Trump and White Racists: Which Came First? The Chicken or the Egg?
By Nate Thayer
April 5, 2016
With Donald Trump’s fevered rise to the top of U.S. electoral politics, racial tension in America has come under the harsh glare of public scrutiny.
But racial polarization in America has not spiked since the Trump presidential campaign thrust the tension awkwardly into the national conversation. That long ignored elephant in the room has always been there. It has just been catapulted from private conversations in American living rooms into an uncomfortable national discussion.
A marked resurgence of racial polarization marked the election of President Obama in 2008, well before Trump emerged as a political force.
Presidential exit polls in South Carolina showed half of Republicans want illegal immigrants deported immediately and Trump garnered 47 percent of these voters. 74 percent said they wanted Muslims banned from entering the United States. 35% of Trump supporters in South Carolina think gays should be banned from entering the U.S. These polls show 20 percent of Trump supporters nationally think Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation abolishing slavery was a mistake.
For nearly a decade, U.S. law enforcement have been firm in their belief that domestic U.S. political extremists pose the primary threat of political violence–a much larger threat than Islamic terrorism, according to several independent studies, including the Triangle Center on Terrorism and Homeland Security at Duke University. “Anti-government violent extremism” and “right-wing ideologies” are the top concern of 74 percent of U.S. local police, with Islamic terrorism coming in far below at 39 percent.
A poll of 382 law enforcement agencies by the Police Executive Research Forum found 74 percent believed anti-government extremism as one of the top three terrorist threats. Only three percent identified the threat from Muslim extremists as severe.
These independent academic studies found that so-called sovereign citizens, an ideological movement which does not recognize federal laws or authority, are the primary terrorist threat in the U.S., according to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Response to Terrorism (START), which polled 364 cops from 175 police departments.
There is wide cross-pollination between right-wing extremist movements, which include groups and individuals who call themselves Sovereign Citizens, Constitutionalists, Militia, Freemen, white nationalists, and Christian identity, among others.
“Trump is saying the same things in public we are saying at home,” Ku Klux Klan leader J.B. Elmore, who was once named “the most dangerous white supremacist alive”, said in an interview. “I am not saying he is a white nationalist, but he sure sounds like one.”
Elmore has a 30-year history in the Klan movement and has long expressed the same views now central to the national political debate.
“The biggest point is Trump is not a politician. The average Joe can relate to him. Trump is an outsider just like the White Nationalist community. We would still support Trump if he were a democrat; it wouldn’t make any difference. He is changing the landscape of politics. They are going to have to take us seriously now.”
Trump’s campaign has allowed a voice into acceptable conversation of the latent racial tensions long ignored by mainstream politicians.
And, probably not by design, has jump started an uncomfortable national debate.
Trump’s popularity with white, rural, working class citizens has made him the bane of the political establishment, but he hasn’t created these political views. They have been alive, well, and ignored for years. Trump has forced out in the open a discussion that has been happening behind closed doors for generations.
The more relevant truth is that Trump targets a specific and vocal core base of support from the disenfranchised, which include a minority of a simmering cauldron of white nationalists; hate groups; neo-Nazis; other fringe anti-government elements; and the many mainstream sympathizers to their core message.
Jared Taylor, a white nationalist who runs the American Renaissance publication and is a Yale University graduate, comes from the more mainstream sector of what he calls “racial realists”.
In an interview, Taylor said Trump speaks for “the forgotten segment of the white population who have been demonized.” Taylor referred to the “blow dried, scripted, wind-up politicians” who “people are coming out in droves to flash the middle finger at.”
Trump is “opening up a mainstream forum for the voiceless who say ‘What do Muslims bring to America? I can’t think of anything good’.”
At an early March rally in Louisville, Kentucky on Super Tuesday, Donald Trump was interrupted by a small group of black protestors. “Get out of here! Out! Out! Out!” Trump shouted to supporters in the auditorium as he watched a black woman being pushed through the crowd by a group of white men shouting racial slurs and gesturing aggressively in her face.
