David Neiwert has lived in his Seattle neighbourhood for decades. But it, like the US, has changed beyond recognition around him. Once upon a time, the journalist and author of the book Alt-America explains, “most of the houses were older, but they were cheap. They were places where working-class people who work on these fishing boats out here” – he gestures towards the docks at Salmon Bay – “could live, right? You know, 500 bucks a month. It all got torn down during the gentrification phase and replaced with multistorey condos that cost $1,500 or $2,000 a month.”
Amazon, whose headquarters are in Seattle, “changed the city”, he says. “All the folks who work on those fishing boats are still in the neighbourhood, but they’ve got no place to live. They’re all living on the street.” He offers a characteristic wry grin. “We’ve got a lot of motor homes around the neighbourhood now.”
Neiwert has spent his career studying far-right movements. Alt America analyses their growth over the past several decades, and looks at how authoritarianism and conspiracy thinking have come to hold sway over US politics. Neiwert believes that the far right’s surge, the election of Donald Trump and mass homelessness in Seattle all spring from a common root: the deliberate assault on democracy by the US right and the Republican party.
For several decades following the Great Depression, when capitalism and liberal democracy teetered on the brink, Republicans and Democrats “agreed to defend democracy, and defend the values of democracy because it benefited them all by following basically FDR’s program. Now, we’ve lost that because conservatives have decided they are no longer willing to submit to any kind of government run by liberals,” Neiwert says. “The current conservative movement has decided it no longer wishes to be part of a liberal democracy.” [Continue reading…]