I was surprised to see the New Statesman pay attention to one of the Internet's most famous conspiracy theorists, Alex Jones, the other day. Amelia Tait, a tech writer for the magazine, began an article on conspiracy theories with reference to Jones's well-known rant on "turning the friggin' frogs gay."
I often wonder how Jones maintains a career. Only the other day, shortly after Milo Yiannopoulos resigned from Breitbart following his scandalous comments about pederasty, I was watching a video released by Jones in which he claims that Edward Heath, the late British Prime Minister and Conservative MP, would abduct young British girls and kill them in his office. "According to our British sources, they would lay out plastic on the floor; a young girl would be walked in and a man with a double-edged dagger would slit the girl's throat. She would fall to the ground, bleeding to death, and the Prime Minister would then, basically, pleasure himself." Jimmy Savile, Jones claims, played a large role in kidnapping these unfortunate young women.
With claims as ludicrous as these, I don't understand how anyone can take Jones seriously. Plenty of people wonder whether Jones is a reasonable man who has found a bizarre way of earning a living in pretending to be a delusional conspiracy theorist and vaudeville-like entertainer - could anyone really be sincere in believing the kinds of things that Jones does? Alternatively, Jones is a mentally unhinged individual who has fallen foul of greedy media producers who see the rants of a madman as a lucrative opportunity for business.
But what should be more worrying is that plenty of Jones's fans and fellow readers of Infowars.com do believe these claims. They believe, sincerely, that the government is working on all manner of schemes to dupe the American people; they are confident in their belief that the government is controlled by secretive, totalitarian groups such as the Bilderberg elite, George Soros and his cronies or something like the Illuminati.
Conspiracy theories, as Tait writes, enjoy wide circulation because of the Internet. Multiple fora and webpages exist for questioning Barack Obama's birth certificate or Hillary Clinton's health (Helen Lewis, Deputy Editor of the New Statesman, considers the latter case here). Amelia Tait is not the first writer to address the extreme claims of the fringes of American politics with reference to psychological conditions such as confirmation bias and cognitive dissonance. Several other writers have explored the influence of unseen psychological factors for other magazines, newspapers and academic journals, especially in the wake of the Brexit and Trump votes and the 'fake news' epidemic. The Guardian considers the influence of incorrect sources widely shared on social media on how young Americans voted; before her article mentioning Alex Jones, Tait refers to psychological concepts in an earlier article exploring misogynistic Reddit streams and some male users who were once their fervent fans.
Journalists are also mindful of the consequences of the tidal wave of misinformation and deceit. Also for the New Statesman, Laurie Penny addresses fake news and how its peddlers manufacture nonsense for profit's sake; the Observer also notes how easy it is to find websites dedicated to denying the existence of the Holocaust. David Tollerton, a lecturer, has reflected (and written about it for the Guardian) on the apparent futility of teaching his students to argue properly when emotional slogans and prejudice will win elections and referenda ("Should footnotes and bibliographies be dismissed as elitist pedantry? Perhaps we should be training our students in the art of constructing compelling internet memes founded on fantasies? Or forceful slogans that combine emotive power with a strategic absence of content?").
There is an strain of thought that most commentators seem to think is unpalatable to express. People simply don't want to put the case forward. I've been considering it for a while and, especially since reading Tait's article on conspiracy theories, I feel that someone has to present the argument, even if it is a bad one.
We cannot attribute so many bad ideas and poor thinking to the influence of psychological factors beyond our control. Without denying the power of confirmation biases and logical fallacies, as well as how social conditioning makes some of our decisions partisan without us realising, can we not accept that not every is either educated or intelligent enough to make a coherent argument?
This is probably the most radical I've been in my blog for a long time, but I think that this is something that no one dares write but many have thought about. Take Alex Jones's mad anecdote about Edward Heath. It's all very well to refer to psychologists and their awareness of how people can form conspiracy theories to simplify a complicated body of information, cope with social isolation or tie many fringe ideas together to form a pattern, but should our main worry be that there are scores of people around the world who, when told that a former British Prime Minister would slit the throats of kidnapped girls, do not think twice?
