After Donald Trump won the election, there was much talk of how the GOP could begin to “build a party that is more inclusive of the diverse and the inclusive of all Americans,” and how they could begin “to show leadership in addressing the urgent issues that we face in our country today.”
But instead, the GOP has adopted a new slogan, “Preserving and Promoting White Identity,” and the GOP leadership has taken a hard line against the movement that helped propel Trump to the White House, arguing that “white identity” is inextricably tied to “white supremacy.”
For instance, the White nationalist website Stormfront is being shut down after being used to promote the White Lives Matter movement, and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has found that there are more than 2,000 “alt-right” websites in operation in the United States.
“The alt-right is the white nationalist movement that emerged after the 2016 presidential election and was fueled by Trump’s election as president and the white supremacists who have rallied around him since,” wrote SPLC senior fellow and political scientist Jason Kessler.
“In essence, the alt-righters see themselves as ‘the party of Trump,’ as opposed to the party of the ‘far right.'”
And the movement’s leaders have been caught up in a series of controversies that have made it a lightning rod for the political debate over race, immigration and social justice.
The rise of the alt right has also made it increasingly difficult for the GOP to maintain a moral high ground on issues like immigration.
According to a recent Pew Research Center poll, the percentage of Americans who said they are “very” or “somewhat” worried about the effects of immigration has nearly tripled in the last five years, from 16% in 2015 to 37% in 2017.
In response to the increase in xenophobia and anti–Muslim sentiment in the U.S., the Republican Party has pushed back against the rise of these movements, arguing, among other things, that “immigration is not a race issue, and that white Americans do not suffer when they are harmed by immigrants.”
Instead, the party has embraced the notion that immigrants are “human beings” and that they should be allowed to enter the U, even though some studies have shown that undocumented immigrants are in fact more likely to commit violent crimes and commit more violent acts than U.L.G.s.
On Monday, the Republican National Committee released a statement arguing that immigration is not “a racial issue” and instead, it’s a humanitarian issue.
Despite the GOP’s efforts to distance itself from white supremacists and neo-Nazis, the far right still exists in the Republican party.
For example, the Southern Baptist Convention, which has historically supported the Confederate flag, is now urging members to wear it on official events, and a number of Christian conservative leaders have publicly supported white supremacist organizations.
Even some Republicans who have denounced the alt Right have not completely renounced their support for the movement, like Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY).
And despite Trump’s victory, the anti-Trump GOP leadership still refuses to recognize the “alt right” movement as a serious threat to the country.
Rep. Chris Collins (R.-NY), for instance, told reporters on Wednesday that the “real problem” facing the country is “the rise of radical Islam,” but that “there is no place for racist, sexist, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, and white supremacist rhetoric in our discourse.”
“I believe we should not be looking to identify with groups that are going to be successful and win the elections,” Collins continued.
“We should not go after groups who are going for power.
I believe in diversity and inclusion, but we shouldn’t be looking at the alt left as a threat to our democracy.”
Follow Luke on Twitter: @LukeFergusonDC