MATTHEWS: Who do they root for?! Who do they root for?!
LEVIN: They don't root for anybody now.
A few years ago, Chris Matthews asked me on Hardball which national politicians white hate groups and hatemongers root for.
Back then they had no one, but today they believe they have Donald Trump. Do they? Mr. Trump, the presumed Republican presidential nominee just had yet another white nationalist extremist re-enter his campaign's orbit, and this is a big deal.
William Johnson, who previously paid for robocalls supportive of Trump, was named and then removed as a Trump delegate from California's 34th Congressional district by the campaign, which cited an error.
Johnson, a Los Angeles business lawyer, leads the American Freedom Party, a group that advocates for "the political interests of white Americans" and the preservation of the "customs and heritage of the European American people." In the 1980s under a pseudonym he authored the Pace Amendment that sought to strip Latinos, African-Americans and other "non-whites" of their American citizenship and deport them.
The book cover containing the Pace Amendment had endorsements from Aryan Nations founder Richard Butler and white supremacist pastor Dan Gayman, who housed Centennial Park Olympic bomber Eric Robert Rudolph as a teenager. Over the years Johnson has unsuccessfully run for public office, while also aligning with hatemongers and adhering to positions that vigorously demean African-American, Latinos and others.
No person shall be a citizen of the United States unless he is a non-Hispanic white of the European race, in whom there is no ascertainable trace of Negro blood, nor more than one-eighth Mongolian, Asian, Asia Minor, Middle Eastern, Semitic, Near Eastern, American Indian, Malay or other non-European or non-white blood, provided that Hispanic whites, defined as anyone with an Hispanic ancestor, may be citizens if, in addition to meeting the aforesaid ascertainable trace and percentage tests, they are in appearance indistinguishable from Americans whose ancestral home is in the British Isles or Northwestern Europe. Only citizens shall have the right and privilege to reside permanently in the United States.
William Johnson, "Pace" Amendment to the Constitution
The Great White Hope?
While most Trump supporters are clearly not hardened white bigot leaders like Johnson, this campaign has been noteworthy in that many of the most prominent contemporary hate group leaders have enthusiastically supported him. Trump's appeal to overt bigotry and stereotyping, embrace of conspiracy theories and disproven "facts" coupled with an amorphous populism and authoritarianism makes him popular not only among "angry" voters, who constitute 97 percent of his supporters. It also attracts those who seek to harness and direct that sincere anger with strong doses of exclusion and bigotry.
As American Renaissance's Jared Taylor wrote last year: "Donald Trump may be the last hope for a president who would be good for white people." Trump is the first candidate he has ever endorsed and he's not alone. As the New York Times observed, "Mr. Trump's failure to distance himself more sharply from white-power adherents has been minutely observed in online discussion forums."
White supremacists and nationalists now have someone who embraces not only tough policies, but prejudice as a way of selling them, something that many Republican leaders fear will damage the party's moral position as well as its competitiveness in an increasingly diverse society. As 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney stated, "Mr. Trump is directing our anger for less than noble purposes. He creates scapegoats of Muslims and Mexican immigrants." Former Republican rival Linsdey Graham stated, "I think (Trump's) campaigned in opportunistic race-baiting, bigotry (and) xenophobia."
In the past Republican candidates unequivocally rejected overt hate group support, and the feeling was mutual. Trump, however, offers something different, a celebrity brand of can-do Americanism that achieves something hate groups can't: the mainstreaming of key elements of their message. If the haters cannot play in Trump's band, they can certainly supply him some of their sheet music. This fear-based ethno-nationalism also plays out in Europe where terrorism and a changing demographic landscape has enabled divisive, even bigoted candidates to become a political force.
After Decades, a Charismatic Leader From the Outside
Here, Mr. Trump is popular with influential new hatemongers as well as discredited but notorious older ones. Trump's candidacy has given white nationalists a charismatic celebrity endorser that supports not only exclusionary policies, but the negative stereotypes that buoy their cause. Whether or not Trump is actually a salesman or a hatemonger misses the point. His widely cast angry net also yields a catch of enthusiastic and prominent bigots. For years, the hate world could not produce a charismatic leader who could sell their prejudiced wares in the mainstream ideological marketplace, until an outsider emerged to do so.
Those who have enthusiastically support Trumps candidacy reads like a who's who of the extremist hate world:
Former Klansman and neo-Nazi David Duke; the Daily Stormer's Nazi Andrew Anglin; anti-Semite and Johnson associate Kevin MacDonald; Loyal White Knights Grand Dragon William Quigg (who later "switched" to Hillary Clinton); Stormfront website founder and former Klansman Don Black; the American Renaissance's Jared Taylor and the racist leader of Traditionalist Youth Network Matt Heimbach. Heimbach achieved notoriety for his role in manhandling an African-American female protestor at a Trump rally in Louisville, Kentucky earlier this year.
Will He Pivot Away?
The symbiotic relationship between hate groups who play with fire, and a candidate who inflames is a volatile mix that has repercussions not only for the future of socio-political discourse, but for governance as well. While hate groups have been in overall numerical decline before last year's uptick, their philosophy has achieved a position in mainstream political discourse that has not only motivated the angriest portion of the electorate, but the hatemongers who desperately want access, and now have achieved it, whether it comes tangibly in the form of official recognition or merely philosophically.
After decades on the outside, dwindling hard-core hatemongers have a seat in the political arena with a larger angry audience, and how it plays out is anyone's guess. The young racist leader Matt Heimbach enthusiastically observed that Mr. Trump, "could be the stepping stone we need to then radicalize millions of White working and middle class families to the call..." Let's hope that either Mr. Trump, or in his absence, the electorate, unequivocally pivot away from such support and exclude Mr. Heimbach and those of his ilk from the political arena with the same resolve, minus the manhandling, that he removes counter-protestors from his.