Alt-Right and Nazi Mean Different Things

And That Matters for Everyone

As the reality that Donald Trump is going to be President and Breitbart will be steering the ship sets in, there is a debate about what to call Bannon’s basket of deplorables. People are calling for us to avoid using the term Alt-Right and instead favor Nazi. I think this misses the important development that comes from “Alt-Right”.

Alt-Right is the actual basket that Clinton referred to—and it includes a lot of people who are not actually Nazis. In the past few years, White Nationalists, White Supremacists, and virulent anti-feminists have started forming a loose alliance. They are different things—and not even that homogeneous within their corners. Make no mistake: the anti-feminists are broadly racist and the White Nationalists continue to prefer “traditional” gender roles. But their reasons and goals are sometimes disparate. This should feel familiar to the left, who have long engaged in coalition politics.

The differences between White Supremacists and White Nationalists are pretty large—the difference between the extermination camps of Nazi Germany and the still onerous restrictions of Jim Crow. The anti-feminists too have their own set of policies; I doubt the KKK is hot on legalizing rape.

Use Alt-Right when referring to the alliance of these groups and platforms that facilitate it. Breitbart is Alt-Right because it gives voice to the whole basket of deplorables. The KKK is, depending on the chapter, White Supremacist or White Nationalist because they believe that the government should actively favor whites. West’s fear that Alt-Right will be used to neuter the violent racism of these various groups is well-founded. But it is also important to recognize that the KKK and Nazis, long opposed, are putting aside their differences and building a minority coalition that is being invited into our government.

I will commit to saying what I mean and meaning what I say—which means Alt-Right has a time and a place.


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