13th annual Municipal Finance Conference


13th annual Municipal Finance Conference


The Rise of the Alt-Right

Thomas J. Main
Release Date: July 31, 2018

What is the Alt-Right, and how will it affect America?

Donald Trump’s election as president in 2016 suddenly brought to prominence a political movement that few in political circles or the mainstream media had paid much attention to: the so-called Alt-Right. Steven Bannon, Trump’s campaign manager, was a leading figure in the movement, and the election results seemed to give it a real opportunity to gain some political power.

But what is the Alt-Right? Is it a movement, a theory, a trend, or just an unorganized group of people far outside of what used to be the political mainstream in America? Or, could it be all of these things? Why has it suddenly emerged into prominence? What impact is it having on American politics today, and what are the prospects for the Alt-Right in the future?

Through careful research and analysis, The Rise of the Alt-Right addresses these and other questions, tracing the movement’s history from the founding of modern conservatism in postwar America to the current Trump era. Although the Alt-Right might seem to be just the latest extremist group to arise in the United States—one likely to take its place in the graveyard of its many predecessors—Thomas J. Main analyzes evidence that the Alt-Right is having a greater influence on the American political mainstream than did past extremist tendencies. The Rise of the Alt-Right is thus an important study for anyone interested in the future of American politics and public life.

Praise for The Rise of the Alt-Right

In a matter of a few years the Alt-Right has gone from obscurity to well-deserved infamy. But a purely moral reaction to it is not sufficient. To combat it we also need clarity about its history, its size, and its intellectual foundations, such as they are. Thomas Main is the first to offer both a sober, empirical analysis of the Alt-Right movement and a serious engagement with its fundamental presuppositions. An indispensable map to the circle of hell in which we now find ourselves.
—Mark Lilla, author of The Once and Future Liberal

Thomas Main’s The Rise of the Alt-Right is a thorough examination of this movement, its origin, and its possible future. Main does something special—he takes the time to look at the movement through data on its audience. This challenges the notion that the ideas animating this movement represents a fringe viewpoint. For those concerned about the rise of this movement and its possible future arc, Main’s book is required reading.
—Heidi Beirich, Director, Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center

Main provides a detailed account of the emergence of the alt-right, an overview of its intellectual roots, and a discussion of the underlying ideas that guide the alt-right. Main argues that rather than being a social movement, constituency, or interest group, the alt-right is a political ideology, and he concludes that the “main challenges to democratic liberalism now come not from the radical left, as was the case in the latter half of the 20th century, but from the radical right.” Anyone who is interested in understanding the forces at play in contemporary American politics would benefit from reading this book. Recommended.


Thomas J. Main is a professor at the Austin W. Marxe School of Public and International Affairs, Baruch College, CUNY. He is the author of Homelessness in New York City: Policymaking from Koch to de Blasio (NYU Press, 2016) and editor of the anthology, Is the American Constitution Obsolete? (Carolina Academic Press, 2013). He holds a Ph.D. in politics from Princeton University and an MPA (master in public administration) from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He has written widely for academic journals, political magazines, and newspapers.