Thanks to the rise of Donald Trump, the world was introduced to the seamy, repugnant and downright creepy underbelly of the fringe-right, known to many as the alt-right.
What many nervous conservatives knew was boiling under the surface — a putrid bouillabaisse of anti-Semitic, bigoted, misogynist and conspiratorial impulses — got ground-level attention as Trump allowed the alt-right to attach itself to him undisturbed. From coyly pretending not to know about David Duke and his endorsement, to lifting an anti-Semitic meme from an alt-right website, to routinely trafficking in evidence-free conspiracy theories, Trump played to the alt-right base in winks and nods throughout the election.
He went from flirting to full-on fornication when he announced head of the alt-right website Breitbart.com, Steve Bannon, as his chief strategist.
You can blame the alt-right for a lot. But they didn’t single-handedly elect Trump. I’d wager most Trump supporters repudiate alt-right bigotry even if they do feel economically and socially dismissed by political elites from both parties. The Trump voters I’ve met have no familiarity with alt-right symbols, like Pepe the Frog, a once-innocent-turned anti-Semitic white nationalist cartoon, or the subversive uses of the numbers 14 and 88.