Just as depressing as the decline of rational, well-written, coherent argument in favour of emotional outbursts and vulgar pathos is the fact that the latter kind of rhetoric actually works. Fear of the totalitarian state, fear of an invasion of immigrants, fear of the death of native culture, fear of the Islamisation of Europe and the establishment of Eurasia, fear of moral nihilism, fear of fascism and so on. The high chance that your pandering to prejudice and fact-free argument can win plenty of support: that's what should be scary to people like Dr. Tollerton.
There. I said it. There are people whose arguments are divorced from reason, facts and reality. I'm not trying to make a partisan attack against anyone of a particular political perspective, as many commentators like to do. It doesn't matter which side of the political debate you're on - there are innumerable people whose arguments depend on anything but fact. They might not get much television coverage, but the conspiracy theorists, the sceptics and the tin-foil-hat loonies exist in their droves and are free to expand their half-baked accounts of the world into giant webs of mistakes, misinformation and lies.
How do you take on lies and misleading narratives? Do you forge a narrative of your own? According to George Mason, yes. "If the liberal media has any principle left it is not the comment pages but the front page headlines that should say: “President exposed as lying fantasist,"" he concludes. I disagree - for the left-leaning media to engage in the same behaviour as the dogmatic bloggers and illogical YouTubers who are, regrettably, making capital out of ignorance, would be to commit the same crimes with which we think they are getting away. The press must remain professional and aligned to nothing but truth and scrutiny.
Am I going as far as Professor Richard Dawkins, who isn't afraid to admit his support of elitism, arguing that the British people should not have been handed the responsibility of deciding whether Britain leaves the EU? No, not quite. Rather, I'm concerned that we are not standing up for standards of academic endeavour, reasoned argument and sophisticated, civil interaction. Everyone has the right to their own opinion, of course, but I wouldn't offer a platform to someone whose ideas are threadbare and illogical. We should be having conversations for our benefit, education and progress, not for the pollution of our minds. We live in a time when the President of the United States makes unfounded allegations and attacks left, right and centre; even worse are his advisers who defend his ill-informed and peculiar witterings with reference to 'alternative facts', events that did not happen and reports that were never written. We need to make the case for proper standards and good arguments.
For several weeks I have been trying to record my thoughts about the victory of Donald Trump in the 2016 US presidential election. I've made reference to Trump in some other posts and written about what we should expect from a Trump administration in something for the Huffington Post, but otherwise I've not really addressed the election, the declaration of the winner or why Trump won.
I was not a particularly keen follower of American politics in school - I couldn't tell the difference between the Democrats and the Republicans, even during the 2012 campaign and election - but coming to university I was introduced more to politics through my independent studies of economics. There's far more to what I read and discovered, but, in a nutshell, I read about capitalism, Marxian economics, neoliberalism and the financial crash of 2007/2008. I came across various schools of thought, many promoting Reaganomics and austerity, and heard economists such as Milton Friedman and Paul Krugman make their cases for how we should do economics. Relating to Friedman's kind of economics was the very American attachment to individualism and liberty, which I interpreted from a philosophical angle.
When the 2016 candidates came forward and started debating, my interest in American politics grew. When Trump started making his bizarre and outrageous comments, a lot of us thought it was all over for him and expected him to bow out of the race after a great loss of support. However, Trump started rising to the top of the polls and winning caucuses. Trump made the headlines again and again for his off-colour remarks, misbehaviour and insults. I followed the election a little more than before as the other Republicans bit the dust. One of The Yorker's writers keenly covered the elections, meaning that I was reading a lot about caucus results as I edited his work. I started writing about Trump over summer, voicing my concerns about the emergence of the 'post-truth world' (which seems only to be getting worse) and thinking about Trump's relationship with his own party.
