This idolatry of racial origin as definitive of a person’s worth runs directly counter to the foundational principles of the American Right.
It goes without saying that what occurred in Charlottesville involved both a literal and figurative “parade of horribles.” A collection of hate-filled individuals turned an otherwise peaceful college town into their personal parade ground in a sickening display of violence and, for lack of a better word, hatred. Many were assaulted and at least one killed as the marchers’ intentions shifted from assembly to riot.
The organizers of this violent event seem to be operating under the unfortunate delusion that they are part of “the right.” Their choice to name their Charlottesville demonstration “Unite the Right” and their insistence on using the term “alt-right” to describe themselves is further evidence of this belief.
I would like to disabuse these self-described “deplorables” of this false notion. The agitators in Charlottesville were not members of any recognizable right-wing movement. In fact, their purposes and methods contradict those practiced by the American right.
The ideology of white supremacy is racism, plain and simple. Its evangelists preach that human beings should be segregated because they have different skin colors or their ancestors come from different places. To a white supremacist, racial ancestry gives each person an indelible identity that defines the relative value of each human life.
This idolatry of origin as somehow definitive of a person’s worth runs directly counter to the foundational principles of the right, animated by the spirit of conservatism. Russell Kirk famously defined conservatives as “those people who recognize an enduring moral order in the universe, a constant human nature, and high duties toward the order spiritual and the order temporal.”
Kirk’s three principles are most clearly expressed in the American right’s foundational belief in individual liberty. Human beings are best able to express their common humanity when they are free to choose how to conduct their daily lives. Thus, every individual should have equal opportunity to exercise their fundamental freedoms under a system of well-ordered laws that protect and bound our liberties.
The anarchy displayed by the marchers in Charlottesville does not fit Kirk’s definition of conservatism in the slightest. Moreover, by defining human worth based on where the human in question comes from, white supremacists affirm that some people are “more equal than others.” This sentiment smacks of identity politics, not conservatism.
The obsession many white supremacists have with the President also does not entail that white supremacists are part of the right. First off, it is well-established that President Trump is not a true conservative, a Republican, or any other breed of right-winger. President Trump is accountable only to himself, not to principles of individual liberty and equal opportunity. Second, white supremacists glommed onto the President because of his antipathy toward immigration agreed generally with theirs. But while the nativist nutcases of the white power movement oppose immigration for racially-charged reasons, conservatives oppose illegal immigration because it flouts the ordered system of laws necessary for liberty to endure.
The evidence is clear: racism is not a right-wing phenomenon. It occurs on the Left as well. For years, black conservatives have been tarred in public by progressives as traitors to their race. More recently, a clothing company printed t-shirts with rainbow-colored swastikas, organizers of an “anti-Zionist” LGBT march banned participants who displayed the Star of David, and feminist Linda Sarsour embraced a terrorist who murdered Israelis as a hero.
The media should thus refrain from labeling Richard Spencer, David Duke, and the Charlottesville mob as right-wingers, because it makes the entire right appear guilty of evil by association. Because the right’s core precepts are founded on individual liberty, and racists believe that only some individuals should be fully free, the two movements are incompatible.
The right must speak with a unified voice to disassociate the monstrosity of racism from our movement. When the John Birch Society promoted paranoia several decades ago in the name of conservatism, William F. Buckley informed them their opinions were no longer welcome, effectively excommunicating them from conservative orthodoxy. Given the rampant violence and evil displayed in Charlottesville, it is high time for the right to do the same to the so-called “alt-right.”
Connor Mighell is a third-year law student at The University of Alabama School of Law with an undergraduate degree in Political Philosophy from Baylor University. He is a contributor at Merion West, and his work has been featured at The Federalist, SB Nation, The San Francisco Chronicle, The Hill, The Dallas Morning News, and The New Americana. He may be found on Twitter at @cmigbear.