- Donald Trump has been linked to – or praised by – those who identify as white supremacist or white nationalist throughout his presidency. Earlier this month, Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney even spoke out to confirm that Trump is not a white supremacist.
- But, in a surprising turn, many of his longtime supporters with “pro-white” views are slowly stepping off the Trump Train, according to multiple interviews with people who identify with labels including white nationalist, identitarian, and anti-immigrant.
- Despite Trump’s claim that only a small group of white nationalists are still operating, right-wing extremism in the US is growing, with attacks by far-right perpetrators more than quadrupling between 2016 and 2017, according to a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
- Many self-described nationalists are instead starting to support democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang.
Earlier this month, Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney spoke out to confirm that President Donald Trump is not a white supremacist – after the shooter who killed 50 at two mosques in New Zealand praised Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.”
It’s not the first time Trump has had to vocally shake off allegiances to white nationalists; there have been a string of incidents in which the president has been linked to – or praised by – those who identify as white supremacist or white nationalist. But, in a surprising turn, many of his longtime supporters with “pro-white” views are now stepping off the Trump Train.
INSIDER spoke to multiple people who identify with labels including white nationalist, anti-immigrant, “Western chauvinist,” and “pro-white,” who say those in their circles have become disillusioned by Trump. They say while he did invigorate them during his campaign and help bring their ideas out from the fringe, he hasn’t acted on the promises that initially drew them to him.
“Trump did become kind of a messianic figure and it was cool and edgy to like Trump,” Richard Spencer, the notorious former leader of the alt-right who now considers himself a white identitarian, told INSIDER. “There’s no question that he was a vehicle for us.”
Trump’s appeal at the time was easy to understand: he ran on a platform that was overtly nativist, anti-immigrant, and able to tap into ever-brewing racial divisions. In June 2015, when first announcing his candidacy, he revealed his grand plan to build a two-thousand-mile-long wall on the border of Mexico, bolstering his mission by falsely claiming that people crossing the border were “bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re bringing rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” And he enthusiastically adopted an “America First” isolationist policy, despite the ideology being linked to Nazi sympathizers.
Harry Hughes, a spokesperson for the National Socialist Movement, which has been described by the Southern Poverty Law Center as one of the most prominent neo-Nazi groups in the country, told INSIDER that Trump’s campaign at the time overwhelmingly aligned with his organisation’s platform.
“He borrowed a lot of our material and successfully ran a campaign on it,” Hughes said. “That gave us confidence that people were starting to think more in terms of how we were feeling about the direction of this country.”
James Allsup, who considers himself an American nationalist and runs a controversial Youtube channel about his beliefs, said that during the campaign Trump hit all the right notes. “He was putting forth a real ‘America First’ agenda,” Allsup told INSIDER.
Experts on far-right ideology told INSIDER that the president’s rhetoric – from stoking fear about caravans of migrants invading the United States to promoting anti-Semitic conspiracy theories – helped galvanize the movement and push it more into the mainstream.
“I think they have seen a major boost since the election of 2016, where they’re part of the discussion, they’re part of the national debate, and for the first time in at least modern American history we are actually having discussions about white supremacists in our government,” Christian Picciolini, a former white supremacist who now runs an anti-hate non-profit, told INSIDER. “He certainly brought up topics and policies that they have been talking about for decades.”
But now, after two years in office, many self-described nationalists have begun to turn away from the president.
“When Trump ran in 2016 he represented a sort of existential disruption to the system. Now, two years after him taking office, he really has in many ways become the system, and a lot of these great promises he made have totally fallen by the wayside,” Allsup said. “For this guy to campaign as someone who was going to stand up and fight for the forgotten American and then turn around and do a complete 180 on all their interests, you will have a hard time winning them over.”
Some, including Allsup and Spencer, have begun supporting democratic candidate Andrew Yang for president.
White nationalism and extremism is on the rise
In the aftermath of the New Zealand shooting, President Trump said he didn’t consider white nationalism a growing threat. “I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems,” he said.
But according to a report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies, right-wing extremism in the US is growing, with attacks by far-right perpetrators more than quadrupling between 2016 and 2017. The Anti-Defamation League found that the distribution of white supremacist propaganda increased 182 per cent last year. And the Southern Poverty Law Center also documented a record number of active white nationalist groups in 2018.
“I would say pretty bluntly we are seeing an almost unprecedented rise in far-right extremism, not just in the US but across Europe and other Western countries including New Zealand and Australia,” Seth G. Jones, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and author of the report, told INSIDER. “I’m worried it will get worse before it gets better.”
Many of these supremacist groups have been able to mobilize, in part, through hard-right sites like Gab, Discord, 4chan, and 8chan, which allow people to communicate and become radicalized online 24 hours a day. Users share ideas, propaganda – and perhaps most potently – memes via these channels.
Spencer described the components of alt-right meme culture: “like deeply ironic, crude photoshopping, 1980s nostalgia, and kind of edgy almost punk rock fascism thrown in just for good measure,” he told INSIDER, adding that people often made outlandish memes of Trump in 2015 and 2016 to support him. But that’s not the case anymore. Now, the Yang Gang has taken over.
“I’ve noticed that the kids on 4chan or 8chan or Twitter or wherever are making all these crazy memes about Andrew Yang, and it feels a lot like 2015 all over again, when Donald Trump became the candidate of the internet and of alternative media,” Spencer said. “Andrew Yang has made memes like that fun again.”
