The Alternative Historiography of the Alt-Right
The historiography of modern conservatism in the United States has largely settled on a long-ascension narrative—focusing on the movement’s capture of the Republican Party and, via neoliberalism, a reshaping of the Democratic Party by the 1980s and 1990s. Foregrounding the many continuities between the businessmen’s crusades against the New Deal in the 1930s–1940s, the rise of a self-conscious conservative movement loosely coordinated by groups in the orbit of William F. Buckley’s National Review in the 1950–1960s and the emergence of the New Right from the 1970s onwards, the conventional narrative of modern conservatism perhaps overstates the movement’s historical coherence and unity. Towards understanding the historical subjectivity of the Alt-Right, which positions itself as representing a discrete conservative intellectual tradition neglected by the mainstream conservative movement, this chapter explores the histories of that movement penned by retired intellectual historian Paul Edward Gottfried. Known for mentoring Alt-Right innovator Richard Spencer, Gottfried’s assessment of the history of modern conservatism from a ‘paleoconservative’ vantage lends insight into the historical counter-narratives that inform the contemporary Alt-Right insurgency. The chapter examines the role of historical theory in Gottfried’s conception of conservatism. This chapter concludes by assessing the implications considering the political project of the Alt-Right.