Since Trump won in November, I've lost track of the number of articles I've read about him, his campaign, his potential government and reasons for his victory, as well as why Hillary Clinton lost. I wish that I could contribute something about it myself, but I can never write beyond a paragraph or two about it.
There are so many things to consider when it comes to answering the question, why did Trump win the election? Some people say his personal conduct was irrelevant: as a total outsider challenging a highly-disliked political establishment, he received the support of countless disenchanted, disenfranchised Americans, black and white, male and female. Others say that misinformation and bias within the media ensured Trump's victory, either by making sure that Trump's problems were never bigger than Clinton's, or giving Trump such an unfair hearing that people lost trust in the media and made up their own minds on their own experiences. Now that the news concerning Russian involvement has broken, we might hear more about that perspective over the next few weeks. Some people think that this was simply a response to an unpopular president whose did not deliver on his promises of change and had not recovered economic stability, making a Republican success inevitable. Others say it goes further than Obama: Trump's victory is a rejection of decades of social and cultural liberalism and a resurgence of religious fervour, social conservatism and petty nationalism.
I'm still undecided as to whether Trump is the greatest political mastermind of the generation or an extremely fortunate idiot. Either Trump was a clever politician-to-be, responding to the prejudices and anger of disenchanted Americans with bluster and bravado, manipulating the media coverage to dominate the headlines and broadcast his 'Make America Great Again' slogan across televisions around the country; or Trump is a rambling, clumsy, ignorant and impolite "man-child" whose victory rested on reasons irrelevant to his incompetence. Did Trump really believe all the things he was saying? The same options as before exist: either Trump was a scheming opportunist, promising the things he knew would gain him votes, playing on prejudices, fears and bad sentiment to create common enemies and pander to our general ignorance; or Trump was and is a foul ignoramus with no sense of decency or subtlety, triumphing by being so outspoken with his unpolished thoughts.
Plenty of people see Trump's victory as a rejection - but of what? The answer often relates to the commentator's political persuasion. Dependent on who you ask, the American public rejected globalisation; political correctness; a corrupt elite; feminism and other socio-cultural movements of the last few decades; the detested establishment... People voted for Trump in response to something - even if it was a vote for someone who "isn't as bad as Clinton." Mike Pence, Trump's Vice-President, defended Trump when he said that Clinton's "deplorables" comment was so much worse than what Trump had said before; plenty of Americans would agree. Trump might be bad, but Clinton was worse.
I also wonder sometimes if the accusations against Trump stack up: the descriptions of him as a racist, a misogynist, a sexist, a xenophobe and so on. I don't for a moment think that the things he has said are actually acceptable or reasonable, but the frequency with which Trump changes his mind about important principles and policy and how he simply says whatever comes into his head make me doubt that he believes any of it at all. Look at his conduct on Twitter - if you tick him off, he'll denounce you. Even if a company has been rising or improving, he'll Tweet about how your ratings are down, or your business is failing, or, if you're part of the media, you're a "fake news" outlet. Countless videos and statements that show Trump holding contradictory positions exist online - only the other day I was shown a video in which, a few years ago, Trump expressed his admiration for Bill and Hillary Clinton. He said that things had been good in Bill's presidency and that Hillary had put up with a lot of unfair criticism throughout. Contrast that with his suggestions that, under a Trump presidency, Hillary Clinton, the "most corrupt candidate ever," would be behind bars. The fact that so much of what Trump says contradicts itself makes me wonder if anything he says is from the heart. All of those insensitive comments about women and minorities might just be ill-thought-out ramblings.
