By: Sarah Casteel and the Board of the College Republicans  | 

A Conservative Response to the Alt-Right

Since last year’s election, I have found myself, as a conservative, feeling constantly pressured to defend my humanity. This was certainly no different after the recent violence in Charlottesville. The media sprang to action, often clumping the alt-right with the conservative movement and Republican party. The alt-right movement, which stands for alternative-right, was established by white supremacist Richard Spencer in 2010. The group believes that western civilization was created from white identity, and that this white identity and therefore western civilization itself is threatened by the presence and acceptance of other races and ethnic groups. While it’s clear to me and other run-of-the-mill conservatives that we don’t sympathize with the alt-right, I have no doubt in my mind that there are reasons why people would assume we do. I feel it is my responsibility to dispel that notion.

Trump’s failure and refusal to condemn the alt-right in his speech on the Saturday following the attack is both disturbing and disheartening. Since Trump hired Steve Bannon, a self-proclaimed alt-right supporter, I feared that the image of the conservative movement would be tainted by the image of the alt-right. It seems that Trump, with all of his provocative and inciting rhetoric, feels the need to appease the alt-right as if they are a significant part of his base of support. While it may be true that the alt-right voted for Trump, he doesn’t need to support them just because they support him. Whether or not he fears he will lose power and popularity by publicly distancing himself from the alt-right, the moral and necessary thing for Trump to do is to forcefully condemn them. When he did not do that in his speech following the Charlottesville violence, and furthermore said there were some “decent people” at the rally, Trump failed to represent the values of the conservative movement.

Another issue is that there is a miscommunication about the definition of the alt-right. This leads many people to believe that the alt-right is a big group, holding power in both the conservative movement and in society in general. In reality, the total number of people who are legitimately part of the alt-right is so miniscule that it is not worth worrying about in terms of their power to take over the government in any way. However, of course, it is important to talk about it and to condemn them strongly and publicly. This is why I was so disappointed and disturbed when Trump did not do so in his response speech. Luckily, many other prominent conservative politicians have called Trump out for this failure, and subsequently stood out strongly against the alt-right. At the end of the day, though, conservatives still are not doing enough to distance themselves from the alt-right. This is particularly true when it seems that many other groups have a motive to clump the alt-right together with all conservatives.

There are a few reasons why people believe the conservative movement and the alt-right are synonymous, or sympathetic to one another. Of course, most conservatives see the alt-right as a group that is evil, disgusting, and unquestionably vile. Unfortunately, often the media proliferates the baseless theory that all conservatives are really “alt-right,” and it seems that conservatives are not doing enough to combat it. For example, while the liberal media has rarely given much coverage of attacks by the violent leftist group Antifa, conservative media outlets often get stuck between a rock and a hard place when they feel the need to defend the alt-right victims of Antifa attacks. While conservatives do not actually agree in the slightest with the alt-right, they believe that this country’s guaranteed freedom of speech allows them to hold rallies and publicly proclaim their beliefs. So, when the violent Antifa members attack peacefully protesting alt-right individuals, conservatives defend their freedom, while paying the cost of appearing to side with them on an ideological basis. It is clear to conservatives that the alt-right is an abominable philosophy, and instances that make this unapparent to the media prove why we need to step up our game in terms of condemning their beliefs while defending their rights.

Another issue is that a decent amount of ignorant and foolish people are perceived as members of the alt-right without really believing in the alt-right philosophy. Internet trolls often post memes and other junk which appear to be sympathetic to the alt-right movement, but such instances of seeming alt-right proclamations are really indicative of nothing more than people’s boredom and insensitivity. They are not real members of the alt-right movement, and the alt-right is nowhere as big of a movement as it can seem with the consideration of all of these internet trolls. It is frustrating for conservatives to see the impact of these people on the perceived strength and growth of the alt-right -- a philosophy that has existed for centuries and has not legitimately gained much traction, even now.

To be a political conservative, a person has to believe in the Constitution, which subsequently implies the values of individual liberty, and equality under the law. Members of the alt-right are fundamentally opposed to all of those traditional American values. White supremacists in the alt-right are by no means conservatives, or even part of the political “right,” and therefore it is exceptionally aggravating that people would even consider the alt-right a group promoting right-wing violence. They are not considered part of the conservative movement both morally and fundamentally, and, therefore, it shouldn’t matter if they try to latch on to our movement to give themselves legitimacy. They are not part of the conservative movement in any way.

Whether or not the alt-right is successful in appearing more mainstreamed right now, the definition of their philosophy has not changed. The alt-right consists of white supremacists, anti-semites, Neo-Nazis, and barbarians. They are not all of a sudden part of the conservative movement simply because the media claims they are, or because Trump has refused to condemn them, or even if they claim to be themselves. By allowing the media to broaden their definition of the alt-right to seem as if regular conservatives are somehow sympathetic to alt-right philosophy, we are failing the conservative movement’s responsibility to stand up for the Constitution, and all of the liberties it guarantees us. Being a conservative doesn’t mean agreeing with everything Trump says, and it certainly does not mean that we are sympathetic to the alt-right simply because we do not agree with their enemies on the left. In fact, the alt-right considers many conservatives to be enemies as well. We need to remember that the alt-right is nothing more than a small group of repugnant extremists, and that whether we are conservative (or even liberal for that matter), our job is to condemn evil no matter the cost.