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The Republican Establishment Has Lost Control Of The GOP To The Racist Alt-Right Rank And File

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Cross-posted from Medium.

Since the launching of Nixon’s “Southern Strategy,” during the 1972 election, the Republican establishment has used white supremacists to fuel their Wall Street agenda.

In a 1970 interview with the New York Times, Kevin Phillips, political strategist to Richard Nixon, laid out the strategy:

The more Negroes who register as Democrats in the South, the sooner the Negrophobe whites will quit the Democrats and become Republicans. That’s where the votes are. Without that prodding from the blacks, the whites will backslide into their old comfortable arrangement with the local Democrats.

The irony of the Republican Party, founded by anti-slavery activists supporting an active central and federal “republic,” by the 1970s openly embracing “state rights,” cannot be overstated. Just a century after the creation of the Party of Lincoln, the Republican Party was openly promoting the lost cause of the Confederacy. Southern states started the civil war over opposition to federal enforcement of equal rights for blacks, but by 1970 Nixon’s Republican party was openly courting the sons and daughters of the pro-slavery South.

But nonetheless, Phillips was right. Despite being a Democratic strongholds for decades, after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, Southern states turned out Republican popular vote margins in the 1960, 1968 and 1976 elections, and continue to do so to this day.

During the 1980s, Republicans used these victories to push their agenda of limited government and strong national defense while rebranding the newly-added southern so-called “negrophobes” as softer “values voters.”

Over the following three decades, southern Republicans maintained a party veneer of free market economics and traditional family values, and to complete the ruse, traded their “silently majority” for a moral one and their white robes for a dog whistle.

But all that changed when Democrats elected a black man to the White House.

The Alt-Right Movement Began Less Than Three Weeks After the First Black Man Was Elected President

Less than three weeks after the first black man was elected President of the United States, a group of sixty mostly male, entirely white Republican activists attended a small gathering at a Baltimore hotel organized by the the H.L. Mencken Club, named after the early 19th century “scholar” from Baltimore, MD who once claimed, “the educated Negro of today is a failure, not because he meets insuperable difficulties in life, but because he is a Negro.”

The group included members of the racist academic movement including Peter Brimelow, editor of the white nationalist hate website VDARE.com (named after Virginia Dare, the first white settler born in North America), and Jared Taylor, editor of the white nationalist magazine American Renaissance who wrote after Hurricane Katrina that “when blacks are left entirely to their own devices — civilization disappears.”

Conference speakers often quoted VDARE columnist Steve Sailer who argued that in order to win, Republicans needed to mobilize their white base rather than engage the changing demographics through policies like immigration reform as advocated by John McCain and other members of the Republican establishment. Sailer has written that if the GOP could get back to the share of the white vote it had in 2004, which was about 58%, they could certainly win again in 2012.

It was during this conference that the term “Alternative Right” (what became known as “Alt-Right”) was first used during a Paul Gottfried speechtitled “The Decline and Rise of the Alternative Right.”

Gottfried, who once defended Nixon’s comments saying “Jews are pushy” and “Blacks generally don’t excel at intellectually demanding activities,” advocated for a new movement within the Republican Party saying, “We are not viewed as honorable dissenters but depicted as subhuman infidels or ignored in the same way as one would a senile uncle who occasionally wanders into one’s living room.”

No one at the conference that weekend could have known that in less than decade, the “Alt-Right” movement would successfully mount a bloodless coup for control of the Republican party.

Both Alt-Right and Establishment Republicans Saw Opportunity in the Racial Anxieties Resulting from the Election of Barack Obama

Aggressive white racial anxiety in response to the first black President wasn’t only a factor for the far Right fringe. Just prior to the election of Obama, Political Research Quarterly found that 30 percent of white Americans were “troubled” by the prospect of Obama as the first black president. The research also showed that while much of this concern could be explained by partisanship, education, and age, “there remain[ed] evidence of latent racial attitudes toward Obama that [we]re not conditioned on these controls.”

Initially, anti-regulation special interest Republicans attempted to harness the latent Obama anxiety. With the creation of the Tea Party movement, funded largely by clever establishment interest groups under the guise of the Libertarian grassroots, establishment operatives redirected the anger and fear of a black president toward government programs like Obamacare, the stimulus, and Wall Street Reform. And for the most part it worked, at least initially.

But because of this astroturfing by the Republican establishment, 2010 midterm election was seen as a referendum on the Obama policy agenda. The Republican establishment once again seemed to have leveraged the negrophobes in the in party for special interest priorities.

In their book, “Change They Can’t Believe In,” social scientists Christopher Parker & Matt Barreto exposed the true motivations behind the Tea Party Wave, demonstrating that fear of the country being stolen from “Real Americans” was the unifying factor for Tea Party activists.

Donald Trump Mainstreamed the Alt-Right Movement in 2011 and Rode the Wave through the 2016 Primaries

In March of 2011, establishment Republicans first lost control of the Alt-Right movement when reality show celebrity, Donald Trump, told Good Morning America that he was seriously considering running for president and that he was a “little” skeptical of Obama’s citizenship.

While the Republican establishment was pulling Tea Party strings during the first two years of the Obama administration, the leaders of the newly emerging Alt-Right movement were busy harnessing anti-Obama racial unease in the form of the “Birther” movement making its way through the fringes of the internet. Birther campaigns were a major boost for Alt-Right email fundraising campaigns early in the Obama administration with even some Tea Party organizations championing the cause.

