The Alt-Center Revisited
The term Alt-Right, now for the most part obsolete, was a media buzzword for controversy with confusion about who and what views constituted the Alt-Right. Then the term Alt-Left was put forth, initially as a niche movement similar to what is now known as the Dirtbag Left or anti-woke Left, that was focused primarily on economic leftism while rejecting political correctness and identity politics. The Conservative media, however, picked up on the Alt-Left label to refer to antifa after Donald Trump used the term following Charlottesville, thus creating further confusion.
While never attracting the media controversies of the Alt-Right or Alt-Left, there has been talk of an Alt-Center that was even more confusing to pinpoint. For instance if you google the term “Alt-Center” the top results are from Slate and New York Magazine with implications that Alt-Centrists are neoliberal centrist types who supported Hillary Clinton and disliked both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. The term Alt-Center relates to the concept of Radical Centrism which has been used to describe both anti-establishment centrism, as well as establishment centrists such as neoliberal commentator Thomas Friedman. Establishment centrism is where the mainstream center-right and center-left find consensus, such as the degree of agreement Hillary Clinton and John McCain. The key to the Alt-Center, however, is the alt, and like the Alt-Right or Alt-Left, was a proposal for an alternative version of centrism that is diametrical opposed to the establishment.
A few years ago the term Alt-Center was used to describe the leftwing of the Alt-Right, a niche community of commentors who were loosely aligned with the Dissident Right sphere but also held views that were more leftwing on both cultural and economic issues, rejecting much of the reactionary mindset. This Alt-Centrist online scene, that I was part of and promoted, was very much decentralized, with no official Alt-Centrist platform.
Blogger Giovanni Dannato defined the Alt-Center as “not moderate—it is alternate—that is, opposed to the discredited establishment. It doesn’t try to be exactly in between, grey, or neutral. It is a synthesis taking the best of different mindsets and ideas to put together the pieces in a way that makes sense.” Basically agreeing with the dissident right as far as rejecting many aspects of modern liberalism as well as blank slatism but also agreeing with the dissident left as far as understanding “that you can’t have a real society unless people have a sense of belonging and investment,” and that “people cooperate much better if they know there are safety nets if they stumble.”
The Alt-Centrist label didn’t catch on and I’d say that this demographic, which I identify with, was never reactionary nor any monolithic movement, but rather many individuals who were loosely affiliated with the Dissident Right umbrella due to being politically homeless with no place in conservativism, libertarianism, or the left, and opposing the same adversaries of political correctness and the establishment.
As far as the Alt-Center attracting attention, Rational Wiki had a post against the Alt-Center, implying that it was just a rebranded Alt-Right, stating that the “Alt-center or alt-centre is a misleading term sometimes used by HBD/race realist individuals in the alt-right community (i.e. white supremacists) who try to present themselves as political centrists and moderates” and that “the concept of alt-center is used by the alt-right as an attempt to push the Overton window closer to alt-right ideology.”
I would totally reject any notion that the Alt-Center is just rebranded far-right or reactionary politics. For instance Russian HBD and geopolitical commentor Anatoly Karlin, who was affiliated with the Alt-Center, made the case that he is a Centrist rather than rightwing, with his political compass score and ideological stances demonstrating that he is neither far right nor far left on either social or economic issues. I took the same quiz, which is fairly comprehensive, and my results align moderately to the left on economics, centrist on stances of government regulation, on militarism, on the libertarian vs. authoritarian dichotomy, on unilateralism, on the progressive vs traditionalist dichotomy, and also on the individualism vs. collectivism dichotomy.
Robert Stark: Center Left?
My political compass results show that I am a left leaning centrist, ironically much like establishment Democratic politicians, and not aligned with any extreme ideological poll. However with the ideological rankings of political parties, the American Solidarity Party and the Transhumanist Party are ranked most closely aligned with my views while the Libertarian Party, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party were ranked least. The American Solidarity Party has a communitarian outlook and is influenced by Christian democracy, Catholic social teaching, and the economics of Distributism while the Transhumanist Party is futurist oriented with a focus on human life extension with a big tent of many different viewpoints. Both parties are quite different but are syncretic, combining “elements from across the conventional left–right political spectrum”, thus relevant to the Alt-Center.
As far as the quiz matching my views with the views of others geographically, there is a weak correlation with just liberal vs. conservative regions. For instance the strongest similarities to my views were from test takers in Vermont, Southern Maine, the Gulf Coast of Texas, Northern New Mexico, the Western half of Arizona, Northern Michigan, Eastern Oregon, Northern Nevada, the inland parts of the Los Angeles metro, the Seattle metro, and somewhat high in the North and Central Coast of California. The least similar results were from conservative strongholds like much of the Deep South, Southern Idaho, Eastern Utah, and North Dakota, and a medium correlation of similar views from much of the Upper Midwest, Montana and South Dakota, but also from the liberal urban areas such as New York, Washington DC, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
Besides the I side with quiz, my results from the 8values quiz, with questions that are more in-depth philosophically, solidify that I am basically a centrist. There is some relevance to the horseshoe theory but I prefer the analogy of a political globe that takes into account the fusion of dissident right and left positions that are hard to identify with a flat political compass as I scored Center-Left ideologically but with the Democratic Party ranked towards the bottom.