Who were these men? They were members of a prominent group of neo-Nazi white supremacists led by Matthew Heimbach.
“Some friends and I happened to be in attendance…because we wanted to witness a historic political event of Trump’s campaign on the eve of his Super Tuesday string of victories which have all but sealed his nomination,” Heimbach wrote afterwards.
Heimbach has appeared on neo Nazi personality David Duke’s radio show and has been a invited speaker at events of the Aryan Terror Brigade, the Imperial Klans of America, the National Socialist Movement (the largest Nazi group in the U.S.), and the Conservative Citizens Council where he spoke with a gun strapped to his waist.
He told the gathering “our people haven’t had a voice since 1860.” Heimbach called for secession of the white race from U.S. federal authority. “It’s separation or mongrelization,” he said.
He then quoted the “14 words” slogan: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children” coined by David Lane, an icon of the extreme, armed, racial separatist movement. Lane died in prison in 2007, a convicted murderer and domestic U.S. terrorist, but his “14 words” mantra lives on at the forefront for white nationalists of many stripes in the U.S.
Heimbach’s central theme uses incendiary rhetoric that both alienates and resonates with a large swath of America’s rural white poor. “We deserve the right to exist, deserve the right to defend our culture, and deserve the right to have a future for our culture.”
In 2013, Heimbach founded the Youth for Western Civilization (YWC) while a student at the Maryland Towson University, which was shut down by the university. He then founded the White Student Union. Also in 2013, Heimbach penned an article titled “I Hate Freedom,” in which he wrote “Those who promote miscegenation, usury, or any other forms of racial suicide should be sent to re-education centers, not tolerated.”
While these are mostly fringe activists who in exaggerated terms express an amplified frustration of a significant sector of the rural, white, poor and working class who have never had an effective voice in the halls of political and economic power and policy making, they do give a distorted voice to the widespread views of racial angst and fear held by many rural whites.
Trump’s base of racist support is more nuanced and draws from a much more mainstream base of middle America than outsiders and pundits prefer to acknowledge.
Donald Trump did not create the phenomena; the truth is many Trump supporters sympathizing with the racially divisive politics that mark the 2016 political campaign is not that far outside of mainstream society.
Since 2008, after the election of President Barack Obama, there has been a steep resurgence in extreme right-wing political groups on the radar of federal authorities as “domestic terror groups”.
According to federal law enforcement statistics, right-wing extremist groups have nearly tripled since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack in New York.
Trump announced his bid for President on June 16, 2015. Trump may not be a white racist, but white racists are decidedly full-throated Trump supporters.
The reasons for this are varied and nuanced.
The largest White Nationalist Internet community, Stormfront, has come out in support of Trump. “The Trump phenomenon is just one surprise we’d never have imagined six months ago. Regardless of what we may think of Trump personally, his campaign has provided a potent antidote to the demoralization that has plagued our people and stifled their will to resist what seemed inevitable destruction,” said Don Black, founder of Stormfront, whose internet forum received 10 million unique visitors a month even before a spike of “30-40%” since Trump announced his candidacy. “To support increasing pro-White activism, we are moving Stormfront to new servers to better serve our new and our long-time members, along with our millions of visitors looking for truth in a world of lies.”
One of the first to endorse Trump was Andre Anglin, a self avowed Nazi who runs the Daily Stormer, the second largest white racialist news site in the world. “Trump is willing to say what most Americans think: it’s time to deport these people,” he wrote, urging white men to “vote for the first time in our lives for the one man who actually represents our interests.”
In February, 2016, Anglin wrote that the “Glorious Leader Trump appeared yesterday in Bentonville, Arkansas with Party Deputy Christie…Christie gave another excellent intro speech, slamming the little gay boy Marco Rubio.” Anglin also wrote that criticism of Trump University “is actually a hoax, manufactured by a Jewish legal firm which focuses on the class action suit racket. He also explained that the case would have been thrown out if it weren’t for the filthy wetback judge‘s racial hatred against Trump.”
