Because we could talk about what "bigot" means. It could mean only those who consciously embrace the idea that some group is despicable, or it could also cover those with unwanted feelings of hate that they are struggling with, or it could include everyone who has even unacknowledged feelings of only slight disgust toward some other group, or it could extend even to people who don't care enough about groups other than their own and have failed to go very far out of their way to do something to help the when they experience misfortune and suffer economic hardship. It's that last thing that Donald Trump is saying about Hillary, so he's making a good point, wrapped within a complicated linguistic issue that might — if people get caught up in it — ultimately work out in his favor. It's the same point as: "What have you got to lose?" Who cares about the tenderness of the hearts of the white people who want black people to vote for them? Shouldn't you vote for the candidate who will help you and your community? Isn't the real bigotry — the bigotry that matters — the bigotry that comes in the form of relegating your community to disorder and depression? We could talk about that.
And we could talk about the political value of saying "alt-right," all right? I mean, who even knew that word until Hillary said it yesterday? Even when you know the word and hear the definition — which she had to provide in the speech since people don't know the term — do you know that this is a real social phenomenon that we need to worry about? Or should we wonder if Hillary is trying to scare us with a bogeyman?
In a 31-minute address, building to a controlled simmer, Mrs. Clinton did everything but call Mr. Trump a racist outright — saying he had promoted “racist lie” after “racist lie,” pushed conspiracy theories with “racist undertones” and heartened racists across the country by submitting to an “emerging racist ideology known as the alt-right.” “He is taking hate groups mainstream,” Mrs. Clinton told supporters at a community college here, “and helping a radical fringe take over the Republican Party.” Mrs. Clinton said that while a racially charged and “paranoid fringe” had always existed in politics, “it’s never had the nominee of a major party stoking it, encouraging it and giving it a national megaphone, until now.”The best indication that the alt-right is real and it's spreading through Trump is that Trump hired Steve Bannon, and Bannon has said openly — about Breitbart.com, where he'd been chairman — "We're the platform for the alt-right." But that gets us back to the question what is it? That Bannon quote comes from a Mother Jones article by Sarah Posner, who writes:
Exactly who and what defines the alt-right is hotly debated in conservative circles, but its most visible proponents—who tend to be young, white, and male—are united in a belief that traditional movement conservatism has failed. They often criticize immigration policies and a "globalist" agenda as examples of how the deck is stacked in favor of outsiders instead of "real Americans." They bash social conservatives as ineffective sellouts to the GOP establishment, and rail against neo-conservative hawks for their embrace of Israel. They see themselves as a threat to the establishment, far bolder and edgier than Fox News. While often tapping into legitimate economic grievances, their social-media hashtags (such as #altright on Twitter) dredge up torrents of racist, sexist, and xenophobic memes.Much more at Mother Jones. "Alt-right" is an umbrella term. It serves some interests to have a word and to collect things under it. Some people — Bannon? — may like the term because it gives a feeling of movement and direction to scattered ideas and trends that they think are good or mostly good. Others — such as Hillary — must love the word because they can make it negative and use it to stir up fear and resistance and to distract us from whatever other negatives might otherwise capture our attention. Hillary picked up this word early — before most people had even heard it — so I think she'll succeed in wrecking its positive currency, except among those in the narrowest definition of bigot (see above) who may enjoy the way of Hillary's denouncement enhances their reputation as bad boys.
Trump's new campaign chief denies that the alt-right is inherently racist. He describes its ideology as "nationalist," though not necessarily white nationalist. Likening its approach to that of European nationalist parties such as France's National Front, he says, "If you look at the identity movements over there in Europe, I think a lot of [them] are really 'Polish identity' or 'German identity,' not racial identity. It's more identity toward a nation-state or their people as a nation." (Never mind that National Front founder Jean Marie Le Pen has been fined in France for "inciting racial hatred.")
Bannon dismisses the alt-right's appeal to racists as happenstance. "Look, are there some people that are white nationalists that are attracted to some of the philosophies of the alt-right? Maybe," he says. "Are there some people that are anti-Semitic that are attracted? Maybe. Right? Maybe some people are attracted to the alt-right that are homophobes, right? But that's just like, there are certain elements of the progressive left and the hard left that attract certain elements."