It will take a while for me to come to a definite answer about why Trump won and how we should remember the 2016 campaigning, but the next questions concern the future. What kind of presidency will exist in America from 2016 - 2020? Who will benefit and who will lose out? Trump posed as a candidate of radical change, putting forward policies in response to the last few decades of governance that resemble protectionism, or putting "America first." From that description, you'd expect a sort of neo-Keynesian, nationalist economic policy. But Trump's cabinet is filling up with top businessmen and CEOs from the richest corporations in the USA, alongside Republican bigwigs whose views are to the right of the conventional Republican ideology (Mike Pence is a good example). Even though the Tea Party candidates failed to get the nomination, Trump's unexpected success might be the opportunity for the Republican Party to realise its dreams - repeal ObamaCare, reduce taxes, defund Planned Parenthood, cut government spending, reduce gun control, reduce regulation, maybe even repeal the legislation on same-sex marriage. If Trump is just a lackwit whose job is just to sign into legislation whatever Republican bills come before him, all of his radical promises were meaningless.
Donald Trump is an enigma. As each news story comes through and I continue to read opinion pieces from a number of newspapers and publications, I still find it hard to express confident thoughts about how we should interpret him. A genuine manifestation of hostility and distrust of mainstream political economy? The appearance and legitimisation of the alt-right? The astonishing realisation of Tea Party values combined with nationalist rhetoric? A rejection of progressive values, feminism and the cultural developments of the last decade? A desperate appeal for radical change in the face of economic devastation and globalism? Or a loser who got lucky by pandering to the prejudices and fears that for too long we pretended had died out?
Do you know the greatest straw men of today? It's "the Left" and "the Right". No, I don't mean the political left and right, nor am I admitting to be a centrist. I mean the two political terms so often used by commentators, pundits, journalists, politicians and others. "The Left" and "the Right" are two political terms with a huge space under which so many things can come. As a Fabian I should think I belong to "the Left" but that should not automatically associate me with Leninism, Stalinism or communist revolution. My Thatcherite friend should not be equated with Neo-Nazism, religious fundamentalism or a fondness for dictatorship. Because of this, writing about "the Left" or "the Right" is, in my opinion, fruitless, as it is never clear what "the Left" and "the Right" actually are. Nonetheless, plenty of people continue to bemoan one or the other, labelling scores of people with the same criticisms.
Elements of "the Left" can include Marxists, socialists, social democrats, centrists, communists, republicans, egalitarians, secularists and critics of religion; elements of "the Right" can include conservatives, traditionalists, monarchists, aristocrats, racial supremacists, Nazis, libertarians and fascists. But should even these ideas or ideologies be associated with either "the Left" or "the Right"? A few centuries ago, the doctrine we have come to know as classical liberalism belonged to "the Left" whereas nowadays classical liberalism is seen as belonging to "the Right." Nationalism, libertarianism and anarchism exist in both left-wing and right-wing forms. Even in the present day, we disagree on how to categorise political parties and ideologies. Many critics of Blair's New Labour said that it had taken a left-wing party into the centre ground; Peter Hitchens argues that the Conservative Party and UKIP are left-wing; some Telegraph journalists think that the current Labour Party is infested with Trotskyists and pursuing a radical left-wing agenda. Most people consider Donald Trump a right-wing populist, but classical liberal economists such as Steve Davies say that he advocates left-wing, collectivist economic policies.
In every country or political atmosphere there exists a left wing and a right wing, but there is, I believe, a difference between the context-dependent political left and right and "the Left" and "the Right". What we list under the ignorant banners of "Left" and "Right" is influenced by context, circumstance and our own prejudices. Unfortunately, commentators like to write about "the Left" and "the Right" as vast entities, carelessly smearing many people with criticisms attached to them simply because they are an element of the political left or right.
I've written about this before, so I don't want to simply duplicate what I have written before, but I see the terms "the Left" and the "Right" thrown about even more so than before and it continues to frustrate me. Consider the titles of some opinion pieces from the British press:
Why do they do it? I should think that it's because it's easy: it's so easy to ridicule and dismiss a school of thought if you describe it in a misleading way. If you bundle numerous contrasting political and economic philosophies into one big bubble, you can take one big swipe at the whole thing. Dennis Prager, the American conservative commentator, does this quite a lot. Most recently in his long career, he's produced a series of videos for his pet conservative educational project 'Prager University' on the differences between "the Left" and "the Right" (and as you'd expect, "the Right" comes out positively every time). On Prager University's YouTube account you can also find a speech he gave a little while ago at a Prager University dinner, in which he says that "the Left" "are crazy about power" and refers to the Nazis and "the Left" in the same sentence. A video released a few days ago sees Prager arguing that "the Left" is out to remove Christmas.
