A fait accompli ever since Breitbart honcho Steve Bannon joined the campaign, which was greeted with exultation by alt-righters. The timing is interesting, though, and revealing. The speech is scheduled for Thursday, the same day Trump was initially scheduled to deliver his own speech on immigration in Denver. (That speech has now been postponed as he, ahem, “modifies” his proposals.) Team Hillary was expecting a big pander to the middle on amnesty in Trump’s remarks, notwithstanding Bannon’s new role in the campaign; going after Trump over the alt-right was thus seemingly designed as a form of counterprogramming, to give the media reason to chatter about the white nationalists in Trump’s fan base on the same day he was trying to remake his image on immigration as moderate-ish.
Now that Trump’s speech is postponed, Clinton could have postponed hers too — but didn’t. Presumably she’s thinking that it can’t hurt to introduce the alt-right criticism into the media bloodstream now, in anticipation of whatever Trump will say on immigration next week. And it’s also a rebuttal to Trump’s outreach to black voters over the past week, in which he’s asked them repeatedly what they have to lose in voting for him. Linking him to the alt-right is Clinton’s way of trying to answer that question.
Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton on Thursday plans to deliver a speech on the connection between Republican Donald Trump’s campaign and the “disturbing ‘alt-right’ political philosophy,” a Clinton aide said.
The address, planned for Reno, Nev., follows a report this past weekend in The Washington Post that the so-called alt-right has been heartened by Trump’s candidacy, seeing recent moves by the candidate as consistent with the alt-right’s goal of maximizing the white vote in November…
The Clinton aide said the “‘alt-right brand is embracing extremism and presenting a divisive and dystopian view of America which should concern all Americans, regardless of party.” Clinton will offer a very different vision, said the aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to preview a speech that has not been formally announced.
Who’s been the most prominent critic of the alt-right in America’s political establishment over the past few weeks? It wasn’t a Democrat. It was … Paul Ryan, who unloaded on them and Paul Nehlen the day before his landslide primary win in WI-01. That’s the deeper play by Hillary in this, I think. Sure, she wants black and Latino voters to know that white nationalists love them some Trump, but she’s not worried about those groups peeling off. What she’s worried about is Trump-skeptic Republicans deciding to hold their noses and vote for him this fall. Most recent polls show Hillary doing conspicuously better with her own party than Trump is doing with his, with Republican support for him topping out in the 75-80 percent range. Clinton is desperate to keep the rest of the GOP base on the sidelines, if not voting for her than backing Gary Johnson or staying home. One way to do that is to convince them that, unlike Ryan, Trump isn’t a conservative Republican in any recognizable way but rather part of a new ethno-nationalist movement to which they owe no ideological loyalty. That’s the same strategy she and Obama used at the Democratic convention: Instead of the usual blather about how the Republican nominee represents everything bad about his party, they made a point of saying that Trump doesn’t represent traditional Republicanism. That was their pitch to GOP anti-Trumpers — along with all the flag-waving — to consider Clinton this year. I’d bet that Hillary will use Thursday’s speech to pit Ryan Republicanism and Trump alt-rightism explicitly against each other to try to “force” GOP voters to choose which camp they’re in, with Ryanites supposedly duty bound not to support Trump (never mind that Ryan himself does). Divide and conquer. If she can persuade 20 percent of Republicans to protest the alt-right by voting for someone other than Trump, that’s probably enough for a comfortable Democratic win.
And who knows? If conservatives and alt-righters end up at each other’s throats, that might help birth a new Trumpist alt-right party and cement a permanent right-wing split before 2020, which would make it much easier for her to get reelected. In fact, a Twitter pal recently speculated that Clinton may end up making the argument (if not Thursday then later) that Gary Johnson is the “real conservative” in the race. That would kill two birds with one stone for her, giving pause to Bernie fans who are backing Johnson right now out of hostility to Hillary while encouraging anti-Trump Republicans to give Johnson a second look. I think Clinton’s wary of giving Johnson any media oxygen since he’s pulling votes from her too and a higher profile for his candidacy could do unpredictable damage to hers, but it fits with the divide-and-conquer approach.
Here’s Trump at a rally yesterday assuring inner-city voters that when he’s president they’ll be able to walk down the street without getting shot.
Update: Looks like the DNC is getting out of the gate before Hillary. They have a new ad up consisting of nothing but Breitbart headlines.