November 23, 2016
I’ve been seeing many calls lately for people to replace the term “Alt-Right” with less euphemistic labels like “White Nationalism,” “Rebranded White Supremacy,” or “Neo Nazis.” I agree with the sentiment behind this demand: the price of normalizing divisive race-based rhetoric is, ultimately, fascism. Trump’s status as President-elect is our first penalty for failing to respond with sufficient outrage at the White Nationalist Alt-Right’s long-repudiated racist ideology.
What I would prefer to see and hear is exactly what I just did in that last sentence. Instead of replacing the term Alt-Right with a more revealing, stigmatizing term, simply put the two together. Make sure the term Alt-Right is always immediately preceded or followed by another term that paints a truer picture. That way the term “Right” is always just a few words away from “White,” “Nazi,” or “Racist.” In fact, the small abbreviated term “Alt” might end up just falling away, leaving behind the “White Supremacist Right” or something similar.
My hope in general is that the Right as a whole, and the Republican Party with it, suffers a mortal wound because of its dangerous courtship with and increasing outright embrace of its vilest members. What after the 1960’s seemed to be a crazy fringe of the most backward Republicans has increasingly come to dominate the rhetoric and policies of their Party. It truly is now the party of the White Supremacist Right.
So let’s keep using the term Alt-Right, but over time make sure that it (through my favorite literary technique, synecdoche), comes to signify the Right as a whole, Republicans in general, and anyone who stands by while White Supremacy rears its ugly head yet again in this country. By contrast, the term “The Left” will require no modifiers to reveal what I hope it strives more and more to become: the side that represents ever-expanding acceptance, reforms to restore economic equity, rationalism, sustainability, and hope—in short, the side of the future.
The Democratic Party has a chance to define itself as everything the White Supremacist Right is not. And, if it can simultaneously tone down its strident elitism and genuinely promote policies aimed less at enriching Wall Street and more at building a solid middle class, it might successfully persuade the millions of good people who find themselves trapped in a party run by Alt-Right Neo-Nazis that they have a welcoming home on the Left.