Just the very definition of the “alt-right” is it a moving target. It’s been described as a sociopathic nonsense experiment in trolling and chaos, the future of conservative youth movements and an organized resurfacing of white supremacist politics. The alt-right is chimeric, confusing and intentionally ambiguous, largely because its adherents are composed of dozens of competing ideologies.
And now, the alt-right is thinning out its ranks.
The movement’s grassroots heroes are turning into a circular firing squad. Over the past few weeks, popular far-right figures have been attacking and doxxing one another in an intra-right conflict, and it’s tearing apart the loose circle of the country’s most visible pro-Trump provacateurs. For the white nationalists who built the movement, this is a natural part of the alt-right’s evolution — a cleansing that will leave behind a serious nationalist movement that can hold Trump accountable to his darkest campaign promises.
The schism was best represented last weekend in Washington, D.C., where the superstars of the far right split themselves into two competing rallies, each disavowing the other. At the first rally at the White House were the A-List of alternative media propaganda and dirty tricks, like Mike Cernovich, Jack Posobiec and Laura Loomer — the latter two are most recently famous for interrupting a controversial Shakespeare performance. And at the Lincoln Memorial rally were the hard right commentators and white nationalists who claimed that the media figures at the White House were a bunch of liars, fanboys and celebrity wannabes with no real politics.
“If you look at the politics being pushed out, the fat is getting trimmed,” James Allsup, a YouTuber and young conservative who opened the festivities at the Lincoln Memorial rally, told Mic on Thursday.
The divide is reflective of an ideological crisis in conservative media at large. In lieu of showing outright support or condemnation of Trump’s policies, conservative mainstays like the National Review, and even networks like Fox News, are instead picking low-hanging fruit by going after the perceived hysteria of Trump’s liberal detractors. Instead of having to walk the daily minefield of being pro-Trump, they can instead build a coalition that’s anti-anti-Trump.
For the far right, it was galvanizing — at least for a while. At “free speech” rallies across the country, the loose coalition of militia groups, 4chan trolls, white nationalists and literal adult frat boys have gathered to draw out anti-fascist, black bloc protesters in violent clashes. At one of these rallies in Boston, the founder of the Oath Keepers — one of the largest militia groups in the country — called the antifa a “godsend” for the way it brought together the alt-right under a common cause.
But recently, antifa stopped taking the bait, leaving these groups standing in their own company, forced to come to terms with their strange new bedfellows.
The Oath Keepers, for example, are strictly Constitutionalist, and detest the white nationalists that show up to rallies. Oath Keepers founder Stewart Rhodes, who travels to many of these rallies to provide a security detail of right-wing military veterans and former police, made it clear that dividing people along racial lines is “dangerous.” On his terms, the white nationalists, who were definitely present, were not welcome.
“This is not their event. If we identify them and they’re wearing an armband or whatever, we make them take that shit off,” Rhodes told Mic in Boston. “We all have a common ground of a Constitution and a Bill of Rights. But a Communist does not respect the Constitution, and neither does the white nationalist.”
And then, at one of these rallies in Houston, someone mistaken as an Oath Keeper put a white supremacist in a headlock, and neo-Nazi news hub the Daily Stormer began referring to the Oath Keepers as the “Boomer Antifa” for, as the Washington Post put it, “not being racist enough.”
But when it came time for dueling rallies in D.C., Rhodes was speaking at the event held by Cernovich and Posobiec — and firmly on the side of the pro-Trump ratfuckers. The young 4channers that Rhodes once looked to as the future of the patriot movement were now calling his group the “Oath Cucks.”
For the nationalist alt-right, it’s good riddance to those who join up with the media personalities and cheerleaders that Allsup calls “pro-Trump sycophants.”
Allsup, 21, treads a careful line: He’s a popular young commentator who advances a new vision of far-right politics while keeping his distance from the darker rhetoric of the white nationalists in his company. A dapper race realist, if you will. This year, Allsup made a symbolic run for the national chair of the College Republicans, and has repeatedly criticized mainstream conservatives for cleaving to historically losing causes. In one diplomatic example, Allsup came to the defense of Tomi Lahren after she was ostracized from the conservative punditry for being pro-choice.
Allsup, like innumerable Trump voters, has been disappointed by the the new president’s inability to make good on his promised nationalism. He wants Trump to build the wall, and do away with Obama-era protections for undocumented immigrant children born in America. Allsup says that the current purge could lead to a more militant, politically organized alt-right — free of the fanboys unwilling to hold Trump accountable to his promises, who believe politics is a function of retweets and viral media stunts.
“If Trump returns to his base and starts enacting right-wing policies, you’ll see some infighting die down,” Allsup said. “But if Trump keeps pushing an agenda that’s indistinguishable from Paul Ryan, you’ll see infighting continue on the right, and a galvanization on the alternative right wing.”
What is the galvanizing theme behind this vision of a far-right Republican politics? Whiteness. In Allsup’s estimation, the next generation of voters will be alienated enough by “anti-white” sentiment in the media that real nationalism will have a chance at winning a young electorate, if Republicans can take advantage of the opportunity.
He looks at how Republicans have tried to court the Latino vote, for example, and thinks that’s all wasted time. Instead, he says Republicans should be spending money in states with vast white majorities, while Democrats focus on states with rising hispanic populations like Texas and Arizona. Republicans need to be pushed, he says, and the newly militant, political alt right could be the “internal opposition party” that moves them in that direction.
The question becomes: Is the next generation of voters ready to hear race realism, pro-white tribalism or perhaps even white nationalism as a legitimate argument, or has America left explicitly racial politics firmly in our dark history?
“I think the Overton window is moving, and as a result of Trump it’s moved so much further right that these ideas are being talked about again,” Allsup said. “Being called a racist doesn’t have the same zing that it used to. That boogeyman is out of the closet.”