“The parties in this conflict are not merely abolitionists and slaveholders – they are atheists, socialists, communists, red republicans, Jacobins, on the one side, and the friends of order and regulated freedom on the other. In word, the world is a battleground – Christianity and Atheism the combatants; and the progress of humanity is at stake.” – Rev. James Henry Thornwell, 1850,
“This is not conservatism as we have known it. This is not Republicanism, as we have known it. These are racist ideas. These are race-baiting ideas. Anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-women ideas – all key tenets making up an emerging racist ideology known as the ‘alt-right.” – Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton, 2016
When I first heard Hillary Clinton use the term “Alt-Right” I was involuntarily whisked back to my high school computer class where I was failing to learn BASIC and DOS on a TRS-80. That would have been in 1982 just before the introduction of Apple’s Macintosh and Windows 1.0 – both products designed for the new generation of non-computer literate workers such as me.
My flash of nostalgia lasted about a second until I realized that “Alt-Right” was not some forgotten computer command but was a label being thrown about by Clinton as a nefarious catch-all term that netted up all sorts of conservative groups and individuals whose ideas are anathema to the progressive left.
According to Clinton, the Republican Party was no longer the party of classical liberals, agrarians, conservatives, neo-conservatives, and libertarians. With the use of one term, Clinton attempted to sweep away the foundations of conservative thought stretching back to John Locke and Edmund Burke and replaced it with the thuggish grunts of National Socialism. She tried to brownshirt the Republican Party. Thankfully Trump just laughed and her brownshirt campaign failed, as did her presidential bid.
As a longtime adherent to the horseshoe theory of political action and no, I am not talking about the pitching variety or the kind that you hang over barn door for good luck. Rather, I speak of the theory that while political thought from extreme left to extreme right faces each other along a linear continuum, political action taken by the extreme left and the extreme right mirror each other as if they were on the ends of a horseshoe.
Some political scientists believe that the horseshoe theory over simplifies the subject. Some believe that the fishhook theory or the anchor theory better illustrates how the left and right resemble each other. For the purposes of this discussion, horseshoes work just fine. Like Ben said in an episode of Parks and Recreation, “Close only counts in horse hand grenades.”
If Alt-right occupies the right side of the horseshoe, what group is on the left side? Antifa – the shorten form of Anti-fascism and a name that must put a thrill in Clinton’s heart. The term includes groups and individuals who have openly committed to violently oppose any Alt-Right protest march. Yes, you read the last sentence correctly. Those who consider themselves Antifa have openly committed to using violence to disrupt any Alt-Right protest. So much for the constitutional right to assemble peaceably.
Their commitment to violence should come as no surprise. Antifa claims to descend from Antifaschistische Aktion, an anti-fascist paramilitary faction of an existing political party that operated in Weimar Germany back in the 1930s. A paramilitary faction of an existing political party? Sounds sort of like the brownshirts relationship with Hitler’s Nazi party. There’s that horseshoe theory again, which begs a question.
Does Antifa’s claim of kinship to a paramilitary faction of an existing political party make them the brownshirts (or blueshirts) of the current Democratic Party? Or do they function like West Germany’s Baader Meinhof Group and Italy’s Red Brigades of the 1970s? Those were two extreme left organizations that unapologetically murdered their political opponents and did so with the support of the Soviet Eastern Bloc.
Meanwhile, while America’s political left and right navel-gazes, these “student” protesters who make up Antifa and the Alt-Right are missing a historic opportunity to make a real difference in the support of democracy. These wannabe anarchists, communists and fascists only need to look east to Hong Kong to see an authentic and deadly struggle for democracy – or maybe I give our pampered American “students” too much credit. Maybe, given their love of authoritarian control, capacity for violence, and ignorance of Western history, they would side with the masked men who are attacking the Hong Kong pro-democracy protesters.