Alt Right pillars Richard Spencer, left, and Jared Taylor, right
Alt Right pillars Richard Spencer, left, and Jared Taylor, right Credit: Wilson Dizard

Washingtonians are used to our fellow Americans—the ones with full voting rights—sending us people with delusional politics. This year, it’s the alt right, and they’ll be treading the same streets that you do.

Under the banner of the Arlington-based National Policy Institute, a hardcore group of white nationalists obsessed with racial separatism held a press conference at The Willard InterContinental hotel Friday. They spoke to a room full of reporters, supporters, and one black anti-racist activist, Daryle Jenkins, who has monitored their rise.

Peter Brimelow, editor of VDARE—an online publication that advocates for a moratorium on immigration—sees multiculturalism as dangerous. But he says that the alt right is coursing through Washington, and has for a long time.

“Alt right people do tend to live in D.C.,” says Brimelow, who spoke at the conference. “They tend to do conservative think tank jobs.”

And emboldened by Trump’s political success, more may be on the way.

Though Richard Spencer, who heads alt right publication Radix Journal, insists that the movement is offering something completely new—an “ethnostate”—Jenkins says they’ve been in D.C. for decades.

“I think the biggest thing Washingtonians need to know is that these folks started within the Beltway,” says Jenkins, executive director of the One People’s Project. “They have been working with people in the Beltway since 20 or 30 years ago. Some of the older conservatives, if you watch videos from the ’80s, they were talking just like the alt right does.”

Even if Donald Trump loses the presidential election, Jenkins says these radical ideologues want to insinuate themselves into mainstream politics. “They want to make the Republican party a white party,” he says. “How much influence we allow them to have is going to be up to us.”

Washingtonians themselves bear some responsibility for the success of the movement’s comeback, he says. “They didn’t call it out when they should have,” Jenkins says. ‘It’s not entirely the fault of Washingtonians, because this has been around for years.”

As for this so-called “American Renaissance,” the name of one of the movement’s publications, Jenkins doesn’t buy it. He says the alt right is undergoing a rebranding. Indeed, they unveiled a snazzy new “synthpop”-inspired logo Friday. Instead of Nazi outfits and Confederate flags, these guys dress in business suits and sport Northern accents.

Spencer says he hopes to “professionalize” the alt right so it can influence policymaking. His colleague, American Renaissance magazine’s Jared Taylor, says he hopes alt rightists will run for office. If they do, they’ll end up becoming our neighbors, for at least part of the year.

Spencer claims that traffic on his website and interest in his movement spiked when Hillary Clinton made a speech last month condemning the movement. He says he’s deeply appreciative of Clinton’s reference.

“Our biggest enemy before that was ignorance,” Spencer says. 

Waves of well-educated professionals have been moving to the D.C. area, living here for a few years, and then leaving. Spencer wants to create a new conformist mindset for these kinds of transplants. Having moved the National Policy Institute’s headquarters to Arlington from Montana, he’s one of the vanguard. 

What Spencer has in common with previous waves of transplants is his ignorance of permanent District residents. Predictably, Spencer says voting rights for the District don’t rank high on the alt right agenda. 

“We don’t care about that,” Spencer says. “That’s not important.” 

But Washingtonians do matter to the alt right, and the movement has plans to change their minds to conform to the alt right vision of race and politics. 

“A lot of people in Washington are conformists,” Spencer says. “They got master’s degrees from whatever school, and they’ve been inculcated. We want to be a new elite that will inculcate these conformists to our ideology.” 

So far, fear of having their reputations ruined keeps many alt right sympathizers silent. For now, they censor themselves. But Trump’s nationalistic fervor means a whole roomful of people isn’t afraid to clap for speakers who say that skin color determines character.

Spencer expressed outrage at what he saw as censorship by the establishment after the National Press Club cancelled the press conference, forcing them to The Willard. I told Spencer that, like the hardcore D.C. punk/reggae band Bad Brains, he could now consider himself “banned in D.C.”

Spencer didn’t get the reference. Classic transplant.