“Jews…commit a disproportionate number of mass shootings,” Wisconsin Republican congressional candidate Paul Nehlen lied on Facebook recently. Earlier, he had tweeted: “Poop, incest, and pedophilia. Why are those common themes repeated so often with Jews?” Another GOP House hopeful, Pennsylvania’s Sean Donahue, recently told me, “The United States was intended to be white…. I don’t see why we had to have the Fair Housing Act.”
Welcome to Trump’s America, where a rash of white nationalists are running for office. Depending on your definition, anywhere from nine and 17 white supremacists and far-right militia leaders are currently running for House and Senate seats, governorships, and state legislatures.
Most have little chance of winning, but as with the neo-Nazi Arthur Jones, who recently ran unopposed in the Republican primary for the Third Congressional District in the Chicago area and garnered 20,458 votes, their mere candidacies, along with their growing acceptance by other Republicans as legitimate stakeholders in the party, are a dangerous development. “They are, by their very presence, shifting the pole of what most Americans find to be acceptable political discourse,” said Eric K. Ward of the Western States Center, a progressive organization that works in seven states where white-nationalist groups have been active.
Heidi Beirich, director of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Project, pointed to an August 2017 Washington Post/ABC News poll indicating that 9 percent of Americans now find it acceptable to hold neo-Nazi views. (Among strong Trump supporters, 17 percent say they accept neo-Nazi views, and 13 percent say they have no opinion one way or the other.) “This is a Trump phenomenon,” Beirich told me. “In the past, [white-power groups] saw no space for themselves in the public sphere at all. You’d see the Aryan Nations saying, ‘We never really thought politics was worth our time.’” Both Trump and a new clutch of racist candidates, she added, have had the effect of “reengaging white supremacists in the political system. Before, they were basically apolitical.”
In the new Republican universe, a flood of so-called alt-lite media organs and activists have become enormously influential. Sites like The Daily Caller, The Gateway Pundit, The Rebel Media, Infowars, GotNews, and other “mini-Breitbarts” have championed the alt-right, employed white nationalists as editors and writers, and expressed views similar to white nationalism. And through their popularity and their ties to Trump staffers, they’ve been able to influence the White House and demonstrate that there is room for the advocacy of openly racist policies in the US political system. President Trump has read and reacted to at least one article from GotNews, which is run by the racist Internet troll Chuck Johnson. (The piece was about a supposed leak by deputy chief of staff Katie Walsh, with Politico reporting that she left the White House shortly after.) Alt-lite solo media man Mike Cernovich—who has said “diversity is code for white genocide” and “I like choking a woman until her eyes almost go lifeless”—has demonstrated access to the White House through his scoops on personnel matters and Trump’s strike on Syria last April. Both Donald Trump Jr. and Kellyanne Conway have publicly praised Cernovich, with the president’s son saying he deserves “a Pulitzer.” Cernovich has announced he’s considering running for Congress in California this year.