On Wednesday, syndicated radio host Hugh Hewitt and I had a friendly debate about the chances that Donald Trump would select a conservative Supreme Court nominee. In the process of that debate, Hugh mistakenly called me “Alt-Right.” Naturally, I objected rather strenuously to this assertion, given that I have been put on the Alt-Right post office wall as a Wanted Man — there may be no louder critic of the so-called Alt-Right than I.
What in the world made Hugh think I was Alt-Right? He said that I was Alt-Right because I opposed Paul Ryan in his primary run.
First off, I didn’t oppose House Speaker Paul Ryan, R- Wis. (F, 53%) in his primary run. But even if I had, that wouldn’t have made me Alt-Right anymore than it makes Hugh Alt-Right to support Donald Trump. Hugh seems to think that Alt-Right is a matter of “tone”; he defines Alt-Right as “an attempt to hijack limited govt conservatism in favor of nationalism.” That’s about half-right, but it’s not the whole thing. Redefining nationalism away from its conservative principles means distinguishing the United States on the basis of ethnicity rather than on the basis of creed. That’s why the Alt-Right has been so closely tied to white supremacy and anti-Semitism.
So why, then, did Hewitt link those who think Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. (F, 42%) have done a less-than-stellar job with the Alt-Right? He explained on Twitter: “the often incessant attacks on real conservatives provided camouflage w/which Alt-Right advanced.”
That’s a rather extreme assertion.
The reality is that the Alt-Right, like all insurgent political movements, is driven by anger. Some of that anger is justified. Senator McConnell’s consistent kabuki theatrics with regard to negotiations with President Obama rightly alienated many Americans who feel that President Obama’s agenda must be fought at every turn. Paul Ryan may be wonderful on entitlements, but his support for TARP, the auto bailouts, and immigration reform make him questionable from a policy point of view, and his unwillingness to use the power of the purse against the Obama administration hasn’t exactly won him a wave of admirers among limited government conservatives. Small government conservatives have a boatload of reasons to question both McConnell and Ryan.
The Alt-Right movement questions both these Republican leaders of them on one basis only: immigration. That’s because the Alt-Right doesn’t care about smaller government. It’s just as easy to blame establishment figures for upholding the supposed virtues of Ryan and McConnell as it is to blame anti-Ryan and anti-McConnell conservatives for the reaction of the Alt-Right.
But that would be inconvenient for Trump supporters in the establishment. They must find some way to cast the Alt-Right as #NeverTrump allies, when in fact there’s nobody the Alt-Right hates more than #NeverTrump conservatives. They hate the #NeverTrumpers on the basis of #NeverTrump’s conservative principles, which the Alt-Right believe are archaic, and they hate them for not supporting the Alt-Right hero Trump. At least establishment Republicans are on their side with regard to Trump.
But this is a hint of things to come. Should Trump lose, the Republican establishment that backed Trump must find a way not to be lumped in with the ugly Alt-Right Trumpers – and so they’ll somehow falsely redefine them as allies of the #NeverTrump conservative. Meanwhile, the Trump Alt-Right will blame #NeverTrump and find a way to falsely redefine them as allies of the Republican establishment.
But the Alt-Right is its own branch. So is the establishment. And #NeverTrump small-government conservatives are obviously distinct from both.