What does the future of American politics look like? That’s a question a lot of people are asking these days. We’re almost two months into the new presidency, and already so much has happened. The rollout of the travel ban sent shockwaves throughout the country. Thousands protested at airports, while others turned their attention toward the GOP plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (more commonly known as Obamacare) at Republican town halls. With the Democratic party scrambling to find its bearings after an unprecedented loss in November, all eyes are on the new president and the rest of the Republican party to see if they plan to follow through on the promises they made this past year, and if this new administration can really “Make America Great Again.”
Anyone who knows me knows I lean to the left on almost every issue, but that doesn’t mean divisions within the conservative party don’t concern me or that I don’t value the conservative perspective as an important part of the great American experiment. In fact, it’s whether that voice will survive the next few years that concerns me. Donald Trump is not your typical Republican, but he’s only part of a larger movement. In their effort to defeat the Democrats last November, the GOP found itself aligned with the nebulously defined “alt-right.” This new right-wing faction defines itself as a loosely-connected group of American nationalists, isolationist Libertarians and disgruntled Republican youth. The group prides itself in contrarian and “politically-incorrect” ideas and demeanor, ironically similar to the left-wing counterculture of the latter half of the 20th century.
While the group considers itself leaderless (another trait it shares with far-left movements), it has naturally gravitated around several key individuals and information outlets. Two individuals, Milo Yiannopoulos and Steve Bannon, both former editors of Breitbart.com–an alt-right media hub–have found themselves in the spotlight following the election. Steve Bannon worked extensively on Donald Trump’s campaign and now holds the newly-created position of “White House Chief Strategist” and is on the Security Council. Milo Yiannopoulos has made a name for himself attacking feminism, social justice, “politically-correct” culture and multiculturalism. Yiannopoulos was recently invited to speak at (and then subsequently kicked out of for unrelated reasons) the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC).
Those who speak at CPAC are usually the current face of conservatism in America, so what is Yiannopoulos doing on the speaking list? In their bid for control of Capitol Hill, the Republican party has forgotten that Yiannopoulos and the rest of the “alt-right” are not conservative. Protectionism? Anti-immigration? These are not conservative principles. Even the more conservative ideas coming out of this movement are so far-right that they no longer represent what the GOP claims to stand for. Sources like Breitbart have been creating a sphere of misinformation that is problematic to begin with, but what’s worse is that their rhetoric is finding its way into our new president’s speeches more and more.
Growing up in the mining country of rural Pennsylvania, I know many conservative Americans. I call many of them friends. Those people, whether it’s because of gun rights, taxes or religious liberty, all find themselves on the right. The vast majority of them are not racist, stupid or contemptuous of other cultures. We need conservative representation because those people need a voice as much as anyone else. I don’t want to watch their voice be drowned out by the politics of fear and toxic nationalism.