While Trump Floundered in 2022, His Far Right Acolytes Built a Movement

Whether the far right’s political influence starts to fade, or turns to more violent means, remains to be seen.

As in past years, the U.S. far right has continued to have a political impact far in excess of anything seen before Donald Trump’s presidential term. What was new in 2022 was that activists who emerged from his base have also achieved a level of autonomy from their leader which they had not seen before. However, this year’s most visible spotlight on the far right was the January 6 committee, which culminated in the recommendation that Trump be charged with federal crimes. Additionally, there have also been numerous arrests, trials and sentences related to the Capitol breach. While what’s now called the “MAGA Movement” has outlived its leader’s fall from power, it remains to be seen what effect his 2024 presidential campaign will have on it — especially after the disappointing midterms. The year has also been marked by the Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade. Alongside the boost to Christian nationalism this provided, far right groups have targeted LGBTQ+ events this year, focusing on drag shows. And extreme violence also reared its head again as two significant far right massacres marked the year.

Far Right Groups

Some of the rise in antisemitic incidents was the product of organized groups, especially the Goyim Defense League and its ongoing national campaign of antisemitic provocations. It, and other aggressive neo-Nazi groups like the NSC-131 (National Socialist Club-Anti-Communist Action), are helping fill the vacuum of the “alt right’s” collapse. Many of the major alt-right players who were loudly white supremacist, like Richard Spencer, have faded into the background, if not retired. Even other violent factions like the Proud Boys present themselves as more “moderate” politically.

In contrast, the Goyim Defense League has toured the country in vans adorned with antisemitic slogans while shouting slurs at passersby and distributing hate-filled fliers. Meanwhile, the NSC-131 has also spread antisemitic propaganda while being more focused on provoking violent confrontations.

What Will Happen in 2023?

In recent months, effective opposition to these grassroots right-wing campaigns have mounted. The disruptions of Pride events and drag shows are being halted by mass mobilizations, sometimes including armed elements, to defend them. The Trumpist takeovers of school boards, with the intent of banning LGBTQ+ books and diversity training, are being contested by a new wave of grassroots groups on the left.

Despite hopes that the U.S. far right would deflate after Trump’s fall from power, it has remained a buoyant force able to move from issue to issue; even revulsion over the Capitol takeover has not halted it. The last two years have shown that the movement’s core has remained intact and has by-and-large functioned independently of Trump. But the midterm slump appears to show that the far right’s influence on the GOP as a whole has stalled, and Republicans are not united behind Trump for his new bid for power. If his campaign fails to inspire his own far right base, it may be that the movement will become isolated from its access to mainstream conservatism.