Richard Spencer, president of the National Policy Institute, recently came under fire for spewing racist comments and white supremacist remarks on a leaked audio tape. This revelation should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Spencer and his political ideology. Richard Spencer is one of the most prominent figures in the political fringe-group known as the alternative right, a radical facet to the mainstream American right.
The alt-right advocates for openly racist policies, white supremacy and is responsible for the 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. The alt-right is a minority extremist group that wants to reestablish white, European culture and heritage within the United States. According to the alt-right, the United States was created by white Europeans, for white Europeans, and as a result, the destiny of the nation is reserved for white Europeans. As disgusting as their overt racism is, America's more liberal counterpart, the left, has a tendency to equate mainstream conservatism to these radical viewpoints.
People like Donald Trump and Ben Shapiro have been labeled as alt-right by political opponents. Despite this, Trump and Shapiro not only been targeted by the alt-right, but they have also denounced the beliefs of the alt-right. It is easy to label a political opponent as alt-right. In doing so, all of the negative stereotypes are now attached to that person. An easy way to win any debate against an opponent is to attack the opponent themselves. The traditional conservative right does not ascribe to the same political belief system of the alt-right because the alt-right does not have a political philosophy. Racist views alone are not a political platform, and this is all that the alt-right offers in terms of political opinions.
The fascination on identity politics by most alt-right thinkers is the major difference between their group and the traditional conservative right. How the alt-right and conservatives see the issue of race is one of the divides in political ideologies. For the alt-right, race is the only issue that matters.
Ramon Lopez of National Affairs writes, "According to the alt-right, multicultural or multiracial democracies — indeed, all pluralistic societies — are recipes for conflict and disaster."
This is contrary to the conservative way of thinking. Conservatives typically place no value on the issue of race. In their minds, America without multiculturalism is fundamentally un-American. Identity politics place the unimportant issue of skin color or ethnicity at the forefront. As a result, the true meaning within political discussion gets lost. The alt-right recognizes this and attacks the conservative right for not agreeing with their extremist views.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, "People who identify with the Alt Right regard mainstream or traditional conservatives as weak and impotent, largely because they do not sufficiently support racism and anti-Semitism."
When an overtly racist institution that follows alt-right ideology criticizes mainstream conservatism for not advocating on behalf of white supremacy, the intellectual honesty of those on the left who accuse conservatives of being members of the alt-right should be called into question.
In addition to the alt-right denouncing conservatism as philosophy, important members of the conservative movement have been directly attacked by the alt-right. One of the leading alt-right websites has called political pundit Ben Shapiro, "an enemy Jew who wants to eradicate the white race." Charlie Kirk, president of Turning Point USA, has been referred to by the same leading alt-right website that denounced Shapiro as an "evil Hebrew operative" after he defended the state of Israel.
If the alt-right supposedly agrees with conservatives like Shapiro and Kirk, why would the alt-right attack them? The answer stems from the fact the alt-right does not really agree with mainstream conservatism. Alt-right is not a political philosophy. Instead, it is an identity of racism. Shapiro and Kirk support Jewish interests, and the alt-right does not; therefore, Shapiro and Kirk are viewed as enemies. Politics take a back seat to race and identities, separating the alt-right from mainstream conservatism. Equating the two is a recipe for political division which results in unproductive name-calling.
According to Joseph A. Wulfsohn from Fox News, The Economist published an interview with Ben Shapiro that was titled "Inside the Mind of Ben Shapiro, the alt-right sage without the rage." The same year, Shapiro was the number one critic of the alt-right from mainstream conservatives and the number one target for anti-Semitic attacks among journalists. Either the Economist did not properly conduct their research or, worse, aimed to maliciously label Ben Shapiro as a white supremacist. Eventually, this headline was retracted by The Economist, but the damage had already been done.
Using the term alt-right as a weapon to smear opposition diminishes the actions of the true racist and white-supremacist actions of the alt-right. The left should end the equivocation of conservatism to the alt-right. Instead, the left should work with conservatives to combat the racism and hate espoused by the alt-right.