Whenever possible, I avoid writing about "the Left" and "the Right". If I have a problem with a political faction, I address the problem and the faction specifically: I would be critical of the Conservative Party, laissez-faire economics, the privatisation of public services etc. ... I would hate to be compelled by an editor to write about my problems with "the Right". Writing about an inflated, non-existent entity succeeds only creating a binary mentality - it's us or (say) "the Left" whose policies and ideas are anathema. It's not helpful to lump everything into one term and then to complain about it. What about those on the political left who are in favour of the private property or a small government? Yes, they do exist and to think that they don't only confirms, at least to me, that you have subscribed to the portrayal of "the Left" that has been given to you by these ideologically-motivated journalists and commentators.
Some people use the terms "the Left" or "the Right" as a synonym for the organised force of the political left or right in their country. The Telegraph journalists who argued that there is a problem with anti-Semitism in "the Left" in Britain were likely referring to the accusations of (and inquiry into) anti-Semitism in the British Labour Party. But this is lazy - it still lumps everyone on the political left into one large group, accusing them all of having sympathy with anti-Semitism.
Using intentionally vague terms leads to unhealthy politics; it leads to people distrusting and fearing an immense political entity, carelessly constructed by incompetent critics. It contributes to an us versus them mentality where it's sensible people versus "the Left" or "the Right".
Earlier this month a colleague at The Yorker asked me to take a look at a potentially contentious opinion piece. (I say colleague but I should point out that we neither receive a wage nor do this for a living; The Yorker, unlike other campus papers, is a private company, so I suppose we're colleagues.) The piece concerned political correctness and the author's resistance to it. He had been moved to write after a professor at a Canadian university landed himself in hot water with a number of students and fellow academics after refusing to use the preferred gender pronouns requested of him by a transgender student. It was an interesting subject to me, particularly as I had myself mistakenly used the inappropriate pronouns to describe a student at my own university. Unlike Professor Jordan Peterson, I had not realised that the student wished to be described with the pronouns of 'they', 'them' and 'their', so I suppose that I had made an innocent mistake.
The debate around gender pronouns is extremely interesting and I think that there are some philosophical avenues that have not properly been considered. But Professor Peterson's approach concerned political correctness and what he believes is a malicious attempt to control the words that come out of his mouth. In fact, he compares his resistance to gender-based pronouns to the defence of a value he believes is "not just another value" but "the foundation of Western civilisation." So, for the time being I will put that philosophical discussion on the shelf - along with the many, many other things that are in the queue - and offer some thoughts on political correctness.
Political correctness has featured heavily in the election campaign of Donald Trump. Many of his supporters detest political correctness and opposition to 'PC culture' comes from a variety of backgrounds and positions. The alt-right and its figureheads (including you-know-who) rail against political correctness as an evil authoritarian clamp on freedom of speech; British liberals believe that it is a terrible aspect of our culture, especially on university campuses, that waters down discussion and sanitises political opinions, lest they cause offence; and many ordinary, elderly people are sick of being told that so much of what they used to say in their youth is no longer appropriate or acceptable.
Political correctness is notably present in campus culture and has been noticed at many universities, in many countries. The feelings of angst against political correctness have been exploded by the kinds of people I mentioned above, who make it sound like it is tearing university life apart; though it does not govern my daily life or police my thoughts, the influence of political correctness on campus discussion and student politics is clear.
