Opinion: Clinton's alt-right con trick and Streisand dumps on Trump

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Opinion: Clinton's alt-right con trick and Streisand dumps on Trump

Barbra Streisand duets with Alec Baldwin, dumps on Donald Trump on 'The Tonight Show' 
There were two big winners in Hillary Clinton's speech on the alt-right. One was Hillary Clinton, who was able to present herself as the opponent of a neo-racist movement. The other was the alt-right, which hardly anyone had ever heard of and which got some free advertising.

The big loser of the night was the Republican Party. Most of its activists had probably never heard of the alt-right either. Now their label is tarred with it. Never mind that the alt-right is tiny and unrepresentative of conservatism, or even that Trump has allied with alt-right figures but never endorsed the movement by name. These are details that Clinton doesn't benefit from so she didn't dwell on them.
Timothy Stanley
Timothy Stanley
What exactly is the alt-right then? Come back and ask in about 30 years' time. It's too soon to be exact about a movement so diffuse and containing so many factions, some disputing the label.

Opinion: Clinton's alt-right con trick and Streisand dumps on Trump
Opinion: Clinton's alt-right con trick and Streisand dumps on Trump
Opinion: Clinton's alt-right con trick and Streisand dumps on Trump
Opinion: Clinton's alt-right con trick and Streisand dumps on Trump

Conservatism, as mainstream Republicans have long defined it, preaches the supremacy of the individual, in limited government and in the noble idea that you and I were created equal. There is no room in that philosophy for the dirty lie of racism. It attaches itself parasitically to it from time to time, but is generally shaken off.
Hence, Clinton has pulled off a con trick. Yes, she has denounced folks who needed to be denounced. Yes, she has forced conservatives like me to test our conscience regarding Trump. But she has also created an imagined relationship between everyday, mainstream conservatives and the alt-right. Don't be fooled. Clinton did not call out the alt-right to save the GOP from it, but to condemn it by association.
Let me spell it out with all the clarity I can squeeze from the keyboard. Racism is un-American. It is unchristian. It is unconservative.

As Barbra Streisand proved earlier this week, when she calls, her famous friends answer. And on Thursday, she recruited "30 Rock" actor Alec Baldwin for some musical backup on "The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon."

The two teamed up for a performance of the Broadway standard "The Best Thing That Has Ever Happened," a duet that also happens to be featured on Streisand's new album, "Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway."
And Baldwin wasn't the only one to share the stage with the legendary singer.
Streisand was also joined by 'Donald Trump,' as played by Fallon.
The bizarre duo bickered about walls and wigs in a brief duet of a modified version of "Anything You Can Do."

Streisand is a vocal supporter of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
On "Encore" -- which released Friday -- Streisand sings the song with Meslissa McCarthy.
The collection of duets also features surprising collaborations with Anne Hathaway, Daisy Ridley, Hugh Jackman, Chris Pine and Seth MacFarlane.
Between the release of a new album and finally getting her beef with Siri figured out thanks to Tim Cook, everything appears to be coming up Streisand this week.

To put it generously, alt-righters are conservatives who are as critical of the Republicans as they are the Democrats -- believing both to be slaves of political correctness. Put ungenerously, they tend to preach a white rights, hypermasculine identity politics that comes off like sheer bigotry.
Notably, they contain few Christian groups. They are post-Christian, almost post-capitalist, rather obsessed with biology. The American Renaissance, an alt-right group, posted a response to Clinton's speech, arguing: "If whites really understood the racial implications of what she stands for, they wouldn't vote for her as dog catcher."
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American Renaissance adds: "We do not claim that Donald Trump is part of the alt-right or that he is an advocate for white people. It is clearly unfair to make him responsible for our views. However, by promoting polices that put America first, he will slow our decline and perhaps even pave the way to an American Renaissance in which the truth about race is no longer a taboo."
When future historians write about the alt-right they may well quote Clinton's speech. It was important. She drew a spurious line of influence from Vladimir Putin to Britain's Nigel Farage -- who addressed a Trump rally in Mississippi on Wednesday -- to Trump himself, who is, said Clinton, the agent of the alt-right's takeover of the Republican Party.

This is too slick an interpretation. In reality, Farage, the British nationalist, has consistently said there are profound cultural differences between British and American conservatives, particularly over the importance of religion. Trump, meanwhile, may channel alt-right ideas or provide a platform for them, but it's not clear that his overall philosophy is theirs.

And Putin's supposed influence over right-wing politics is overblown. We're in danger of entering McCarthyite waters when anyone who suggests that confrontation with Russia is unnecessary is painted as an agent of foreign influence. Trumpism is not alt-right, the alt-right is not Trump, and neither is some plot by the KGB.
But Trumpism isn't mainstream conservatism either, and neither is the alt-right. Don't get me wrong: There's a reason why the alt-right has found a home with the Republicans rather than the Democrats. Since the 1960s, the GOP's rhetoric has made it a more natural fit for those who think only African-Americans get welfare or that feminists are worse than cancer (the latter a famous Breitbart headline quoted by Clinton when she mentioned that the Trump campaign's new CEO is the executive chairman of Breitbart).

But there are angels within the Republican Party, and those with a clear-eyed understanding of the moral precepts of conservatism resist this trend. Long before Clinton gave this speech, Mitt Romney attacked Trump for his alleged racism. Commentators like Ben Shapiro -- as far to the right of the sane spectrum you can get without falling off into madness -- have condemned his bigotry also.
Conservatism is as hard to define as the alt-right. And at a moment when people are fighting over its meaning, it's important to establish what it's not.


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