White nationalists are hailing Donald Trump’s elevation to presumptive Republican presidential nominee, while also trying to boost their own political profiles and activity.
Although Mr. Trump has spurned these extreme groups’ support, the level of interest within them for the White House candidate rivals that for segregationist George Wallace, who won five states in the 1968 election, and for conservative Republican Pat Buchanan, who denounced multiculturalism in the 1990s.
While his policy prescriptions proved popular with GOP primary voters, Mr. Trump is now the presumptive nominee of a party that has struggled in recent presidential elections to expand its appeal beyond white voters. At the same time, his hard-line immigration policy and high profile are big lures for extreme groups seeking to elevate their status and views.
Campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks said Mr. Trump “has disavowed and will continue to disavow the support of any such groups associated with a message of hate.”
“Trump’s candidacy has absolutely electrified the radical right,” said Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil-rights organization that tracks extremist groups.
People who identify as white nationalists, white-rights advocates or race realists say that even if Mr. Trump’s views don’t exactly line up with their own, they appreciate his willingness to speak his mind, regardless of the backlash.
“The main reason white nationalists support Donald Trump is that he is the real deal,” said Mr. Johnson, the rejected California delegate. “I speak from the heart and so does he.”
Attendance at this coming weekend’s annual conference hosted by American Renaissance, which publishes a website on topics including eugenics and alleged IQ differences between races, is expected to double to 300 people, said editor Jared Taylor, in part because of Mr. Trump’s success.
“Donald Trump says what millions of Americans have thought for years–and is much too popular to be silenced,” reads a notice about the event near Nashville, Tenn., that is described as a “celebration of our world brotherhood of Europeans.’’
Mr. Taylor did a robocall earlier this year before the primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire in which he said: “We don’t need Muslims. We need smart, well-educated white people who will assimilate to our culture. Vote Trump.” The call was funded by an outside group and not approved by the Trump campaign.
Exit polls show large majorities of Republican primary and caucus voters agree with Mr. Trump’s plan to ban Muslim immigrants, at least temporarily. Mr. Trump has said the ban is necessary to prevent terrorist attacks because the process of screening immigrants is inadequate.
“It’s very encouraging when someone of the prominence of the Republican presumptive nominee says some of the same things we’ve been saying for years,” Mr. Taylor said. “Who needs Muslims? Who needs Mexicans? Once you ask those questions, you think, ‘Who needs Haitians?’ Mr. Trump is reacting in an almost visceral way to the idea of whites becoming a minority.”
Mr. Trump’s allies say he can’t control who backs him, and he is wary of drawing more attention to their rhetoric, said the Rev. Darrell Scott, a black pastor in Cleveland and the chief executive of the National Diversity Coalition for Trump, a multiracial, multiethnic group of supporters.
“I don’t think he wants to make an issue of white supremacists,” Mr. Scott said. “Any radical element of society that says they like Trump gets the opportunity for media coverage, and he doesn’t want to magnify that.”
Civil-rights groups say Mr. Trump, despite his disavowals, has sent signals to people who hold racist views. His posture toward immigrants also has been repudiated by many leaders in his own party.
“White supremacists and white nationalists have been marginalized in our political discourse, but Trump’s campaign is bringing them out of the woodwork and making it easier for them say certain things,” said Peter Montgomery, senior fellow at the People for the American Way, a liberal group.