Politics & Polls #13: The Alt-Right

Sep 29 2016
By Julian Zelizer & Sam Wang (Produced by B. Rose Kelly and Bonelys Rosado)
Source Office of Communications and the Woodrow Wilson School

A previously unknown subculture has emerged onto the political scene thanks to the 2016 presidential election. The alternative right, known as the “alt-right,” is a diverse group of people who identify as right-wing and are unified in opposition against mainstream American conservatism.

The movement — which has gained attention through their support of Donald Trump’s campaign — has been associated with white nationalism, white supremacism and right-wing populism and other fringe groups. But who exactly comprises the alt-right? Where did the group first originate? Is this a new phenomenon? And have we seen glimpses of such a movement throughout history?

In episode 13, professors Julian Zelizer and Sam Wang interview Rick Perlstein, author of The New York Times bestseller “Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America” about the origins and implications of the alt-right and its connections to the Republican Party. 

In addition to “Nixonland,” Perlstein is the author of “The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan” and “Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus,” winner of the 2001 Los Angeles Times Book Award for history. A contributing writer at The Nation, former chief national correspondent for the Village Voice and a former online columnist for the New Republic and Rolling Stone, his journalism and essays have appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times and many other publications.


Zelizer is the Malcolm Stevenson Forbes, Class of 1941 
Professor of History and Public Affairs at Princeton University's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. He has been one of the pioneers in the revival of American political history. He is the author of several books including, most recently, "The Fierce Urgency of Now: Lyndon Johnson, Congress, and the Battle for the Great Society." Zelizer is a frequent commentator in the international and national media on political history and contemporary politics. He has published more than 600 hundred op-eds, including his weekly column on CNN.com

Wang is professor of neuroscience and molecular biology at Princeton University. He is known for his books "Welcome to Your Brain" and "Welcome to Your Child's Brain" and for his founding role at the Princeton Election Consortium, a blog providing U.S. election analyses. In 2004, Wang was one of the first to aggregate U.S. presidential polls using probabilistic methods. In 2012, his statistical analysis correctly predicted the presidential vote outcome in 49 of 50 states. He has also developed new statistical standards for partisan gerrymandering. A neuroscientist, Wang's academic research focuses on the neuroscience of learning, the cerebellum and autism.