The Alt-Center is an extension of a broader populist center, that the Bull Moose Project’s political analysist/strategist Gabe Guidarini describes as “generally consisting of left wing to moderate economic positions and moderate to rightwing social positions, mixed with anti-establishment sentiment.” This populist center is generally anti-war, sympathetic to immigration restriction and trade protectionism, pro-labor union, supports at least a moderate social safety net, and is opposed to political correctness and cancel culture. This demographic is not part of one coherent political movement, but can be found among Republicans, Democrats, and Independents. It can be linked to the Middle American Radicals and the Reform Party of the past. Among its ranks are the Obama to Trump voters, with Guidarini estimating that two thirds of centrist populists were such voters. Also among its ranks are the Bernie Sanders to Trump voters, as well as the many disaffected former Trump supporters who went for candidates like Andrew Yang and Tulsi Gabbard. Tulsi Gabbard who I voted for, was perhaps the closest thing to a dissident centrist campaign in 2020. The Citizens Party was also an example of a dissident center third party, that I was involved with, that never took off.
This radical centrist demographic has also been described as disaffected, hard pressed skeptics, or as moderate populists. For instance a poll showed that the niche of Bernie to Trump voters were motivated primarily by economic concerns but were more conservative on race and culture issues and studies have shown that White moderates are the most ethnocentric, not conservatives. True Conservatives, who are focused primarily on economic conservatism and wedge issues like abortion, still dominate conservative politics, but actually populate the far right of the political compass, in contrast with the many dissidents who tend to cluster from the center to the economic/left social/right quadrant.
For instance, many of those associated with the Alt-Right did sympathize with more leftwing positions, especially on economics, but also rejecting mainstream conservative cultural values. True Conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza described the Alt-Right’s Richard Spencer’s political views as that of a liberal democrat, as Spencer did vote for Joe Biden and has certain left leaning cultural and economic stances, despite a philosophical outlook that is very rightwing and hierarchical.
Overall, I’d say this Dissident Center is a big tent that includes many groups that may vehemently disagree, oppose one another, or are diametrically opposed in values. This includes the many disaffected working class populist swing voters, American Solidarity Party supporters who tend to be religious and anti-racist, those on the Alt-Right with some leftwing views, the broader Grey Tribe scene including futurists and transhumanists, as well as the centrist faction of the Intellectual Dark Web (e.g. Joe Rogan, Eric Weinstein, and Tim Pool). What these groups share in common is that they are neither aligned strongly with leftism or conservativism and reject the establishment center as well. It would be practically impossible, however, to align all these groups together under one dissident center umbrella as conservatism did with the religious right, foreign policy hawks, and fiscal conservatives.
Looking at the data and speculating about the demographic profile of the dissident center, there are many groups that don’t fit neatly into a box. For instance, those classified as hard pressed skeptics are generally downscale White unaffiliated voters who are probably the largest dissident center group but are less politically active. Besides the more conventional working class demographic, there is the profile of the Grey Tribe (Coffee Salon demographics), based upon support for causes such as HBD, Transhumanism, and Effective Altruism, profiled as generally young college educated White males. Mismatching and fusionism factor in when profiling a political demographic, such as the intelligent but downwardly mobile, a large component of the Alt-Right, Bernie Sanders movement, and that relates to the high IQ NEET/dissident appeal to Andrew Yang’s presidential campaign. Examples of politics catering specifically to this demographic include blogger Giovanni Dannato’s proposal for smart socialism and centrist HBD blogger Lion of the Blogosphere’s proposal for subsidized enclaves for the intelligent but poor.
There is also a niche based SWPL demographic, a groups from more cosmopolitan backgrounds in contrast with the traditional demographics of populism, that has been attracted to dissident views as a reaction to elite overproduction and the excesses of woke politics. This also includes those who are culturally elite but at odds with economic elitism, a group that has traditionally been aligned with the left but is increasingly attracted to a Bohemian Right, as the modern left has little to offer them.
As for where dissident centrism stands today and its viability as a force in the political future, even though polarization can be an impediment for syncretic politics, the election of Joe Biden has helped foster greater solidarity amongst the dissident left and dissident right which was more marginal during the Obama and Trump eras. For instance the Dirtbag Left has flirted with the dissident right, with dissident left icon Glen Greenwald a regular on Tucker Carlson’s show to expose civil liberties abuses from the Biden Administration. It is hard to predict how much syncretic politics will evolve out of this trend but the current online discourse of the Post Left and Post Right is much more open to this fusionism than the 2016 online scene when the original MAGA and Bernie Sanders movements took off.
The main barrier to dissident centrism taking off, besides uniting many different diverse groups with converging values, is unlike the left, conservativism, and establishment centrism, there is no dissident centrist infrastructure or institutions. This has been a problem with populism in that any movement that does not have some institutional or elite support will likely be co-opted or overrun with grifters.
We saw this with MAGA becoming a slightly edgier version of conservatism and the Bernie Sanders movement being absorbed into woke liberalism, with the husk of progressivism endorsing cancel culture and tepidly supporting Biden, and we also saw this with the radical centrist Reform Party that failed to build up any long term infrastructure beyond the campaign of Ross Perot. The Reform Party failed to unite a diverse anti-establishment coalition and the party imploded in 2000. If the Alt-Center were to take off in the future, it must learn from the failures of these past populist movements with the practical impossibility of building up a bottom-up grassroots mass movement.