As we approach the first anniversary of the “insurrection,” I believe we need to rethink what has happened over the past twenty years. When I started out in these circles in late 2001, the “mainstream,” the conservative movement and the so-called “far right” were all in very different places.
George W. Bush was the president. The conservative movement was talents like Bill Kristol, Jonah Goldberg and David Frum. The ADL and SPLC were highly respected “watchdog organizations.” American politics was far less polarized and there was a lot more trust in “journalism.” The so-called “mainstream” seemed to extend out of the coastal metros and included more White working class people in the Heartland. The coalitions of the two parties were very different. Overall, I had sense of being a radical outsider.
In those days, the nascent Alt-Right defined itself against mainstream conservatism and its gatekeepers. They were the fuddy duddy True Cons with their Principles™. We were the nationalists. They were huge cheerleaders for the Iraq War and the GWOT. We were totally against the wars from the beginning. They were for free trade. We were for protectionism and industrial policy. They championed comprehensive immigration reform. We were nativists and border hawks and opposed amnesty. They embraced political correctness and routinely purged anyone who had anything interesting to say on the Right out of cowardice and deference to the SPLC and “journalists.” We relished breaking all of these stupid taboos and saying whatever we wanted and didn’t care about offending anyone. They were sanctimonious anti-racists and true believers in MLK’s Dream. We were race realists. They repressed even the mildest expressions of White identity out of the sheer terror of getting into Big Trouble with the New York Times who might write a strongly worded article accusing them of “racism.” We celebrated White identity. They were obsequiously philo-Semitic and deferential to Jewish power. We were candid about Jewish power.
Those were the clear and established boundaries between the “mainstream” and “extremism” in the 2000s. We used to have two parties which were dominated by White college-educated, middle class professionals and their precious “norms.” Those boundaries also no longer really exist in the 2020s largely because those people have gone over to the Democrats over the past decade.
“In the months before and after the 2020 U.S. presidential election, millions of Americans clicked their way through an online flood of disinformation, including the widely distributed falsehood that rampant voter fraud had allowed Joe Biden to steal what was rightfully Donald Trump’s victory. On January 6, 2021, the real-world consequences of this deception and delusion became clear, as thousands of pro-Trump rioters launched a violent assault on the U.S. Capitol, intent on stopping the certification of Biden’s victory.
The siege reflected two important trends that will continue to shape American politics in the coming years. The first is the mainstreaming of right-wing extremism. The majority of the rioters were hitherto ordinary Americans who had only recently embraced radical ideas. Their pathways to political violence did not involve a clearly defined ideology or an affiliation with particular groups but instead were shaped by a propaganda campaign that engulfed the full spectrum of right-wing politics: from Republican elected officials, prominent conservative commentators, and conservative-leaning major news outlets to newly minted social media influencers, minor radical organizations, and a burgeoning group of far-right niche media ventures. …
The federal government urgently needs to adapt to this new reality. Extremism has gone mainstream; so must the interventions needed to address it. …”
This sounds like something a PMC would write. I saw a timely article the other day which claimed that the Democrats were becoming the party of Karens.
Cynthia Miller-Idriss is a professor at American University in Washington, DC and the director of the Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab (PERIL). She has a PhD in Sociology.
Who are the Democrats in the Joe Biden era?
It is people like this who are accustomed to barking orders at people. It is the Zoom class that lives back East in coastal metros. We used to call them Yankees although that isn’t exactly right these days. They come from all different racial and ethnic backgrounds now, but what unites PMCs is their values and worldview. They still assume that they have a divine right to govern this country and that they are morally superior to everyone else. They also operate on the assumption that their own values and beliefs and fads should be forced on to everyone else who lives here and “extremism” is difference of opinion. The phrase “our democracy” is also synonymous with their standing and power as a social class.
In a series of prescient books which were of course ignored like What’s the Matter with Kansas and Listen, Liberal, Thomas Frank warned that this class of people were consolidating inside the Democratic Party and were becoming increasingly identified with its brand and were alienating working class Democratic voters. They were also becoming far more geographically and culturally detached from White people in the Heartland. They were developing their own accent and increasingly spoke in obscure academic jargon. They had their own ridiculous professional class calendar. Hillary Clinton’s Deplorables gaffe in the 2016 election illustrated this drift. Recent novelties like Wokeism and “trans” have swept across their precincts with lightning speed and have only exacerbated the cultural divide.
Extremism went mainstream because the Brahmin Left is hated and resented by the White working class. We live in a time where the Democrats can spend trillions of dollars and go down in flames to Lauren Boebert and “Let’s Go Brandon.” Virtually no one on the Right trusts the media. It goes without saying that more interventions by reviled technocrats will only exacerbate polarization and division. Throughout American history in all their incarnations, these people have never been able to mind their own business and it is highly probable that this impulse will prove to be their downfall.
We need to update our thinking to the 2020s. The values, beliefs and narratives which used to make us small and distinct and have become much more broadly accepted due to the extremism and isolation and loss of legitimacy of the woke professional class. We’re not on the outside looking in anymore. We’re at the center of things. We’re the biggest faction on the Right. The things we believe are not “extreme,” but increasingly popular and broadly accepted. Persuasion, not violence, is working quite well for us.
Establishment liberals and progressive activists might dominate all of our institutions, but they aren’t particularly numerous. They are extremely vulnerable in this regard.