On the heels of Donald Trump’s victory in the November 8 presidential election, the young white nationalists who rallied around the Republican candidate celebrated his victory as their own and contemplated the next step for the volatile political movement they call the “alt-right.”
“Hope is finally making a comeback,” Richard Spencer, a prominent white nationalist and leader in the so-called “alt-right,” wrote on Twitter.
“For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country,” he wrote, then added the hashtag #Trump.
For Spencer and other members of the “alt-right,” Trump’s victory signaled the mainstreaming of their white identity movement, which has long flourished online, proliferating on sites like Reddit and Twitter.
“White identity politics has arrived in America,” one “alt-right” commenter wrote, announcing Trump’s win.
The “alt-right” sees itself as a populist revolt against the political establishment. Its members are largely young white men who share grievances about the economy, war and what they see as an encroaching culture of political correctness.
A particularly virulent stream of anti-Semitism, sexism and racism also runs through the movement — and has been roundly condemned by groups like the Southern Poverty Law Center — but “alt-right” proponents say it does not represent the totality of the “alt-right.”
For anti-Semites and the “alt-right,” Trump’s message of anger and retribution was balm.
“I can’t wait to watch the Jews squirm for 4 years,” was the title of one Reddit thread. “I’ve never been so excited,” another poster wrote. Others posted caricatures of hook-noosed Jews, eyes welling with tears. “When you fund Hillary’s campaign and rig the election for her and [she] still loses,” the accompanying text ran.
“Jews played a hugely disproportionate role in this election,” one commenter wrote on Reddit. “Oy vey, wasted shekels.”
Other posters on an “alt-right” Reddit thread wondered: Now that their cherished candidate has won, is their movement of white identity mainstream?
“Can we really call ourselves ‘alternative’ right now that Trump has won?” one commenter asked.
“Is ‘New Right’ a more appropriate term?” another poster suggested.
“Remember, we must make sure the revolution is not betrayed,” a Reddit commentator advised. “Trump must be held to do the things he promised, such as… [d]eportation of every illegal alien [and a] cutdown on legal nonwhite immigration.”
“The ‘alt’ won’t die on the internet,” another poster wrote. “But [in real life] you might be able to get around more corners by saying ‘hard right.’ Where I live, I know the ‘alt’ implies anti-Jew and anti-Mexican. I use it at my own risk.”
Joshua Seidel, a self-described Jewish member of the “alt-right,” said that Trump’s win was a “tremendous victory” for the movement, which he doesn’t believe is inherently anti-Semitic or racist.
“If that starts leaping… into the street, that may change,” Seidel said. “Right now it’s just on computer screens.”
As far as Seidel is concerned, the “alt-right” “made it cool to support Donald Trump.”
“They brought this sense of being the in-crowd,” Seidel said.
For Seidel, the core of what the “alt-right” stands for is “pro-white identity politics,” and that’s what he wants to see championed on the national stage.
“We will see a reaffirming of the importance of European identity and culture,” he said.
It was clear to many that their still amorphous movement was at a crossroads.
“This is a symbolic victory for the ‘alternative right,’” said Paul Gottfried, political philosopher and author of recently published “Fascism: the Career of a Concept.”
“It gives some of the ‘alt-right’ elements some hope that they will be taken seriously as a political force,” Gottfried said. “The question is if Trump will recognize them.”
Voices of the “alternative” right, Gottfried noted, are still relegated to places like Reddit and to smaller blogs — and not found on big league conservative outlets like Fox News.
Gottfried said, “We aren’t seeing the old conservatives being displaced yet.”
Sam Kestenbaum is a contributing editor and former staff writer for the Forward. Before this, he worked for The New York Times and newsrooms in Sana, Ramallah and Beijing. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @skestenbaum and on Instagram at @skestenbaum .