In interviews with 13 heads—or Imperial Wizards—of Ku Klux Klan organizations who have come out in strong support of Trump for president, all expressed unqualified support for Donald Trump.
“Do we endorse Trump? He would be the best man for the job. We care about America and American jobs. I remember when people were proud to be American,” said Dan Elmquist, the Imperial Wizard of Virgil’s White Knights, an old style Ku Klux Klan group that keeps a low profile. “There are no jobs. You can’t buy your own home. It is just tax, tax, tax! We can barely afford to pay for diapers and groceries and rent. I am paying $6 for a bag of Doritos,” Elmquist said in an interview from his Kentucky home.
But Elmquist’s political views also highlight the grounded in policy and real life conditions that supporters of Trump from the white nationalist community have long felt have been ignored by their elected leaders, leaving them voiceless and marginalized. “I would like to see Ben Carson run with Trump as his VP. I don’t care who that pisses off. Trump would take care of the business values and Carson would keep the moral values of Trump in check. We just want our country back,” said the Ku Klux Klan leader. Ben Carson is the former black presidential candidate who has come out in support of Trump’s bid for the presidency.
“Trump wants to keep our country strong and he’s not beholden to any lobby or special interest group. That’s what people see and that’s why he has such widespread support,” said Frank Ancona, the Imperial Wizard of perhaps the largest Ku Klux Klan organization in America, the Missouri headquartered Traditionalist American Knights of the KKK. When asked what percentage of his members were supporting Trump, Ancona said “It should be 100%, but I suspect there’s a small 1% who are still (Ted) Cruzers. There were a few Carson supporters.”
Ancona pointed out that “Trump campaign spokesperson Katrina Pearson is actually half black. And I believe his daughter is an Orthodox Jew. Even though the white nationalist movement isn’t a huge majority of white people there’s a lot more white people that think that way that just don’t espouse our philosophy publicly.”
“We support Trump, but that doesn’t mean he supports us,” said Richard Preston, Imperial Wizard of the Maryland based Confederate White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in an interview. “We don’t just need Obama out of office, we need most of our politicians out of office. The only person who didn’t have it handed to him other than Trump is Ben Carson. He has the right ideas. I don’t care if he is black. If he is an American born citizen, works 40 hours a week, and believes in God, I don’t care if you are black. This is about red, white, and blue,” said Preston. He was quick to add in reference to Ben Carson: “But you are never going to date my daughter.”
In South Carolina last July, a man who calls himself Will Quigg told reporters “Jesus was not a Jew, Catholics are not true Christians, and there was no Holocaust. Okay, maybe a little Holocaust — but not as bad as they say.” Quigg’s real name is William “Billy” Hagen. Mr Hagen was the man who for a blip of a few days achieved national headlines after his Klan group tried to hold a demonstration in Anaheim, California where Hagen almost got stomped to death by local residents who did not take kindly to his presence. Not without irony, He was rescued by a Jew who got between him and a gaggle of darker complexion youth who nearly beat him to death. Hagen was photographed defending himself against the mob wielding the pointed end of a pole flying the American flag.
“You’ve got a bad image left over from the old KKK who dragged niggers around the parking lot from the back of a truck with a rope around their neck. The new Klan, we’re a non-violent, pro-white civil rights movement. The only one in America,” said Quigg/Hagen, the Loyal White Knights of the KKK Grand Dragon for California. “The Jews, the Blacks, the Mexicans, the Orientals, the Catholics. This is a Christian nation. Everybody who is not white and Christian, I do not like.”
In September, 2015 Quigg tweeted “@realDonaldTrump You Sir are the only hope we have of getting WHITE AMERICA BACK! WE all will be voting for you! CHURCH OF INVISABLE EMPIRE”
White Nationalism before Trump.
