New pieces continue to highlight a disturbing trend that has been all too evident for the past year: Donald Trump is the new standard-bearer of KKK leaders and other right-wing extremists.
Since his campaign announcement, Trump has been a magnet for the white nationalist and anti-immigrant movements, who see him as capable of delivering “the appearance of legitimacy to a moral vision once confined to the fevered fringe,” even receiving the endorsement of former Klan leaders like David Duke.
In fact, KKK leaders and members all across the nation now feel their movement has been reinvigorated thanks to Donald Trump’s racist vision of America, with their membership growing as the 2016 election approaches. An alarming new profile from the AP:
In a series of interviews with The Associated Press, Klan leaders said they feel that U.S. politics are going their way, as a nationalist, us-against-them mentality deepens across the nation. Stopping or limiting immigration — a desire of the Klan dating back to the 1920s — is more of a cause than ever. And leaders say membership has gone up at the twilight of President Barack Obama’s second term in office, though few would provide numbers.
It’s impossible to say how many members the Klan counts today since groups don’t reveal that information, but leaders claim adherents in the thousands among scores of local groups called Klaverns. Waller said his group is growing, as did Chris Barker, imperial wizard of the Loyal White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in Eden, North Carolina.
“Most Klan groups I talk to could hold a meeting in the bathroom in McDonald’s,” Barker said. As for his Klavern, he said, “Right now, I’m close to 3,800 members in my group alone.”
Stopping immigration, not blocking minority rights, is the Klan’s No. 1 issue today, Waller said. His group operates by the KKK rulebook called the “Kloran,” which was first published in 1915. Various versions of the book are now online, and an edition posted by the University of Wisconsin library states in part: “We shall ever be true in the faithful maintenance of White Supremacy and will strenuously oppose any compromise thereof in any and all things.”
The current hot-button issue for Klan members — fighting immigration and closing U.S. borders — is one of the most talked-about topics in the presidential election. Klan leaders say Donald Trump’s immigration position and his ascendancy in the GOP are signs things are going their way.
“You know, we began 40 years ago saying we need to build a wall,” Arkansas-based Klan leader Thomas Robb said.
Both The New Yorker and the Southern Poverty Law Center also profile Matthew Heimbach, a pro-Trump white nationalist leader dubbed “this generation’s David Duke”.
Heimbach’s group, the Traditionalist Worker Party, along with a number of skinheads, was recently involved in series of brutal stabbings at a neo-Nazi rally in California. And according to the SPLC, the group now plans to travel to next month’s Republican convention in Cleveland to “make sure that the Donald Trump supporters are defended”. Heimbach tells Ryan Lenz of the SPLC:
We’re planning to organize as the party [TWP], to be there, to spread our message to delegates and to be the eyes and ears there [to observe those who] have already said they’re going to burn the city down, they’re going to kill cops, they’re going to kill Trump supporters. The radical left has already said in a premeditated fashion that they are going to bring violence. They are going to bring weapons and they are going to do political intimidation. So we want to be there as a protecting force, to say you will not intimidate us, you will not force us off of our position. We will stand for our political space and we will defend it within the limits of the law.
Heimbach states that whether or not Donald Trump makes it to the Oval Office this election, his movement has plans to live on beyond 2016 and their appearance at the Republican National Convention. From The New Yorker:
With Trump’s poll numbers dropping, I asked Heimbach what will happen to far-right activists like him if Trump’s candidacy ends in failure. “Donald Trump was never going to be the solution, and if he loses it’s going to be because the Republican establishment betrayed him, which he’s already saying they’re doing,” he said. In any event, he expects his own moment to continue. “When you put everything together, I think it’s pretty clear that my form of nationalism is on the rise in Europe. It’s on the rise with the rest of the world, and I think it’s going to be the natural, logical next step,” he added. Others on the far right encouraged their followers to prepare for more violence. In a post about Sacramento, the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi site, declared, “Go to the gym, train in martial arts, train to use weapons. The future depends on each one of you being prepared for what’s coming. We are in a race war.”
It is a strange fact of 2016 that writing about Presidential politics requires understanding corners of the Internet that did not, a year ago, have any connection to the main stage. Ignoring the far right is not an option. Ryan Lenz, a senior editor at the Southern Poverty Law Center, who monitors hate speech and extremist groups, told me, “What happens when the great hope of Donald Trump fails for the white nationalist movement? That’s the scenario.”
Lenz said his organization has confirmed that Heimbach’s groups, including the political party, have fourteen chapters, though it’s not clear that any contain more than a few scattered sympathizers. Most are in Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio. For that reason, the Sacramento incident served an additional purpose, a suggestion of new reach, which Heimbach is eager to confirm: “This is totally organized by our chapter on the West Coast,” he said. “We’re active everywhere.”
As immigration attorney David Leopold noted in a recent Medium piece, “Trump’s presumptive nomination as the GOP’s candidate for President of the United States makes this election about much more than partisan politics. It’s now about protecting our nation from the likes of a man whose very presence in the Oval Office would threaten America’s core values and, perhaps, the strength of our democracy.”