Hillary Clinton's speech the other day focused our attention on the Alt. Right movement. It helped us to understand that there is a significant cleavage in modern conservatism. Simply put, belief in a small, unobtrusive federal government isn't enough for the Alt. Right any more. They have "progressed" to expulsion of all undocumented immigrants, the elimination of all laws and policies that assist minorities, and putting women "in their place" as the underlying principles of their universe.
It must be understood that the Country Club right isn't necessarily against these policies and practices. They accept the principle on which they're based, they're just aghast at the "earthy" way the Alt. Right expresses itself. What the Country Club Right really HATES is that the Alt. Right has torn the mask off what modern conservatism has become and in the process has come to reveal the underlying hatred and fear that lies at the heart what passes for conservatism today.
In essence, this isn't a battle over principle, it's much more of a cultural clash. To take it a step further, it represents the conservative version of class warfare. It's not about the Left/Right dichotomy over income redistribution or the size and reach of the federal government, it's much more about how to present hateful ideas to the American people in a more palatable manner.
I trace the dividing line in the conservative movement to 1968. On one side you have Strom Thurmond, a one-time segregationist Democrat who found comfort and fellowship in the Republican Party. He helped devise a Southern Strategy for Richard Nixon and the Republican Party. The idea was to provide a safe haven for all those upper class, gentile segregationists who were beginning to feel more and more uncomfortable with a Democratic Party that had just passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. On the other side you had George Corley Wallace, every bit as much of a segregationist as old Strom but too rude and crude for the country club crowd that was enthusiastically following him into the Republican Party.
The country club elites were welcomed into the Republican Party with open arms. In fact, over the years, this group would provide the Republican Party with key political leaders, making Newt Gingrich of Georgia Speaker of the House and Trent Lott of Mississippi and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky Senate Majority Leaders. The Wallace crowd, on the other hand, were held at arm's length, sort of the skunk at the picnic so to speak. They weren't embraced by the Republicans and they were totally rejected by the Democrats. Most of them aimlessly drifted over to the Republican Party simply because they had no place else to go politically. But some went of by themselves, nurturing hatred and devising conspiracy theories, thus providing the foundation for the Alt. Right.
It is important to understand that fundamentally, the Alt. Right and the Country Club Right are on the same side. Oh, they may feel a certain uneasiness at being thrown together under the same political umbrella, but at the end of the day they have no problem working together in unison toward the same political goals.
So, where does Donald Trump fit into all this? Trump clearly understood the dynamic going on within the Republican Party and he decided to take advantage of it in ways that no Republican had ever done before. He understood the ethos of the Alt. Right but more importantly he also understood that the Republican Party needed their votes to stay in power. Rather than rejecting the Alt. Right, Donald Trump actively courted it, promising to give them a way of voicing even their most offensive positions. He easily adopted their pointed language, eschewing political correctness and setting out to make Country Club Republicans countenance the Alt. Right's rhetoric of hate, at least most of the time.
Hillary Clinton distinguished the Country Club Right from the Alt. Right. Here she missed the point. If Donald Trump is elected President of the United States, make no mistake about it, the Country Club Right will fully embrace and accept him. It will be the only way they can continue to transform this country into the political paradigm with which they feel most comfortable. It is absolutely critical that we always remember and never forget that the Alt. Right and the Country Club Right are singing the same song, they just use different lyrics!!
Filed under: Politics