Widespread bank foreclosures in the 1980’s, on Midwestern farms sparked spurts of armed resistance and widespread popular sympathy for beleaguered family farms. This gave rise to the Posse Comitatus, an armed Christian fundamentalist, white supremacist, anti-federal government movement that garnered hundreds of followers prepared to wage armed revolt. After years of gun battles with federal law enforcement, the groups were largely extinguished by the late 1980’s. But numerous other related groups popped up, including the neo-Nazi Aryan Nation’s and other white nationalist armed underground groups, such as The Order. Many of their members were arrested after campaigns of bank robberies, bombings, and assassinations across America. The Order’s founder, Robert Matthews, was shot to death by federal law enforcement and most of the members are now serving long prison sentences. One of those high-profile Order leader was David Lane, who wrote the now widely used “14 words” slogan from prison.
The extremist movements of the 1980’s married tax protests to “Christian Identity” philosophy that forwards Jews are the “spawn of Satan” and non-whites are biologically inferior and ineligible to enter the gates of Christian Heaven. These views partnered with white supremacist’s and a deep suspicion of the federal government.
A racial holy war was outlined in a fictional book, The Turner Diaries, by anti-Semite and racist William Pierce, who headed the far right National Alliance in the 1980’s, which by the 1990’s was the largest U.S. white racialist extremist movement in the U.S.
It was then that the far right movements had morphed to include “Patriot”, “militia”, “Sovereign Citizen”, and other armed political underground movements.
In 1989, David Duke, who was a former Ku Klux Klan Imperial Wizard and a member of the American Nazi Party, won a seat in the Louisiana legislature. He later captured enough votes to become the Republican Party nominee for the Louisiana governor. Tom Metzger broke off from the Klan to form the White Aryan Resistance.
Don Black, a former Klan leader, went to prison for attempting to invade a Caribbean island nation to set up an all white government. After he was released, Black set up the internet forum, Stormfront, now the world’s biggest white racialist internet forum.
In 1995, Timothy McVeigh blew up the U.S. federal building in Oklahoma City. This followed the federal government assault on a religious fundamentalist compound in Waco, Texas, which followed the federal government armed assault in Ruby Ridge, Idaho. These events continue to serve as icons of resistance against federal government overreach.
These groups peaked after internecine infighting, government pressure, and legal suits by anti racist groups that decimated them in the early 2000’s.
After September 11, 2001, the federal government began laser focusing on terrorist organizing in the U.S. But, despite popular impression, the threats identified as most prevalent have not been Islamic or foreign contrived Jihadists, but far right “Domestic terror extremist groups.”
Since Obama was elected there has been a marked resurgence of these groups which tether conspiracy theorists, Christian extremism, white supremacy, anti-immigrant, and related beliefs that have drawn a mishmash of loosely connected sympathizers.
“I grew up with the old hard-core rough Klan,” long-time Klan leader J.B. Elmore said in a series of interviews. “I have been known to socialize in rough circles. I am still considered a hard-core old-time Klansman.” Elmore was once deemed the “most dangerous white supremacist alive”. Elmore, now 53, has run his own print shop for decades and is a member of the Teamsters Union. He joined the Klan “on my 18th birthday. It was the best decision I ever made.”
“We don’t care about the stock market. We don’t care about investments. We want the gridlock broken. The republicans say ‘get Obama at all costs’. But what was the cost? Your friends and neighbors and family—they are the ones who are paying the price of gridlock and ‘getting Obama at all costs.’ We feel it going to the grocery store; we feel it at home when we can’t pay the mortgage; we feel it when we can’t pay the tax bill.”
“The fact Trump was on a reality show resonates with voters. ‘If you don’t get ‘er done, you’re fired!’ They are looking for someone to lead, not just be a referee,” Elmore said.