Out of the Blue: Don’t vote for bigotry in November (opinion)
September 21, 2016
I've been writing this column for a month now, and response to it has been unexpectedly fascinating. I've received positive emails from all over the region, even hearing from a distant cousin I've never met who's ready to fight for blue issues in South Lake Tahoe.
Conversely, I was also prompted by my beloved local barber as to whether I was "that liberal guy from the paper." After some shaky political silence between us, we resumed talking about Giants wild-card chances and western TV shows — and my haircut turned out great, as usual.
Funnily enough, I've heard from Democrats frustrated with me, wondering why I haven't yet addressed the real meat of the campaign season, the truly imperative issues that should inspire folks to get the word out that a blue vote in November is vital for the well-being of our country. I had plans to write a different, more positive column this week, but instead I investigated an entity a colleague of mine has particular misgivings about (and one I was not familiar with): the alt-right.
The first time I heard this term was when Brietbart's Steve Bannon became Donald Trump's campaign CEO in August. In my research, I quickly found an article that quoted Bannon stating that his website had become "he platform for the alt-right." What is this alt-right platform, exactly? Well, that's tricky. You can Google 'Democratic Platform' and find the DNC's official document on the topic straight away, but there's no formal, unified basis for the alt-right.
“Imagine your sons, granddaughters or neighbors asking how you voted in 2016, when the top tier of the Republican ticket considered discrimination okay, something not worth objecting outright.”
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Some basic breakdowns of its fundamental aspects, however, are stunningly direct and, frankly, hard for me to believe. The National Policy Institute's Richard Spencer, a founder of the movement, cited the mission statement of his Radix Journal as being "dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of European people in the United States, and around the world." Red flag!
This means that the Republican presidential campaign in 2016 is run by a man who, until hired by Trump, was chairman of a website that provided the platform for an organization explicitly interested in assessing the heritage, identity, and future of one race of Americans over another. That's blatant discrimination, isn't it?
Dumbfounded by this revelation, I continued to unearth articles in The Spectator and The Federalist that argue that nationalism, not racism, is at the heart of the alt-right, which is a similar kind of slippery terminology the Trump campaign has been utilizing since primary season. What's truly unsettling on this front, however, is that these murky political waters provide a safe haven for some really nasty material.
The alt-right touched a chord with a cross-section of conservatives who appraised the candidates in the Republican primary and didn't see anything they liked — except maybe Trump, whose rejection of all things politically correct and adoption of a rigorous deportation policy made him a lightning rod for the movement. Not everything in his campaign aligns parallel to the alt-right, to be sure, but Trump likes extra votes and the alt-right likes publicity, so the two have since united into a disquieting coexistence.
There has been no official Trump denouncement of white supremacist or anti-Semitic groups who identify fully with an alt-right philosophy. Trump hasn't called out the race- and gender-based hate speech that, within the open fields of the anti-PC alt-right universe, is all but blankly encouraged. There's clearly an overlap when it comes to Trump and the alt-right, but is there an established, acknowledged connection between the two? Not specifically. But there's enough to be worried about.
Imagine this scenario, fellow Tahoe folks. The onetime chairman of a website that was the platform for an unabashedly discriminatory organization is now running a presidential campaign. While not expressly alt-right, Donald Trump has boosted up that organization, allowing them to live in increasing numbers in his shadow. He's appealing to them, asking for their votes, and doing what he can to convince them that the common ground shared within their respective messages will predicate the framework for America's future.
In Nevada last month, Hillary Clinton slammed the alt-right directly, citing their anti-immigrant, anti-woman tenets and rejecting them wholly. Trump, conversely, shies away from being declarative on the issue in case his stance splinters away from alt-right fundamentals, which might affect his poll numbers. He doesn't embrace discrimination out loud, but instead chooses to look the other way as a basic racism remains steeped within a sizable chunk of his voters.
Imagine your sons, granddaughters or neighbors asking how you voted in 2016, when the top tier of the Republican ticket considered discrimination okay, something not worth objecting outright. I understand there are many issues to consider in an election like this one, but it's incumbent on us as Americans not to tolerate this kind of behavior. Don't vote for bigotry.
Mike Restaino is a writer and filmmaker based out of Incline Village. He is also a Vice Chair of the North Tahoe Democrats. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.