Democrats, Stop Using ‘Alt-Right’ and Other Conservative Terminology

If there is one thing we can learn from Donald Trump’s constant use of inflammatory and often immature rhetoric, it is the power of language in politics. Trump’s supporters latched onto catchphrases, such as “lock her up” and “crooked Hillary,” which can be incredibly influential in a political period full of short Twitter statements and quick media appearances. This is why Democrats do themselves no favors when they embrace conservative terminology instead of reframing the issues.

One of the terms that keeps popping up in the media and speeches is “alt-right.” According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, “alt-right” refers to “a set of far-right ideologies, groups and individuals whose core belief is that ‘white identity’ is under attack by multicultural forces using ‘political correctness’ and ‘social justice’ to undermine white people and ‘their’ civilization.”

The “alt-right” has grabbed onto other hateful ideologies, as well. Although individuals within the movement may vary on their viewpoints, overall they “regard Jews as dangerous outsiders who bear major responsibility for the decline of European civilization” and believe “women need and want men to rule over them and should be stripped of any political role,” according to Political Research Associates.

“Alt-right” supporters have famously welcomed Trump’s presidency with Nazi salutes and chanted “Jews will not replace us” at a rally to save a Confederate statute. If these people are so clearly supporting racist and anti-Semitic views, why do we not just call them white supremacists and neo-Nazis?

Instead of these clearly defined labels, “alt-right” is ambiguous, especially to people unfamiliar with the movement. The term itself almost sounds cool and edgy, not immediately threatening and hateful. “Alt-right” likely came about as an attempt to rebrand the racist movement and step away from widely condemned ideologies, such as neo-Nazism and white supremacy.

“The edgy quality of ‘alt’ is also one of its strengths, in my opinion,” creator of the “alt-right” term Richard Spencer told The Nation. “It connotes grunge, electronica, punk rock, youth, and vitality — and not fuddy-duddy ‘conservatism.’”

The Associated Press even released guidelines for reporters writing about the “alt-right,” urging them to steer clear of the term without proper context.

“Avoid using the term generically and without definition, however, because it is not well known and the term may exist primarily as a public-relations device to make its supporters’ actual beliefs less clear and more acceptable to a broader audience,” the AP said in a blog post. “In the past we have called such beliefs racist, neo-Nazi or white supremacist.”

Every time Democrats use the term “alt-right” they are normalizing it and allowing the fringe movement to frame the issue. Responding to a rally where attendees chanted “Jews will not replace us” by labeling the crowd as neo-Nazis is much more succinct and digestible than explaining the history and beliefs of the “alt-right” movement.

The power of political terminology can be seen in immigration in the United States, as well. For years, the term “illegal alien” had been used for people entering the country illegally. Although just two words, the phrase immediately gives you an impression of the people it’s describing — that “illegal aliens” are criminals and are unlike the rest of us. Democrats finally pushed back on this narrative by using the phrase “undocumented immigrants,” which frames the issue with a more sympathetic lens.

With the 2020 election gearing up, Democrats should take the opportunity to control the narrative instead of falling into old Republican traps.

Photo credit: Getty Images

44 comments

Shirley S
Shirley S25 days ago

Noted

SEND
hELEN hEARFIELD
hELEN h27 days ago

tyfs

SEND
Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld27 days ago

Paul B.,
Yes. There are many out there who are blind to the racist sentiments over the Democratic party. Just ask Nika Elugar of Boston.

SEND
Paul B
Paul B28 days ago

Mike Kelly, if you don't realize that what you wrote was total BS and not even close to truth given that the biggest racists were Democrats, just ask LBJ, just look at history and see which party was the champion of civil rights, yes Republicans. The Nazis were Democrat socialists, much like we are seeing from the Dem party today. There are bigots and homophobes in all parties. As for the so called white supremists, they are too few to even be called anything and could easily be countered by the Black Panthers, BLM and AntiFa that are all very rabid radical leftists that are much worse and much more prevalent and vocal.
I am not sure if you actually believe what you wrote or just blustering. Hopefully the latter.

SEND
Janis K
Janis K28 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

SEND
Shae Lee
Shae Lee28 days ago

Thanks for sharing.

SEND
Leo C
Leo C28 days ago

Thank you for sharing!

SEND
Kevin B
Kevin B28 days ago

tyfs

SEND
Sherry Kohn
Sherry K28 days ago

Noted

SEND
David F
David F28 days ago

Yea Debbi, yesterday, eight Democtat presidential candidates bigots stood with the likes of (D) Ilhan Omar, (D) Farrakhan, (D) Rashida Tlaib and the rest of the KKK and American Nazis Jewish haters, to boycott AIPAC.

SEND