The Alt Right is not the Vanguard Yet
No one in America can ever forget the night of November 8, 2016. For the left, the night seemed to have a sinister, almost macabre quality – to those opponents of White America and her interests, Donald Trump’s election was not merely a blow, but a decisive and humiliating defeat at the very moment when final victory seemed close at hand. On the left, the prevailing attitude was resigned and funereal – the apoplexy and hysteria of today would wait until morning. But for the Alt Right, Trump’s shocking victory brought an exhilaration tempered only by a fleeting reflection on just how stunning and improbable the victory was. On the Alt Right, one had the feeling of an Israelite watching Goliath slump to the ground at the impact of David’s sling-shot: from among the people, the most improbable champion had risen, and vanquished the enemy at the very moment when defeat appeared inevitable.
There can be no doubt that Donald Trump’s victory was, in many ways, just such a victory for the Alt Right. Trump’s victory promises the restoration of immigration laws that serve the interests of America’s historic White majority; Trump’s victory heralds the downfall of a media and political establishment that has vilified and attacked White America from both sides; Trump’s victory brings hope for the future success of identitarian politics in Europe, and, perhaps most important of all, Trump’s victory has put fear and uncertainty in the hearts of a left that thought itself invincible.
But the Alt Right is in danger of squandering this victory and turning it into their own defeat, for they have not been able to distinguish between a victory for the Alt Right and a victory of the Alt Right. And while it is clear that Trump’s election was the former sort of victory, it is equally clear that it was not the latter. While the Alt Right is a young movement, Trump won only 37% of the under-30 vote – a showing no better among youth than that of Mitt Romney, whose intellectual vanguard was nothing more spectacular than moribund basic-bitch conservatism. Nor did Trump win giving White Americans a champion behind whom they could rally as White Americans: Trump won the White vote by only a percentage-point more than Romney. Moreover, Trump’s victory among Whites was driven overwhelmingly by older Whites: among Whites under 30, Trump won only 48% of the vote. Indeed, Trump’s victory was the result less of an any radical intellectual vanguard for White identity politics, and more the result of an effective, data-heavy analytical program for leveraging Mitt Romney’s coalition in swing states run out of the office of Jared Kushner.
Yet the Alt Right, drunk off the heady vapors of Trump’s election, has fallen into self-congratulation of the most deluded sort, announcing that it was they who “willed Donald Trump into office, [and] made [their] dream into reality.” Richard Spencer has taken to hailing Donald Trump with the Roman salute, as though a lieutenant in some imaginary army that had crossed the Potomac to proclaim Trump emperor, and announcing that his movement is now the intellectual vanguard of the Donald Trump administration.
To call these claims specious, and this triumphalist attitude merely unwarranted, would be too generous. Rather, this self-congratulatory spectacle is so detached from reality that it borders on insanity. Who is to believe that anything more than a miniscule percent of Donald Trump voters had ever seen a pepe meme, or that there was anyone for whom the invective of a Ricky Vaughan tweetstorm furnished the deciding blow against their thought of voting for Hillary Clinton? Who would imagine that Donald Trump, Jared Kushner, Corey Lewandowski and Stephen Miller might have burned the midnight oil throughout October conferring over transcripts of past NPI conference speeches, carefully crafting ads and policies inspired by a nascent White identitarian wave sweeping American political thought?
Such a person would be indulging in unwarranted fantasy of the most extravagant and ridiculous falsehood. But the dangers of this daydream go beyond the threat of mere epistemic transgression. For anyone on the Alt Right who dreams this version of events is daydreaming not in Richard Spencer’s sense of someone who seeks to make his dreams reality, but in the sense of someone so lost in idle fantasy that they cannot confront the tasks set out before them. Anyone who, after the night of November 8, imagines himself placing a wreath of laurel on Donald Trump’s head is himself resting on laurels that he has not won.
For the Alt Right has not yet won anything more than a brief moment in the public eye. A few media interviews and documentaries have been devoted to this nascent movement, and an opportunity has come about for the Alt Right to take its ideas into the mainstream. But for them to do so, they must be circumspect: they must cater their message to the normies and civic populists, not to the platoon of twenty-something men in undercut hairstyles and ill-fitting suits that are at present their shock troops (despite looking more like reservists). They must build a media enterprise that can equal the massive success of the Alt Lite media, including Breitbart, who are now their most important rivals. They must find a way to develop an appeal among women, who, prominent tokens aside, avoid the Alt Right like lepers. They must develop an aesthetic that is authentic without hearkening to the fascism of the early twentieth century, which is repugnant to the very Americans for whom they claim to advocate.
All these they have thus far failed to do. But, lost in the sublimity of their Trumpian fantasy, the Alt Right believes their very failure to have been vindicated by an imaginary success. One day, they will awaken from the slumber of this delusion. If they can do so soon, they will have a chance to use their newfound notoriety to their own advantage. But if they do not do so soon, they will awaken to find that instead of victory, they have achieved their final failure; that their moment in the sun, however flattering, was nothing more than a blip on the radar of American history, relegated to the future thesis research of some SPLC fellowship recipient.