Political correctness manifests in many ways. Often, students protesting against academics' failure to adhere to political correctness can result in public condemnations and misrepresentations of people and their ideas. Explaining his frustrations with political correctness to Sam Harris, the psychologist Jonathan Haidt recalls being reported to the dean of a university for homophobia by a student. Haidt has spent much of his career researching the psychology behind our moral decisions (something which I think is highly important and lends a lot of credibility to the emotivist school of ethical thought - again something for another blog post). In a course on the psychology behind disgust, Haidt had presented a scripted debate that explored how we often describe things that disgust as immoral as well. The example in the debate concerned incest, but in the script, one debater referred to homosexuality: it might disgust a heterosexual man to witness sex between two gay men, but does his disgust logically lead to the conclusion that homosexuality is immoral? However, a student had not taken well to the inclusion of homosexuality in this way and made an accusation about Haidt to the university's authorities. Following emails and a large explosion of anger on social media, Haidt reluctantly apologised for his alleged homophobia.
For Haidt, this is a troubling phenomenon on campus. Students can complain to the academic authorities about content that they find to be insulting, stress-inducing or outrageous, even if an academic has no intention of insulting, inducing stress upon or outraging his audience. Certain topics of conversation are off-limits and to question their validity is to endanger an academic's career. When academics dare to cross that line, students can report their activities to the university administration and ask the institution's leaders to condemn this bigotry or go on employing them. "You can't use that word, you have to use this word; you can't wear that clothing, that's cultural appropriation... we get to dictate what happens on campus," says the 'illiberal Left', Haidt argues.
Haidt has a lot of good things to say about political correctness and it's hard, for me at least, to be immediately critical of the kinds of things that he believes. He doesn't criticise political correctness from the perspective of a Breitbart columnist or a men's rights activist, where criticism tends to be accompanied by mockery and belittlement. Haidt's article, "The Coddling of the American Mind", co-written with Greg Lukianoff, is well worth a read. (I'm also glad that Haidt is one of the few academics who admits that American politics has defiled the term 'liberal'.) However, political correctness should not be remembered as an innately evil force. Haidt makes concessions to the need for academic environments to be welcoming and inclusive, and so should we.
Political correctness has not been designed with the intention of fighting evil ideas or shutting people up. I believe that the people who promote political correctness have good intentions. It all boils down to the desire to be polite and respectful to people. I'm not denying that the extent to which some students want political correctness to apply is worrying, as Haidt and other academics have argued, but the honourable intentions behind political correctness should not be forgotten.
The way we respond to political correctness should, I think, depend on the circumstances and the extent. There are times when I think Professor Peterson's response is appropriate but at other times not. If a transgender friend asks me to use the pronouns 'they, them, their' for them, I think it is polite, whether I think it right or wrong, to humour their request; but if a government made it law to address people in certain ways, then I think it is right to protest. If someone asks me not to use dated language e.g. terms like "spastic" or "retarded," I think it is polite to refrain from using these terms; but I would protest if my job were threatened if I were to use improper terminology. If someone asks me to stop discussing emotional topics like rape, depression, grief or abuse, then I will move the topic of conversation onto something else; but if I were an academic and my course were to be censored for mentioning these kinds of things, I would protest.
In a nutshell, political correctness should be advising us on how we ought to behave, not how we can and cannot behave. We ought to treat people with respect, be courteous to one another and respect our differences. Isn't that just civility? If political correctness strives for more civil behaviour in society, I'm all for it. But political correctness becomes bad when it is used to justify restrictions on things we can think, say, wear, do and more. As such, people who believe in political correctness should be careful when they apply their belief: they should remember that the word 'should' can be interpreted in different ways.
When political correctness leads to word policing, clothing restrictions and regulating what can and can't be discussed on campus, as Haidt mentions, it really is time to resist it. But when political correctness leads to people of ethnic minorities and other socially-disadvantaged backgrounds being treated with dignity, kindness and warmth, it really is hard to find a good reason to resist it.
Donald Trump's victory in the 2016 US presidential election was a shock to everyone I know. Even those who expected a 'Brexit'-style turn of events were genuinely astonished that their predictions came true. To be frank, it's been over a week and I've still not quite digested what has happened. The combination of staying up until 7:00am GMT to watch the result and the result itself meant that for just under a week, I have been physically and mentally exhausted from what happened. Since then I think I have regained some control and composure, though for now I am still trying to work out who really won the presidential contest.
