The rise of the alt-right

November 27, 2016

A few weeks later, the dust has finally begun to settle on a tumultuous election victory in the United States. The election of Donald Trump to the Presidency has been regarded globally as nothing less than a tragedy for the American republic, a tragedy for the Constitution, and a triumph for the forces of nativism, authoritarianism, misogyny, and racism.

Despite this widespread anguish, Trump’s victory is a pivotal moment in history, defying political and societal conventions and expectations. It serves as a cry for help from those people trapped within an antiquated system that has failed them one too many times.

Image via flickr courtesy of Gage Skidmore at

A global issue

Across the Atlantic, similar phenomena are in existence – from Brexit in the UK, to the rising anti-Muslim and authoritarian idelologies in Germany, and xenophobia and protectionism in France. People are extremely frightened of the formation of these “alt-right movements” because their radical views disrupt and threaten an established set of civilised and inclusive values that have served as the cornerstone to modern Western life.

Despite the panic, the rise of such movements is not necessarily something to fear. Facts following the US election show that support for Trump is not synonymous with the gun-totting, racist misogynists we imagine it to be. In fact, gay marriage has overwhelming support nationwide (with 55 per cent in favour), the vast majority supports background checks for gun buyers (up to 90 per cent in some polls), and Americans overwhelmingly agree that immigration helps the country more than it hurts (with 59 per cent in support).

What these facts represent is that the rise of these alt-right movements goes far beyond these issues and taps into broader societal attitudinal shifts and conflicts. 

Image via flickr courtesy of Susan Melkisethian at

A downtrodden minority

Those of the general population were made to believe by the mainstream media that supporters of the alt-right were a downtrodden minority who had no hope of becoming triumphant. The reality is that these people are not the downtrodden. They are a large majority of the population who have a great fear of being disenfranchised – the mainstream narrative just didn’t say that.

Leaders, like Trump, succeed because they push the buttons of those that feel marginalised. For a vast mass of the world’s population, in particular in the United States, the pace of socioeconomic change has disorientated them. They feel as though the country they have loved is no more; they are no longer a military power, and there is immense income inequality, for example.

A world of chaos and uncertainty has been created, where almost everything in their lives has changed. And what those of the alt-right do, is give control and a sense of certainty back to the people.

A defying conventions leader

Outside of uncertainty, people find themselves drawn to alt-right movements because they defy political conventions. In the case of the United States, their political system is notorious for being highly institutionalised, polarising and out-of touch.

Conversely, the leaders of the alt-right parties are individuals who have never run for public office and come from untraditional backgrounds. As a result, it is believed they have more understanding and perspective for their country and the people within it, and most importantly, can break the highly toxic political structure that has relegated them for far too long.

Image via flickr courtesy of Salvatore Vastano at

A changing world 

It is clear that the large majority of alt-right supporters only share the optimism these parties represent, not their personal ideals, and that this is a global issue. 

What Trump and other alt-right movements do is bring people back to something that made sense. It’s not to say that bigoted leadership is the answer, (the energised support for the movements reinforces dangerous ideals), but people want change, and until they have a better alternative they will throw their support behind these alt-right systems.

So, if Trump is anything to go by, where he overthrew a well-oiled, multi-billion dollar political system, what is to stop a new spawn of leaders who can make a positive impact?