If you’re reading this, you probably reacted with horror when you saw right-wingers holding their torches and chanting hateful things at Charlottesville, and again in Washington D.C. And, if you’re like us, you probably regarded what you saw as an aberration. This, you thought, was the diseased behavior of a tiny, destructive, fringe element who frankly needed therapy more than criminal prosecution.
Alas, it looks as though we may be wrong. Vox’s Zach Beauchamp is reporting that new polls shows that “roughly 5.64 percent of America’s 198 million non-Hispanic whites have beliefs consistent with the alt-right’s worldview.” That means something like 11 million Americans share Alt-Right ideas, even if they do not overtly identify with the Alt-Right itself.
This is distressing, but it might also be important in that it explains much of how Trump won, and how he stays in power. He is not, in fact, motivating a vanishingly small minority that supports him regardless of the facts. He is playing to the secret fears and hatreds of a much, much larger number of American voters.
If that is the case, then the way to fight him is not necessarily just by opposing Trump, and getting out the vote (though both of those things are vital), but also by addressing the secret terrors and biases of the American soul, and, via education, easing those sins and wounds away.