From the Trump Train to the Yang Gang
Christopher Cantwell, known as the “Crying Nazi” due to his reaction to a warrant for his arrest following his involvement in the violent 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, told INSIDER that he believes Trump has failed his supporters, but thinks the president “is still our best bet.”
Others in the movement disagree.“Pro-white” nationalist Brad Griffin, who goes by the pseudonym Hunter Wallace and runs a nationalist blog, told INSIDER that while there was a groundswell of enthusiasm for the president in 2016, “I don’t really know of anybody at this point who continues to support Donald Trump. There’s a pretty big consensus on that issue now in our little corner of the internet… the whole bottom has collapsed on Trump with his white nationalist voters.”
Multiple people who spoke with INSIDER attributed Trump’s inability to turn his promises into action as a driving force as to why they may no longer support him. They expressed frustration over a missile strike carried out against Syria in 2017 in response to the Syrian government’s use of chemical weapons on civilians; the arrest of members of the white supremacist Rise Above Movement who were involved in violent protests in California and Charlottesville; his calls for legal immigration during the State of the Union address; and his inability to build a wall along the US – Mexico border.
And now they have turned to 2020 Democratic candidate Andrew Yang.
Trumpism was the fantasy that America can be we saved. Yangism is the awareness that it can't. https://t.co/H3rUe3FZIZ
— Richard ???? Spencer (@RichardBSpencer) March 8, 2019
Yang, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur with no political experience, has attracted those from the fringe-right with proposals like universal basic income – which would give every American $US1,000 a month – and his warning cry that automation and robotics will soon replace millions of American jobs.
“I think he has a superior vision for the country, it’s vastly superior to Donald Trump’s vision,” Griffin told INSIDER. “I strongly support universal basic income and think it’s brilliant… I think Yang has solved the white nationalist problem.”
Allsup said that he knows many people on the right, himself included, who have donated to Yang’s campaign, to attract the 65,000 individual donor threshold necessary for candidates to participate in the Democratic Party’s first debates.
Was considering celebrating hitting 65,000 donations by flossing but found out it wasn’t cool anymore. ???? Thank you all for getting us this far! pic.twitter.com/7j7aAm6tvS
— Andrew Yang???????????????? (@AndrewYang) March 11, 2019
Yang came to the attention of the far-right after he made an appearance on The Joe Rogan Experience in February. Alt-right websites began creating various memes centered on Yang – something the candidate seems to have embraced. Many of his online supporters refer to themselves as the Yang Gang, and pro-Yang articles have been featured in The Daily Stormer and nationalist blog Occidental Dissent, run by Griffin.
This month, Allsup posted a Youtube video about “why #YangGang is the future.” And The Daily Beast noted a Storyful analysis that found Yang was mentioned on 4chan far more than any other Democratic candidate.
“Republicans obviously are very heavy in business interests and they don’t want people to know about automation frankly because they don’t want people to think they are going to be replaced by robots in the workplace,” Allsup told INSIDER. “So I see what Yang is doing as very transformative because he’s bringing light to a lot of people that the economy is changing.”
It's not immigrants. It's automation. pic.twitter.com/e2M7F5KBei
— Andrew Yang???????????????? (@AndrewYang) March 19, 2019
Many on the alt-right have interpreted his call for universal basic income as a way to re-instate ethnic segregation. In a post on Griffin’s blog, he wrote that Yang’s universal basic income proposal would create a world “in which mixed race people would have the money to settle in Brazil. Blacks would have the money to settle in Africa or the Caribbean. Europeans could return to Europe.”
For many nationalists, Yang’s ethnicity is a non-issue. Picciolini, the former white supremacist, said “If you look at their views of white supremacy, they hold Asians in very, very high regard because of their exclusive culture,” adding that “They believe that Asian culture has it right.”
In response to his newfound fanbase, Andrew Yang told INSIDER that he disavowed “hateful analogies” and wasn’t interested in his newfound supporters.
“I am the son of immigrants and understand what it is like to build a life in a new land. The America I grew up in had a place for me. Hate is the opposite of what I stand for and what this campaign stands for. Anyone who wishes to use this campaign for a different agenda will be sorely disappointed and entirely unwelcome.”
Greg Johnson, editor-in-chief of the white nationalist publishing house Counter-Currents, said that even though Yang rejects them, “he will still cash our checks, and he can’t prevent us from arguing for the merits of his proposal, voting for him, and encouraging others to vote for him.”
Meanwhile, experts and anti-white nationalist activists like Picciolini are casting a wary eye toward the 2020 election.
“Certainly while [Trump] didn’t create [the white nationalist] problem, he’s lit the fuse that has sparked it to grow once again,” Picciolini told INSIDER. “I think things are going to get worse before they get better, and that’s because the government has not focused on white supremacy as a threat.”
- Read more:
- A white nationalist conspiracy theory was at the heart of the New Zealand shooting. This isn’t the first time it’s been associated with terror attacks.
- Rep. Steve King could be censured after asking why terms like white supremacist and white nationalist were offensive in an interview
- A public school teacher who reportedly hosts a white nationalist podcast has been removed from the classroom
- A man who was raised to be a die-hard white nationalist explains what it took for him to rethink his beliefs
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.