The Right Will Not Save Us from the Far-Right

The notion that moderate conservatives are our best chance to stop white nationalism is a dangerous fantasy

Justin Ward
5 min readAug 22, 2019


Counterprotest against the National Socialist Movement in Arizona (John Kittelsrud / Flickr / Creative Commons license)

Adam Serwer’s latest piece in the Atlantic “Only the Right Can Defeat White Nationalism” is amazing.

I’m amazed by it.

To be specific, I’m amazed at how Serwer can spend most of the article so thoroughly detailing the historical roots and present reality of white supremacy, then somehow go in the direction opposite of where these facts should lead him.

Serwer opens by talking about the recent shootings carried out by white nationalists and the peculiar threat of far-right terrorism. He argues that while groups like ISIS merely pose a threat to the physical person of Americans, white nationalism can cause a much deeper harm to American society.

His main thesis:

[T]here are actually two challenges posed by white nationalism: One is the threat posed to American communities by attacks like the one in El Paso, which law enforcement can and should prevent. The other is the threat the ideology the attackers support poses to American democracy, which can be defeated only through politics, and only by the American people themselves.

On the one hand, it’s hard to disagree with this. A political solution to the problem of white nationalism does sound ideal. But what does that even mean in practice?

After giving a brief summary of white supremacy’s history as a foundational ideology in America, Serwer moves on to the topic of radicalization, again drawing comparisons with Islamic fundamentalism. He maintains that it’s incumbent on American conservatives to get their house in order— “to use their authority to deprive white nationalists of their claim to represent America’s authentic heritage.”

It’s hard to make a case against Serwer’s argument that’s better than the one he offers:

[Tucker] Carlson and Fox News illustrate the present political incentives for the Republican Party. One of Donald Trump’s few consistent beliefs is his racial conception of American citizenship, which is why so many white nationalists have viewed his rise as a legitimization of



Justin Ward

Journalist and activist. Founder and co-chair of DivestSPD. Bylines at SPLC, The Baffler, GEN, USA Today. Follow on Twitter: @justwardoctrine, @DivestSPD