Inside a beige meeting room at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, the buttoned-down millennials, in their dark suits and ties, settled in for the long conference day ahead.
Like countless others who travel to Washington, they had come to position their interests at the forefront of the political agenda.
But on closer look, this group Saturday was different: They were almost entirely young men, many sporting the same haircut of short sides and back with a familiar flop on top.
This was the white nationalist lobby — the alt-right — coming to town for a victory lap after Donald Trump’s election, assuming what they see as their rightful place influencing the new administration.
“An awakening among everyone has occurred with this Trump election,” Richard Spencer, president of the white nationalist think tank, said during opening remarks. “We’re not quite the establishment now, but I think we should start acting like it.”
Several hundred pro-white nationalists showed up for the day-long confab, buoyed by Trump’s popularity and the role they now intend to play in bringing white identity politics to Washington.
This new generation is aiming to influence Washington in Washington’s own ways: churning out position papers, lobbying lawmakers and, and perhaps most importantly, removing the cloak of anonymity to fully join the national political conversation.
Spencer looks like many young staffers on Capitol Hill.
“We are the epicenter of the right now in terms of intellect,” said 30-year-old Nathan Damigo of California. “We are the culture creators of the right.”
As the up-and-coming intellectual voice of the movement, Spencer is credited with popularizing the term “alt-right.” Twitter banned his account and those of other leaders last week in a clampdown on hate speech.
But now, with Trump preparing for the White House, the National Policy Institute is planning to seize the opening with a series of policy papers on immigration, foreign and domestic policy to offer pro-white ideas.
The views span left and right. The group advocates paid family leave, for example, but also requiring immigrants in the country illegally to leave and giving preference to white arrivals from Europe.
“In terms of policy, Trump’s movement was a little bit half-baked,” Spencer said. “Moving forward, the alt-right as an intellectual vanguard can complete Trump.”