This piece was submitted to the Vanderbilt Hustler in response to Matt’s Traditional American Values: On the “Alt-Right” published August 28, 2017.
Matt Colleran is correct: the alt right is very different from traditional conservatism. Conservatives espouse free-market principles, while the alt-right–including its highest ranking member, President Donald Trump–wish to rig the economy in favor of white workers. Conservatives promote democracy worldwide, by force if necessary; the alt-right alienates long-time democratic allies and worships ruthless dictators.
So it’s all the more disgusting how easily conservative politicians shed their principles to woo the alt-right: after Trump made a mockery of their primaries, conservatives were quick to crown him candidate; after Trump admitted to groping women, the defenders of family values sent the twice-divorced adulterer to the White House; after Trump targeted conservative institution after conservative institution, conservatives were but only “concerned” or “troubled.”
To give credit, conservatives have admonished Trump here or there. Senator Jeff Flake compared the relationship between GOP politicians and Trump to a “Faustian bargain,” referencing the classic German legend of the man who sold his soul to the Devil–polite words to compare Trump to Satan.
But then Trump pardoned Joe Arpaio, a former sheriff convicted for systemic racial profiling. This was an officer in Flake’s own state! Yet, the senator had only this to say: “I would have preferred that the President honor the judicial process and let it take its course.” Preferred? I prefer strawberry ice cream over chocolate. I really damn wished that Trump didn’t pardon a man for violating the Constitution.
Despite Colleran arguing that the alt-right “have more in common with the American left than the American right,” these tiki torch terrorists rally around a President with an (R) next to his name–and not by coincidence. For years, Republicans have appealed to racists with “dog whistles”–policies that “secretly” hurt racial minorities. Why else do they attack food stamps, which mostly benefit minorities, while supporting subsidies for farmers, who are disproportionately white? If you don’t believe me, then believe former RNC chairman Lee Atwater, who openly admitted to courting racists with coded language (content warning: use of the n-word).
Of course, Colleran takes great care to talk about ideology, not party. In fact, in his article, the word “Republican” appears not a single time! Reading between the lines, Colleran and other conservatives have reached the same sobering conclusion: they have lost control of the party to the racists they courted. After the Charlottesville attack, Trump refused to strongly condemn the white nationalists and literal Nazis who perpetrated the attack. Yet, 62% of Republicans approved of his inaction.
Claiming not to care about identity politics, conservatives have quietly exploited racial tensions for votes. They have ignored the racists in their party, allowing the alt-right to fester and foment. Now that the alt-right wields significant power, conservatives are afraid to oppose it. Senator Flake said it himself: “With hindsight, it is clear that we [conservatives] all but ensured the rise of Donald Trump.” For years, conservatives have blown dog whistles; now, they find themselves among dogs.
Joe Huang is a Junior in the School of Engineering. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.