America’s white nationalists can barely contain their glee.
“This is the tenor of the white nationalist movement (as of Saturday): giddiness and optimism that Donald Trump will indeed win,” William Johnson, the white nationalist leader of the American Freedom Party, told The Daily Beast. When asked what he has planned for when the collective national nightmare is over, Johnson wasn’t sure.
But, he, like others seeking a white ethno-state, doesn’t want to muck up their future chances with violence on Election Day.
“I am exhausted from the ordeal of the last 16 months,” he said. “Right now, I can’t think that far ahead. I need about one week to regroup. So in sum, I don’t know that I am going to do.”
But Johnson added: “There will likely be no violence from either side after the Election results come out. This is not a soccer/football game where hooliganism is a tradition.”
Perhaps no one has benefited more from the Trump campaign than Johnson, a bespectacled attorney in California, who in fits and starts has made headlines throughout the year for his unabashed support of the real-estate mogul. (He even had a brief, and unprecedented, moment in the sun when he was on the roster as a Trump delegate for the convention).
In January, his party endorsed Trump’s candidacy as Johnson himself made a round of robocalls paid for by his American National Super Pac. Residents in Iowa may have picked up their phones at the time to hear the sound of Johnson’s voice saying: “We don’t need Muslims. We need smart, well-educated, white people who will assimilate to our culture. Vote Trump.”
The romance has burned hot ever since.
In their lifetimes, white nationalists of a certain ilk—the kind that pen op-eds instead of burn crosses—have never seen a candidate like Trump, who, perhaps unknowingly, popularized their ideas on a national stage. The golden-haired demagogue was praised in every corner of the supremacist nation from Pepe the Frog memes on 4chan to the more traditionalist newspaper endorsement of the KKK.
“I think really it has to do with a nagging sense that white Americans have that their country is really slipping through their fingers,” Jared Taylor, the editor of the white nationalist publication American Renaissance told The Daily Beast in January. “It has enormously to do with a change in demographics. It’s becoming a third-world country.”
Ten months later, with Trump on the brink of potentially becoming the most powerful individual in the world, Taylor views his potential presidency as a lobbying opportunity. A win for Trump is a win for Taylor.
“If Mr. Trump is president, many on the alt-right think it will be an opportunity to influence the administration,” Taylor said in an email, using the latest term for America’s loosely-organized white nationalist movement. “I think such opportunities will be limited to low level political appointments. All Trump appointments will be carefully scrutinized for suspicious ‘links.’ At the same time, we will redouble our current outreach efforts and run candidates in local elections.”
That’s a pretty lofty expectation for a guy who previously wrote that “When blacks are left entirely to their own devices, Western Civilization—any kind of civilization—disappears. And in a crisis, civilization disappears overnight.”
But it’s a result of the kind of nudge-nudge-wink-wink method with which the Trump campaign has engaged its white nationalist supporters. For instance, when Trump didn’t immediately and forcefully disavow David Duke on national television, a former KKK leader turned Senate candidate this year, Duke was able to brush it off and keep trying to tie his agenda to the former reality television star.
“It’s good for him to be judicious,” Duke told The Daily Beast in a phone conversation after the interview in February. “He can certainly disagree with David Duke.”
There was never really a ton of daylight between the Trump campaign and the alt-right, which funneled its view into Trump’s own Pravda, the conservative website Breitbart. The candidate retweeted memes from accounts with various forms of “white genocide” in their handles, admitted a “pro-white” radio host to a campaign event when many other outlets were denied entry and graduated to hiring an alt-right cheerleader in former Breitbart CEO Steve Bannon—widely lauded by nationalists at the time.
Days out from the decisive moment for their movement, much has been made of insinuations of insurrection from Trump supporters. There was talk at his rallies of taking up arms should Hillary Clinton win and just a few months ago, Trump himself said that “Second Amendment people” could do something if she emerged victorious.
But at least for now, the white nationalists who have emerged as figureheads for their movement want no part in any uprising. Their victory is winning over major segments of the electorate this season, which is perhaps an even scarier notion.
“The idea of resistance is a ridiculous chimera invented by projecting Leftists—there’s far more chance of resistance by Hillary supporters, in fact they’ve already assassinated several policemen, look it up,” Peter Brimelow, the editor of VDARE.com, a site that frequently warns against immigration, emailed The Daily Beast.
“Needless to say, I would condemn such violence,” Richard Spencer, the president of the white nationalist think tank National Policy Institute told The Daily Beast regarding any kind of upheaval. He was quick to even condemn a Trump in recent days, when Donald’s son Eric said that David Duke “deserves a bullet.”
Spencer seems to acknowledge that the movement of which he is a part hinges on its ability to professionalize—to be more than just the rage-monsters who post racist memes online.
A Clinton win could actually help him, he thinks.
“Arguably, a Clinton victory would be better for the Alt-Right, as it would inspire a radical consciousness among Middle Americans,” Spencer told The Daily Beast. “New things would be possible with Trump. But we should also remember that, should Trump win, the Alt-Right might need to go into opposition. We don’t want Trump to turn into a man with a hilarious POTUS Twitter feed but not much in the way of substance.”
Either way, the lasting legacy of Donald Trump will be the gateway he provided for these racist ideas to acquire a national platform.
“This past year and a half has been a tremendous opportunity for us, and we’ve come along way,” Spencer continued. “Before Trump, one of the Alt-Right’s major obstacles was ignorance of our ideas. That has changed. Now we need to work to develop a more professional movement, which will displace the tired, useless, failed, and dumb ‘conservatives’ who currently staff the American Right.”
He may end up a loser on Tuesday night. But another campaign starts Wednesday.