Clinton denounces Trump’s alt-right connections
Seeking to undermine Donald Trump’s pivot toward moderate voters, Hillary Clinton last week blasted her Republican rival for stoking racism and embracing the so-called alt-right—a loose, online-focused movement of ultranationalists, white supremacists, anti-feminists, and anti-Semites that is fiercely pro-Trump. In a speech in Reno, Nev., the Democratic presidential nominee listed Trump’s many racial controversies. Clinton noted how the businessman spearheaded the “birther” conspiracy theory that questioned President Obama’s U.S. citizenship, launched his presidential campaign by calling Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals, and retweeted white supremacists online. She made special mention of Trump’s recent appointment of Stephen Bannon, head of Breitbart.com, as his campaign CEO. Clinton quoted headlines from Breitbart—which Bannon has called “the platform for the alt-right”—including “Would You Rather Your Child Had Feminism or Cancer?” Trump is “taking hate groups mainstream,” Clinton said, “and helping a radical fringe take over the Republican Party.”
Her campaign doubled down on the attack with a web video that highlighted Trump’s support from members of the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacist groups. At a rally in Manchester, N.H., Trump said Clinton was smearing him and his supporters. “She lies,” he said, “and she paints decent Americans—you—as racists.”
What the columnists said
Make no mistake, there is very little conservative or Republican about the alt-right, said Ramesh Ponnuru in BloombergView.com.
These fringe characters call themselves “alt” to distinguish themselves from conservatives, whom they consider “weak, out of touch, and boring.” Alt-right supporters have scant interest in “free markets, limited government, the Constitution, and the sanctity of unborn human life.” Their organizing principle, as alt-right pioneer Richard Hoste wrote in 2010, is a racial hierarchy “with whites and Asians at the top and blacks at the bottom.”
But Republicans have long tacitly appealed to the white racial resentment “that now fuels the Trump campaign in explicit form,” said Jamelle Bouie in Slate.com. In her speech, Clinton shrewdly courted Republicans, saying she was “dismayed that the Party of Lincoln has become the party of Trump.” But the gulf isn’t as wide as she claims. Ronald Reagan’s talk of “welfare queens,” George H.W. Bush’s Willie Horton ad; John McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as veep—for decades Republicans have given “winks and nods to the most toxic elements of their party.” In so doing, they created a monster.
Now the “nebulous, trollish provocateurs” of the alt-right can “hardly contain their ecstasy,” said Michael Tracey in American Conservative.com.Once obscure denizens of internet chat rooms, they’re “thanking Hillary profusely” for raising their profile beyond their wildest dreams. They may be here to stay, said Katrina vanden Heuvel in The Washington Post. Trump hasn’t just “given voice to the visceral hatred in our midst.” His campaign has given people permission “to say virtually anything in public without regard for facts or fear of repercussions.” Win or lose, it “could poison our politics for a generation.”