The benignly named National Policy Institute (NPI), Richard Spencer’s alt-right, white nationalist organization held a conference in Washington, DC this weekend. RedState’s Jay Caruso covered the clash between the white nationalists and protesters here yesterday. Naturally, the violence has been the focus of much of the media attention, but today we’re learning more about the conference itself and the ideas being promoted there.
Part of what made Trump such a controversial nominee for so many on both the right and the left was his appeal to the alt-right. Even if Trump isn’t part of the movement itself, something about Trump has energized these white nationalists. Thanks to Trump’s election they feel as if they have made their entry into mainstream politics. Many described yesterday’s conference as a “victory lap” for the alt-right.
The L.A. Times reports on the content and spirit of the NPI conference called “Become Who We Are”
The agenda topics: “Trump and the New White Voter,” “America and the Jewish Consciousness,” “The Future of the Alt-Right.”
This was the white nationalist lobby — the alt-right — coming to town for a victory lap after Donald Trump’s election, assuming what they see as their rightful place influencing the new administration.
“An awakening among everyone has occurred with this Trump election,” Richard Spencer, president of the white nationalist think tank, said during opening remarks. “We’re not quite the establishment now, but I think we should start acting like it.”
Another figure within the movement makes some brash claims about their position in American politics now.
“We are the epicenter of the right now in terms of intellect,” said 30-year-old Nathan Damigo of California. “We are the culture creators of the right.”
As is common among purveyors of identity politics, the alt-right is very self congratulatory. They seems as impressed by their own intellectual prowess as any pompous, atheist neckbeard on Reddit.
Regarding Trump, the alt-right may not include the President-elect as one of their own, but they do claim a connection.
Before Trump, Spencer said, the alt-right was like a “head without a body,” but then Trump came along and his campaign became “kind of a body without a head.” He described the alt-right as having a “psychic connection” with Trump in way they don’t have with other Republicans, and expressed hope that, “moving forward, the alt-right can, as an intellectual vanguard, complete Trump.”
Spencer says that the alt-right is very happy with the direction Trump is headed and with the people he is choosing as advisers and cabinet officials.
On Steve Bannon as a senior White House strategist:
Spencer, however, argued that Bannon wasn’t fully representative of the alt-right movement either, but that it’s “very hopeful for me that Bannon is at least open to these things.”
“These things” meaning white nationalism, presumably.
On the nomination of Senator Jeff Sessions for Attorney General:
“The fact that he is going to be at such a high level is a wonderful thing. What Jeff Sessions is not going to do, in terms of not prosecuting federal diversity and fair housing, I think is just as powerful as what he might do,” he said.
On national security and foreign policy:
Spencer had praise for Trump’s pick of retired Army Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn to be his national security adviser, calling him an “independent thinker” who wasn’t aligned with the neoconservative movement, who the alt-right sees as too interventionist. In that same vein, Spencer said he would oppose former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton if he were selected to be secretary of state, criticizing him as too hawkish. He said the group was encouraged by Trump’s foreign policy, particularly the way he praised Russia throughout the campaign and his skepticism for the U.S. commitment to NATO.
Many Republicans are dismissing talk about the alt-right as a concoction of the left wing media, with some reflexively expressing support for anything the media attacks. As Jay Caruso wrote, “This is likely going to get worse before it gets better.” That applies not only to confrontations between social justice warriors and the alt-right but also to the fight for ownership of the conservative movement.