No ma’am, he’s a decent family man and a citizen of the United States who I happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues”
I cannot claim to really know if he was juxtaposing the idea of being a decent family man against the idea of being Arab, or if he was contrasting it with her insinuations and the insinuations of the crowd that night. I would like to believe the latter, because he is clearly a man of some intelligence to have been going in politics as long as he had by that point. The real problem is how hard I had to consider that he didn’t mean the former. The real problem is that he may very well have been vague on what he was responding to as an attempt to both dissuade and placate the crowd by giving them what they wanted to hear, if only in a small, alternatively directed, dosage.
Now, of course, we see people coming out of the woodwork of the Right, people who have reached their breaking point, where their friends, once thought like-minded; their constituents, once believed to be good, simple Christian folk; and their party; once thought to be about free market and small government, has all shown itself to built on a foundation of hate and ignorance. Friends turn out to be overt racists. Newly proposed policy seeks to put us into the political climate of fear and terror that was once struggled against by these same politicians in their existence through the cold war and beyond.
After becoming addicted to the sudden rush and overwhelming approval garnered by using hate and proposing “punitive” actions of destruction to an almost indiscriminate degree against the Middle East and its inhabitants, much of the GOP is coming off their high. Many have come to realize that their party’s platform has changed from a position about a potential form of governance wherein there are marginal interventions by the regime, to one of overwhelming interference for the sake of saving some imagined “White Christian Moralist minority” that is in danger of being crushed.
When it was them, when people like McCain and Romney were being popular for tacitly acknowledging comments made about the brown kid on their playground and laughing at his clothes or saying his customs were weird or that he probably had some disease, it was okay, and what the party stood for. As soon as Trump comes up and says “we should be mean to the kid because he’s brown and probably gonna infect us with poverty” the Right was upset with him, because he was better at being popular for it.
Make no mistake, this same Right that is on occasion condemning him, produced as their best effort this time around a man whose signature move as a politician was to promise indiscriminate bombings in the Middle East. Whether or not he understood the term “carpet bombing” at the time, it still means his solution to US over-involvement in the Middle East was blowing things up without a real understanding of what he asked for. And that was almost the face of their platform. Take the voter who is most clichedly emblematic of the current Republican party, and put them in a room with an ISIS supporter, and give them a universal language with only one word for God and you may find they have a lot to talk about.
We may say the party is run by the rich, by oligarchs who profit off of fear, but that is slowly becoming no longer the case, in a sense (though to say the rich are to be disempowered is another claim entirely, and one I find unlikely. I speak more to image, in this case.). Sure, Trump is manipulating the fears of people and using it to win, but ultimately (and I think many of the people in party leadership positions have seen this as well) the GOP will become run by the people. A true party of the people. Of certain people. Someday soon, the Republicans will have to wrestle with the fact that they became slaves to the decrepit mutation of Newt Gingrich’s Moral Majority, now infused with the fear and jingoism of 9/11 rhetoric. Pulled by their necks, the old guard will be forced to work to fix the recent additions to their platforms, occasionally paying lip service to their once primary goals of lesser government involvement, all the while proposing fixes that work against their dream.