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But of course, by treating them as a joke, you can miss their importance — as so many of us who planned our November 9, 2016, around a certain Hillary Clinton win did.
And in this far-right movement, there is instead a backlash to those same changes and those same symbols — to a black president, to a woman candidate, but also to the idea that diversity and inclusiveness and the other major social movements of the 20th century even represent progress at all, rather than its inverse.
But the new reaction of which it is a part is quite large — in fact, truly global.
Which means that the movement’s grip on the White House — which seems to wax and wane, now with Gary Cohn looking like he’s taken Steve Bannon’s seat in Trump’s game of musical chairs — is not its strongest claim on the future.
For much of last year, the term was often used as shorthand for “racists, but … ” Which is helpful, as far as it goes, but the full reality is much more complicated.
The alt-right — or the new right, if you prefer to sound more like Tom Wolfe than Kurt Cobain, or the radical right, to properly acknowledge its break from mainstream conservatism — is a coalition comprised of movements like neo-reaction, certain strands of libertarianism, tech triumphalism, and even the extreme-populist wing of the Republican Party. But to approach the big messy tent of the new retrograde right — the international brigade of nativist-nationalists, tech-savvy anti-globalists, the porn-loving gender traditionalists — as primarily a political movement is to wildly underestimate its scope.