Remember the alt-right? The sludge of white supremacists, misogynists, neo-Nazis, and various chauvinists leaked out of the putrid corners of the internet in the years leading up to Donald Trump’s election. Although their various hatreds, grievances, and conspiracy theories were old, they saw themselves as something new. Their very name placed them in opposition to the status quo. They weren’t the American right, the coalition that included politicians like then-House Speaker Paul Ryan and Sens. Jeff Flake and John McCain, as well as the Wall Street Journal editorial board and the intellectuals in the conservative think tanks and magazines. No, they were the blood-and-soil, tiki-torches-and-khakis alternative.
The one new thing about the alt-right, apart from its embrace of internet anonymity as a modern-day successor to the Klan hood, was its leaders. There was Alex Jones, the conspiracy theorist proprietor of InfoWars, famous for his concern over gay frogs, and Richard Spencer, a neo-Nazi provocateur known for getting punched. For those who preferred stronger flavors, there was Nick Fuentes, a Holocaust denier and self-described “Campus Conservative,” and Milo Yiannopoulos, who mixed white nationalism with defenses of pedophilia. The chief impresario was Steve Bannon, who made the website he took over, Breitbart, into a “platform for the alt-right.”
That was then. By its own definition, the alt-right is no more. Because it’s no longer an alternative to the right. It is the right.
Most of the Republican party is now more or less where the alt-right was four years ago, at least in embracing conspiracy theories—starting with the most consequential conspiracy theory of the last year: that Trump won the 2020 election but it was stolen from him by some combination of Democratic fraudsters, foreign and domestic socialists, and voting-machine companies, backed up by Big Tech. Courts asked to weigh in on these claims repeatedly slapped them down, and the pro-Trump lawyers who filed them increasingly revealed themselves to be unhinged. But about three-quarters of Republicans believe that President-elect Biden’s victory was illegitimate. And a majority of the Republicans in Congress supported the baseless claims: Two-thirds of the GOP representatives objected to certifying Electoral College votes last Wednesday, and over a quarter of GOP senators did (and/or said they intended to do) the same thing. [Continue reading…]