The Alt-Right, in the best scenario, has no core ideology or principles. And, in the worst scenario, it is a political movement founded not on traditionalism, laissez-faire economics, or individualism, but instead based on the idea that certain races are superior to others.

Maxime Bernier, the ‘libertarian candidate’ for the leadership of the Conservative Party, has officially been branded as a member of the Alt-Right. But what about his anti-statist tendencies? Or his pro-immigration views? Doesn’t this matter? Not to Vice.

I recently – and when I say recently, I mean last night – finished a novel called “Getting it Right.” The book was written by William F. Buckley, Jr. — no surprise there. In Buckley’s historical fiction, he tells the story of two characters: Woodrow, a man, and Leonora, a woman; a ‘Bircher’ and an Objectivist. The two experience the mastodonic events of the middle 20th Century, including the Hungarian Communist Uprising, the assassination of President Kennedy, the Vietnam War, and, the most important to the evolution of the modern right: the Republican Presidential nomination of 1964.

An ever-insightful part of the novel comes in the second half of the book, where after officially deciding to seek the GOP nomination, Senator Barry Goldwater meets with his inner circle of campaign supporters. Among the group is Buckley (of course), Marvin Liebman, Russell Kirk, and a few others – all discussing whether or not Goldwater should officially denounce the John Birch Society of Robert Welch. For those unfamiliar with the JBS, please allow me to provide a brief description. Founded in 1958, the Society was both ultra-Conservative and religiously anti-communist, however, it was also a cesspool of conspiracy theorists. The JBS, at one point, made the claim that up to 60% of the American public were communist agents, including most famously, former President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

For those unfamiliar with the JBS, please allow me to provide a brief description. Founded in 1958, the Society was both ultra-Conservative and religiously anti-communist, however, it was also a cesspool of conspiracy theorists. The JBS, at one point, made the claim that up to 60% of the American public were communist agents, including most famously, former President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The coalition of Barry Goldwater’s support both inside and outside the Republican Party was a large and diverse one. It included everyone from Conservatives such as Buckley and National Review to Libertarians such as Ayn Rand and her Objectivist followers. It also, however, included radical fringe groups such as the John Birch Society. While the JBS could be called many things – ‘kooky’ comes to mind – it was certainly true that the Society, at its core, was still Conservative. In fact, it is remarked at one point in the book that “no one disdains the growth of statism more than Welch”, not even Murray Rothbard. Nonetheless, with the advice of many at National Review, Goldwater eventually denounced the John Birch Society and expressed that he did not appreciate their support of him.

In short, the organisation was excommunicated because of its crackpots, even despite its anti-statist tendencies. Now, in the case of the Alt-Right, there are certainly crackpots. However, the main difference between the JBS and the modern Alt-Right is that the Alt-Right, in the best scenario, has no core ideology or principles. And, in the worst scenario, it is a political movement founded not on traditionalism, laissez-faire economics, or individualism, but instead based on the idea that certain races are superior to others.

I have often alluded to Maxime Bernier as being the Canadian Barry Goldwater (see “The Buckley Rule and Maxime Bernier” and “Why Conservatives Should Support Maxime Bernier“) and I think this short account of Goldwater’s handling of the John Birch Society presents an opportunity to further the parallel.

While there is no doubt that the article published by Vice is both a hit-piece and ludicrous, Bernier should still make clear that his libertarian-conservatism could not be further from the identity politics preached by the Alt-Right. While Bernier wants to shrink the State, the Alt-Right wants to grow it. It would not be a difficult correction to make.

The wrong action on Bernier’s part would be to ignore this. While those who follow Canadian politics closely will recognise the absurdity of likening Maxime Bernier to the Alt-Right, many will not. The last thing that Bernier and his campaign should want is the perception that he is trying to sweep this accusation under the rug, rather than condemning it outright.

In addressing the question of the Alt-Right, Bernier should follow in the footsteps of Goldwater in exercising the kooks from his movement.

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