An official in the Trump Administration and a Republican candidate for governor have been promoting ideas by leading anti-Muslim activist David Horowitz, according to reports from the past several months. Horowitz’s ideas have played an important role senior advisor and white nationalist Stephen Miller’s thinking, while Ron DeSantis, Florida’s Republican gubernatorial candidate, has praised Horowitz’s work, speaking at his conferences on four separate occasions.
But who is David Horowitz? A leading anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim activist since the late 1980s, Horowitz has argued that there is a serious race war being waged against whites and that African Americans owe their freedom to white people. He has a long history of bigoted comments on Twitter that have run afoul of Twitter’s policies. The Southern Poverty Law Center states that Horowitz “has since the late 1980s [been] a driving force of the anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant and anti-black movements.”
In 1988, Horowitz founded the Center for the Study of Popular Culture in Los Angeles, later renamed the David Horowitz Freedom Center, whose mission statement claimed “we combat the efforts of the radical left and its Islamist allies to destroy American values and disarm this country as it attempts to defend itself in a time of terror.” Since its founding, Horowitz has made the Freedom Center a hub for anti-Muslim activity — acting as an important funding source and holding conferences to elevate anti-Muslim voices. Horowitz’s conferences have seen a parade of individuals who have expressed anti-Muslim and racist sentiments.
When asked by The Atlantic in May 2018 what books influenced his politics, Stephen Miller named Horowitz’s Hating Whitey and Other Progressive Causes on the top of his list. This was not necessarily surprising, as Miller had in 2006 brought Horowitz to Duke, where Miller (a college student) had formed a local chapter of Horowitz’s national group, Students for Academic Freedom. Now that Miller has President Trump’s ear, Horowitz’s ideas are becoming realized in official policy. Miller’s role in crafting the Muslim ban might be the clearest example of Miller propagating Horowitz’s thinking.
Horowitz’s influence extends to other key Republicans, notably Florida’s Republican gubernatorial candidate, Ron DeSantis. The Washington Post reported that DeSantis has said he is “an admirer” of Horowitz’s work and has spoken at four of Horowitz’s conferences. In 2015, DeSantis said the David Horowitz Freedom Center was telling “the American people the truth and … standing up for the right thing.”
Reports of DeSantis’ admiration for Horowitz came on heels of DeSantis’ racist comment telling Floridians to not “monkey this up” by electing his African-American Democratic challenger Andrew Gillum. DeSantis is also running a pro-Trump campaign ad that shows, among other things, DeSantis building a wall out of blocks with his kids. DeSantis’ signalling of support for hate even attracted the attention of a neo-Nazi group that made robocalls in the state.
But while DeSantis’ activities might stir up one kind of enthusiasm, his support for hate become an issue in his campaign. He recently tried to dismiss coverage of his speaking at Horowitz events as a “smear,” while refusing to answer further questions from Florida-based reporters. He recently stepped down from his Congressional seat to focus on the governor race, where he is trailing in the polls.
The Trump Administration’s persistent connections to white nationalists and other purveyors of hate will only deepen if it continues to fail to meaningfully address the problem. The influence of such ideas are then reflected in policies with real-life consequences for those who are the subject of their hate. And, siding with these purveyors of hate is a proven losing electoral strategy.