The Republicans won the White House after voters were fed up with the endless identity politics of the Democratic Party. But now the GOP has a serious race and identity problem of their own in the white power movement.
The image of a snaking horde of white men carrying torches while chanting “Jews Will Not Replace Us” now symbolizes the Trump Administration.
I reported on the rise of neo-Nazism in Germany after the Berlin Wall fell for CBS News. A fearsome group, they bellowed “Outsiders out!” as they marched through villages with their arms in the Sieg Heil and later firebombed the homes of asylum seekers. I also covered the Aryan Nation and The Order, white separatist groups in America. While criminal and murderous, they usually kept to themselves before they were disbanded.
The Charlottesville gathering was the largest white power rally I have ever seen, and it was described by one of its organizers, Matthew Heimbach, to be the largest gathering in 20 years. Unlike the neo-Nazis in Germany, they carried guns. Unlike the Aryan Nation, they are on the move, heading to liberal enclaves in a show of force and provocation.
Today’s groups are turning into a shadow force better armed than ordinary police officers. Several men dressed in fatigues paraded the streets of Charlottesville with semi-automatic rifles, legal in the open carry state of Virginia.
A Vice News documentary showed Christopher Cantwell, 36, an avowed racist and alt-right organizer removing three hidden guns and a knife from beneath his clothing after the demonstration, in addition to the two AK-47s he also had.
“We’re not non-violent. We will f---ing kill these people if we have to,” said Cantwell, who is now wanted for arrest in Virginia on two felony charges.
In the absence of a gun, there is always a car. A teaching video on how to run over protesters edited to a violent, misogynist song was posted on a right wing site in January and re-posted by Fox Nation, which is part of Fox News. Both were removed after Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when James Alex Fields, Jr., 20, allegedly mowed her down with his car.
These hate groups gathered momentum in reaction to the Black Lives Matter protests that arose after the murders of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and others. Donald Trump was elected president after his campaign nurtured a backlash against Black Lives Matter and all the people who supported it by giving sympathy to the white supremacists, segregationists and neo-Nazis who lurk next door, across the state and in the far corners of the country.
Trump’s team eagerly pitted one group of Americans against another, and they are still doing it. Days after the Charlottesville protests, Trump's personal lawyer, John Dowd, forwarded an email to journalists and government officials describing how Black Lives Matter had been infiltrated with terrorists; a clear effort to turn the public discourse against liberal protesters.
Those fire-carrying “very fine people,” as the president described some of them, look like they’re about to burn down America.
Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon expressed how delighted he was that right wing extremists have rekindled racial outrage among Democrats. "The longer they talk about identity politics, I got ’em. I want them to talk about racism every day. If the left is focused on race and identity, and we go with economic nationalism, we can crush the Democrats," he told The American Prospect. After the interview, Trump reportedly decided after lengthy deliberation to remove Bannon.
But Bannon was living in a bubble. Black Lives Matter technically has ceased operations as a protest organization and now concentrates on community and political action. The new protesters who have taken to the streets to denounce the extreme right are not defined by race or identity alone. The anti-fascist groups, or Antifa, are a loose knit collection of activists, environmentalists, gay rights supporters, church members, and those who oppose discrimination, who have coalesced to stop the advancement of radical white power groups.
The most notorious and threatening group talking about race and identity today is white. Those fire-carrying “very fine people,” as the president described some of them, look like they’re about to burn down America.
This article was originally published on August 18, 2017.