Trump’s statements on Good Morning America moved the Alt-Right narrative squarely into the mainstream spotlight. Just eight years after that initial meeting at a Baltimore Holiday Inn, the Alt-Right ideology was on the front page of American news.

Trump wasn’t finished. He toured daytime television talk shows, repeating several times, “I want [Obama] to show his birth certificate,” speculating that there was something on it that “he doesn’t like.” Not long after, Republican state and federal officials proposed legislation and constitutional amendments at the state and federal levels to appease the demands of the growing Birther movement.

Mitt Romney’s loss during the 2012 cycle served to reinforce the whites-only electoral strategy of the Alt-Right. After the 2012 general election, some analysts such as Sean Trende of Real Clear Politics highlightedmissing white voters, claiming Romney lost the election not because Latinos and other non-white voters backed President Obama, but because many white voters stayed home.

A Fatal Flaw in the “Whites Only” Electoral Strategy of the Alt-Right Will Keep Republicans from Winning the White House

While many laughed at the idea of Donald Trump running for President, Trump witnessed the power of the Alt-Right rebellion through his engagement of the Birther movement. From the day he announced his candidacy, Trump’s campaign relied entirely on the Alt-Right “Sailer theory” of mobilizing whites rather than engaging Latinos and new immigrants.

Trump’s claim that Mexico was sending criminals and rapists over the border wasn’t an accident; it was a statement based on the Atl-Right politicalcalculation that “immigration should be the perfect issue for the GOP to use to split the rank and file from their Democratic bosses” based on the assumption that the GOP “could win more elections by raising its fraction of the white vote minimally than by somehow grabbing vastly higher fractions of the minority vote.”

Trump’s strategy was and never has been to not increase his support among the growing Latino and immigrant demographic, but to pick up white voters — especially disenfranchised white union voters in rustbelt swing states.

Early on the campaign, this strategy seemed to work and Trump’s unexpected success in the primaries had many of the initial Alt-Right Republicans crowing that the Sailer strategy was working.

This is why it comes as no surprise that Trump promoted the CEO of one thetop Alt-Right online outlets, Breitbart.com, to the head of his campaign. For five years, Trump has leveraged the power of the Alt-Right movement, in its various precedent forms, and has made it clear that he is the candidate to push their agenda.

But as the 2016 cycle moves closer to the general election, fatal flaws in the Alt-Right’s whites-only turnout strategy have begun to show. For many, these miscalculations aren’t unexpected. The Republican establishment has long warned of the dangerous of racist rhetoric designed to mobilize the “missing white” voters.

After the 2012 election, establishment Republicans released their own “autopsy report” of their second loss to President Obama in what they called the “most comprehensive post-election review” ever made of an electoral loss.

“We need to campaign among Hispanic, Black, Asian, and gay Americans and demonstrate we care about them, too,” the report stated. “We must recruit more candidates who come from minority communities. But it is not just tone that counts. Policy always matters.”

Jeb Bush, the once Republican establishment favorite in 2016, said early in the cycle that Republicans should “lose the primary to win the general.” Bush believed that Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign tacked too far to the right in the primary and hurt his ability to pick up new voters during the general.

And as the 2016 cycle comes to the final stretch, the data seems to show that the establishment Republicans were right. The racist rhetoric of Alt-Right may drive enthusiasm among the remaining “Negrophobe” whites from Nixon’s southern strategy, but the gains aren’t enough to offset the losses in the Latino, Asian, Black and many in the educated White communities.

The Republican Party is the Alt-Right now, having vanquished the Republican Establishment

In the past, Republicans knew that if they controlled the media narrative the could control their rank and file, but the establishment has failed to realize the power of the changing media landscape. Alt-Right leaders understood the power of social media, even saying “the internet is a gift from God to all of us” during their inaugural Holiday Inn meeting in 2008.

Instead of combating the early Alt-Right racist movement, many Republicans believed they had the power to once again co-op latent racial anxieties expressed by early Alt-Right leaders for the purposes of promoting party priorities.

Through the power of social networks, the Alt-Right easily maintained control of their message. Blogs and social media memes allowed them to bypass the main-stream media, and even conservative radio controlled by party leaders.

As the power of the Alt-Right movement grew, Republican leaders ranging from Ted Cruz and Paul Ryan pandered to Alt-Right activist legitimizes their racial outrage. “Donald Trump is voicing legitimate concerns” became the establishment party line, while at the same time, Trump delegitimized party leadership.

The Republican Party establishment has yet to take a stand. Even as some indicators suggest that Hillary Clinton has an 80% chance of winning the White House, once moderate Republican Senators like Rob Portman and John McCain are lining up behind the Alt-Right’s nominee.

So the power shift has been complete. Ideas first conceived of at a fringe meeting among self-proclaimed “senile uncles” at a Baltimore Holiday Inn are now the official platform of the Republican Party. And even though the bigoted white supremacy of the Alt-Right’s strategy will prevent Republicans from ever winning the White House again, no Republican running for office this cycle has taken a strong stand against their rise to power.

Until Republicans reject, once and for all, Nixon’s southern strategy and create a new platform worthy of an authentically multi-racial coalition that condemns the Civil War era whites-first values of the Alt-Right, the Republican Party’s racist rebellion will maintain its hold on the once great Party of Lincoln.