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“Providing Breathing Room For The Dying Beast”: Clearing Out Space In Our Politics For White Nationalists

I recently wrote about Trump and white supremacists based largely on an article by Evan Osnos, who had been reporting on these groups when Trump-mania broke out. A few days later, Osnos was interviewed on NPR by Terry Gross. Their whole discussion of this topic is fascinating, but a couple of things during the interview stood out to me.

The first is that Gross notes that Osnos used the term “white nationalists” rather than “white supremacists” (I almost instinctively chose the latter for my title) and asks him why. Here’s his reply.

Yeah, it’s a subtle distinction. The difference is that, historically, white supremacist groups believed fundamentally in the idea that one race was superior above all, and that was essential to their ideology. This grew out of slavery and the legacy of it. White nationalist groups believe something slightly different. They believe, in fact, that whites are an endangered species these days, and they say that they’re not standing up for one race over another. They’re standing up for the preservation of their community.

You struggle as a writer, certainly – and we did at the magazine – about whether or not to call these groups white supremacist groups or white nationalist groups. And there are times when I go back and forth. I think we’re certainly not captive to what it is that they want to be called themselves. They prefer to be called white nationalists. Some of them don’t even embrace that term. They want to be called identitarians or other things. But that’s – the terminology, in some ways, can be a bit of a disguise from the fact that there is – there’s an enduring element of this, which is a sort of race-based division that is at the essence of their beliefs. And that hasn’t changed, but there is a distinction going on that’s subtle. And I think the subtle distinction is important because it captures that they don’t feel strong today. In fact, they feel weak, and that’s what being a white nationalist is about. It’s about the sense that, as they put it, we’re facing a cultural genocide. That’s a term that they use over and over again.

I’m not one to get caught up in names and labels. But I think that the distinction Osnos identifies is important for us to recognize. We give too much power to these folks when we assume that they are strong. They are, in fact, weak and are very well aware of the fact that their entire world view is under siege. As I have often said, they are part of the dying beast of white male heterosexual patriarchy.

But later in the interview Osnos identifies where there is cause for concern.

So what you hear in that message is really interesting because what they’re saying is that Donald Trump may not win the presidency, but what he’s doing is clearing out space in politics for ideas that were no longer possible – that were previously impossible to express. So what he’s saying is that – and I encountered this over and over again as I talked to people who considered – who know that they are way out on the fringe of American politics – that they say Donald Trump is allowing our ideas to be discussed in a way that they never have been before…It will give a validation in some sense. And that may be the most enduring legacy.

That is perhaps the best example of what Trump (and Carson) are talking about when they rail against “political correctness.” What they are doing is “clearing out space in our politics” for white nationalists. In other words, they are providing breathing room for the dying beast.

Update: Here’s what happens when you provide breathing room to racists: I’ve experienced a new level of racism since Donald Trump went after Latinos.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 9, 2015

September 10, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, White Nationalists, White Supremacists | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Trump And White Supremacists”: They Don’t Don Sheets And Pointy Hoods Or Burn Crosses At Their Gatherings, But It’s The Same Crowd

“Trump, on a gut level, kind of senses that this is about demographics, ultimately. We’re moving into a new America.” He said, “I don’t think Trump is a white nationalist,” but he did believe that Trump reflected “an unconscious vision that white people have – that their grandchildren might be a hated minority in their own country. I think that scares us. They probably aren’t able to articulate it. I think it’s there. I think that, to a great degree, explains the Trump phenomenon.”

That comes from a fascinating article by Evan Osnos titled: The Fearful and the Frustrated. The particular quote is from someone named Richard Spencer. Here’s how Osnos introduces him:

Richard Spencer is a self-described “identitarian” who lives in Whitefish, Montana, and promotes “white racial consciousness.” At thirty-six, Spencer is trim and preppy, with degrees from the University of Virginia and the University of Chicago. He is the president and director of the National Policy Institute, a think tank, co-founded by William Regnery, a member of the conservative publishing family, that is “dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of European people in the United States and around the world.” The Southern Poverty Law Center calls Spencer “a suit-and-tie version of the white supremacists of old.

Apparently Osnos was doing some reporting on extremist white-rights groups when the whole Trump phenomenon hit. As such, he had a front-row seat to how this dark corner in our country reacted. The upshot of it all is…they love it.

Ever since the Tea Party’s peak, in 2010, and its fade, citizens on the American far right – Patriot militias, border vigilantes, white supremacists – have searched for a standard-bearer, and now they’d found him.

Spencer has gotten a higher profile lately due to the fact that he seems to be the go-to guy on understanding the recent popularity of the hashtag #cuckservative. Here’s Dave Weigel explaining:

Late last week, a neologism was born. Twitter was the incubator. “Cuckservative,” a portmanteau of “conservative” and “cuckold” (i.e. a man whose wife has cheated on him) burned up Twitter as fans of Donald Trump’s politicking warred with the movement conservatives who opposed it…

What is “cuckservatism?”

I’ll defer to Richard Spencer, president of the white nationalist National Policy Institute.

“#Cuckservative” is a full-scale revolt, by Identitarians and what I’ve called the ‘alt Right,’ against the Republican Party and conservative movement,” Spencer explained in an e-mail. “The ‘cuck’ slur is vulgar, yes, but then piercingly accurate. It is the cuckold who, whether knowingly or unknowingly, loses control of his future. This is an apt psychological portrait of white ‘conservatives,’ whose only identity is comprised of vague, abstract ‘values,’ and who are participating in the displacement of European Americans — their own children…

According to Spencer, “Trump is a major part of the ‘cuckservative’ phenomenon — but not because he himself is an Identitarian or traditionalist. His campaign is, in many ways, a backward-looking movement: ‘Let’s make America great again!’ Why Trump is attractive to Identitarians and the alt Right is: a) he is a tougher, superior man than ‘conservatives’ (which isn’t saying much), and b) he seems to grasp the demographic displacement of European-Americans on a visceral level. We see some hope there.”

Consider yourself on notice. People like Richard Spencer “see some hope” in the likes of Donald Trump. These guys can come up with new names for themselves (i.e., “Identitarians” or “alt Right”) and perhaps they don’t don sheets and pointy hoods or burn crosses at their gatherings. But make no mistake, it’s the same crowd.

P.S. Daniel Marans and Kim Bellware have a run-down on Trump’s white supremacists fan club.

 

By: Nancy LeTournea, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, August 27, 2015

August 28, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Right Wing Extremisim, White Supremacists | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

   

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