Yes, who really won the contest? I'm not launching a conspiracy theory here (besides, there are enough of those already, many of which probably contributed to Trump's popularity). I mean to ask who has truly won in the battle for the White House. Many groups are already claiming that their input was vital to Trump's success; others believe that his success is a landmark in America's history, culture and the nature of American society.
Donald Trump stood as a Republican candidate and went on to defeat the Democrat presidential candidate; his party also earned a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. But we should not forget how reluctantly the Republican Party invested its support and resources in Trump. If it had been another candidate, it would be much easier to predict the direction of the forthcoming Republican presidency and make some guesses at policies, new legislation and the general approach to governing the United States. However, Trump's politics are wildly out of kilter with most of what the Republican Party has, up until now, advocated.
Trump appears to be an unprincipled, unbothered man who can adopt political positions on demand. But this is far from the political wilyness you could see in Yes, Minister; Trump's positions depend on whatever stokes controversy and whatever would gain votes. I am confident that he could easily have ran for a Democrat nomination. In fact, after campaigning hard to entirely repeal the Affordable Care Act ("ObamaCare"), Trump seemed to lose his enthusiasm for abolishing it following a short meeting with the outgoing President. Trump has flip-flopped around on a number of important political topics and debates. He has no allegiance to the Democrat or Republican Parties, only to himself and his family.
If Trump has no political thoughts of his own, saying whatever he needs to say to get votes, then we can effectively forget about his role as POTUS. All Trump will do will be the public face of the government: it will be his party feeding him speeches and ideas.
But this takes me back to the difficult relationship between the Republican Party and its own nominee. Trump is clearly not committed to the ideology of the Republican Party. Rallying people around a serious dislike of the other camp's candidate and complaining that the establishment has abandoned the general public does not equate to maintaining the values of the GOP. Furthermore, numerous high-profile Republicans have distanced themselves from Trump following his numerous outrageous remarks and comments, especially after the recording of his comments on groping women was revealed. Some Republican elites declined to vote for Trump on the day of the election.
Trump's campaigning and the support from various fringe groups, nationalist movements, conspiracy theorists and Internet pranksters has turned a spotlight on the so-called 'alt-right' and its membership. I've lost count of the number of articles I've read about the alt-right from the BBC, the Guardian and other media outlets. Trump's victory made many people worry that the alt-right's malicious and insensitive antics had been justified and accepted as normal. Trump's appointment of Steve Bannon as his Chief Strategist is also another hot topic in the press at the moment.
To summarise my reason for confusion: soon to be entering the White House is an apolitical businessman and reality TV star, espousing views that do not always run parallel with the party for which he stood, supported and championed by an 'alternative' political movement that lacks its own formal presence in established politics.
The Republican Party finds the alt-right ugly and the alt-right finds the Republican Party ugly as well. The Republican elite endorsed their unexpected candidate with their noses pinched and do not wish to embrace the nationalist politics and collectivist, dare I say anti-capitalist ideas of the angry alt-right; the alt-right claim that Trump's victory was a victory against political correctness, the dodgy establishment, corrupt politicians, feminism and more, but they routinely mock other conservatives who aren't part of the alt-right.
What happens now? In my opinion, while everyone is concentrating on the Democrats and how mistaken they were to have fielded a candidate who was the face of the status quo that so many people detest, we should look at how troubled the Republicans are as well. They thought they were going to lose the presidential race, the House and the Senate; they thought that they had failed to convince the general public that taxes were too high, ObamaCare was evil, that Clinton wanted to take their guns etc. Somehow, the Republican candidate won, but he was endorsed by people who hate the politicians of the mainstream parties and want to "drain the swamp."
I don't know who really won the presidential contest. The Republicans won but so much support for their candidate came from people who don't believe in the Republican Party's values.