There’s a lot of discussion on various political sites about the term “alt-right.” Many see it as a clever euphemism for “white nationalists,” and as an attempt to obscure the odious nature of those who claim the title. I would agree with that on the surface, but the fact is there is a much larger “alt” universe at work within the conservative world movement, and is it has been there since the very beginning. I call it “alt-reality.”
At its very core, conservatism (nationalism, fascism) is built on alt-reality, a myth, or many myths, that run counter to the historical, scientific and moral progress most of us understand to be true. The alt-reality of fascism is the myth of Aryan superiority among races, that the white race is God’s chosen people and all others must kneel in obedience and servitude. The white nationalists who now populate the Trump administration hold very similar views, but do a better job of hiding their true beliefs behind euphemisms, code words and the complacent media.
The alt-reality of today’s far-right conservatives is an ideological construct, an imagined world that never actually existed in the past and has crashed and burned in failure during every historical incarnation. Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” is a perfect example of using an Orwellian phrase to construct a history that never existed. What is the definition of “great?” Was it the 1950s when the tax rate on America’s wealthiest individuals was near 90 percent, and millions of African Americans lived under Jim Crow laws completely at odds with the American Constitution? Was it the 1940s when, at the same time the U.S. military was fighting the Nazi war machine, American industrialists were doing business with Hitler? Or the 1930s when a cabal of multi-millionaires (including George W. Bush’s grandfather) was plotting the overthrow of the American government to install a fascist regime?
“Make America Great Again” is nothing more than a product slogan designed to inspire blind nationalism and knee-jerk hostility toward all of the imaginary enemies who have conspired to bring this country down. Trump is the product that has been sold to white Americans who have been convinced they are victims of immigrants, African Americans, liberals and the elites who look down on them. The fact that Trump is a card-carrying member of this list doesn’t seem to register. Alt-reality lives outside the boundaries of what the rest of us consider known facts and rational thought and because of this, there can be no constructive debate, let alone agreement, on the issues.
Hitler, Mussolini, Franco and many others were, like Trump, initially successful in selling the nationalist fairy tale to a desperate, vulnerable populace who were more than receptive to the idea that they were the master race destined to regain their lost power and prestige. The problem is like every fairy tale, there has to be an ending, Alt-reality cannot sustain itself indefinitely against real human progress. At every point in history, our forward momentum has been attacked, challenged and ridiculed, and every time it ultimately triumphs, although the price paid is often high.
History assures us that the reality of human progress will ultimately prevail over Trump and his minions, but we will have to endure some very difficult times ahead thanks to those who succumbed to the allure of a distorted, perverted fairy tale. There will be a price to pay, and unfortunately, all of us, regardless of what you believe, will end up paying it.