The Trump Wars

The Alt-Right Turns on the GOP Establishment

Donald Trump, Jr. Hardest Hit
November 11, 2019
Featured Image
CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 01: Donald Trump Jr. speaks early in the night before his father, U.S. President Donald Trump, at a campaign rally at U.S. Bank Arena on August 1, 2019 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The president was critical of his Democratic rivals, condemning what he called "wasted money" that has contributed to blight in inner cities run by Democrats, according to published reports. (Photo by Andrew Spear/Getty Images)

As Donald Trump Jr. fled the stage from an enraged crowd of far-right activists on Sunday, it became clear that the racist “alternative right” movement which receded in 2017 has returned with a vengeance—against Republicans. 

The Los Angeles event featuring Trump Jr. was originally billed as a tour stop designed to promote his new book, but almost immediately degenerated into chaos after Turning Point USA, the organizing group, announced that Trump and his girlfriend, former Fox News Channel host Kimberly Guilfoyle, would not take questions after delivering their remarks.

Audience members erupted in rage and began shouting “Q and A” even before the duo began speaking. Their chants began to drown out the speakers as Trump moved to conclude, visibly flustering him.

“We’re willing to listen,” he repeated as jeers and chants filled the room.

“You’re not making your parents proud by being rude and disruptive and discourteous!” Guilfoyle shouted over the din. Eventually the couple, accompanied by Turning Point founder Charlie Kirk, exited the stage to boos rather than tout the presidential son’s book Triggered: How the Left Thrives on Hate and Wants to Silence Us.

How ironic.

***

The night’s events suggest that while the political right has had some success trying to wield hate as a political tool, they may no longer be able to control it.

Nick Fuentes, the 21-year-old host of a YouTube show called “America First” who was the mastermind behind the disruption campaign, gloried in the collapse of the younger Trump’s event.

“I don’t know if you understand how big this is, this is the president’s son, the president’s son!” he exulted on a live stream during which he reacted to his viewers’ triumph. 

Sunday’s insurrection against Trump was the latest in a series of conservative events that have seen their proceedings disrupted by white nationalist activists who believe that the president has failed to deliver on his election promises. Among other complaints, activists have cited the failure to build a wall on the Mexican border and the administration’s refusal to decrease the number of legal immigrants. Kirk has seen his own events crashed repeatedly as has Rep. Dan Crenshaw although none of the disturbances have received national media attention.

Turning Point USA, which has expelled a number of its own national and regional leaders after their ties to white nationalists were exposed, has increasingly constrained audience participation as Kirk’s “Culture War” college tour has seen activists pose questions designed to portray him as disloyal to America and hostile to Christian ideals.

Beyond spelling trouble for Kirk’s political future, the Los Angeles disruption is a clear indication that the white nationalist “alt-right” movement that rose to prominence with the assistance of Donald Trump’s repeated overtures to them has recovered from the 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, which collapsed into violent chaos. 

***

After almost two years in the wilderness and with numerous activists facing lawsuits,  arrests, and removal from the mainstream internet, white nationalist activists have regained their energy by focusing on undermining the new, Trumpian conservative establishment.

Fuentes and his allies are portraying themselves as “true conservatives” who are fighting against a corrupt and secular GOP elite that cares more about billionaires and Israel than the millions of white Christians who voted for them. Even Pepe, who once served as the alt-right’s amphibian mascot, has been replaced with Groyper, an obese cartoon frog that has also become the term by which Fuentes fans refer to themselves.

Fuentes and his new fans cannily disclaim the label “white nationalist,” even as he has stated that it “might be descriptive” to apply the term to him. He also told the Boston Globe that he had attended the Charlottesville rally.

In a 2017 interview with a white nationalist podcast, Fuentes said that he takes inspiration from Trump, particularly the bellicose and unapologetic style that the former reality TV star used to dispatch GOP primary rivals such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

“We want to imitate winners, we want to imitate people who have succeeded against the left,” Fuentes told the interviewer.

After the Sunday disruption, Fuentes stuck to the pro-Trump line on Twitter, writing that he and the “groypers” were only upset at Kirk, not at the president and his son.

“Our problem is not with @DonaldJTrumpJr who is a patriot— We are supporters of his father!” he wrote. “Our problem is with Charlie Kirk’s TPUSA organization that SHUTS DOWN and SMEARS socially conservative Christians and supporters of President Trump’s agenda. We are AMERICA FIRST!”

Youth-oriented conservative groups are likely to face continued heckling in the weeks and months to come. Fuentes fans have been compiling a list of upcoming conservative college speeches and have vowed to attend all of them.

Matthew Sheffield

Matthew Sheffield is a writer and the host of “Theory of Change,” a newly launched podcast about large-scale political and technology trends.