For Whites Sensing Decline, Donald Trump Unleashes Words of Resistance

Nicholas Confessore, New York Times, July 13, 2016

The chant erupts in a college auditorium in Washington, as admirers of a conservative internet personality shout down a black protester. It echoes around the gym of a central Iowa high school, as white students taunt the Hispanic fans and players of a rival team. It is hollered by a lone motorcyclist, as he tears out of a Kansas gas station after an argument with a Hispanic man and his Muslim friend.

Trump

Trump

Trump

In countless collisions of color and creed, Donald J. Trump’s name evokes an easily understood message of racial hostility. Defying modern conventions of political civility and language, Mr. Trump has breached the boundaries that have long constrained Americans’ public discussion of race.

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Dozens of interviews–with ardent Trump supporters and curious students, avowed white nationalists, and scholars who study the interplay of race and rhetoric–suggest that the passions aroused and channeled by Mr. Trump take many forms, from earnest if muddled rebellion to deeper and more elaborate bigotry.

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Outside a former aircraft factory in Bethpage, N.Y., not far from a strip of halal butchers and Indian restaurants now known as Little India, a Long Island housewife who gave her name as Kathy Reb finished a cigarette on a spring evening. Nervously, she explained how she had watched the complexion of her suburb outside New York City change. “Everyone’s sticking together in their groups,” she said, “so white people have to, too.”

The resentment among whites feels both old and distinctly of this moment. It is shaped by the reality of demographic change, by a decade and a half of war in the Middle East, and by unease with the newly confident and confrontational activism of young blacks furious over police violence. It is mingled with patriotism, pride, fear and a sense that an America without them at its center is not really America anymore.

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Some are elated by the turn. In making the explicit assertion of white identity and grievance more widespread, Mr. Trump has galvanized the otherwise marginal world of avowed white nationalists and self-described “race realists.” They hail him as a fellow traveler who has driven millions of white Americans toward an intuitive embrace of their ideals: that race should matter as much to white people as it does to everyone else. He has freed Americans, those activists say, to say what they really believe.

“The discussion that white Americans never want to have is this question of identity–who are we?” said Richard Spencer, 38, a writer and activist whose Montana-based nonprofit is dedicated to “the heritage, identity and future of people of European descent” in the United States. “He is bringing identity politics for white people into the public sphere in a way no one has.”

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Another Republican once sounded alarms about globalization, unchecked immigration and the looming obsolescence of European-American culture. But in two bids for the Republican nomination, that candidate, Patrick J. Buchanan, won a total of four states. Mr. Trump won 37.

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Mr. Buchanan was campaigning against a backdrop of overwhelming white political and cultural dominance in America. But in the years that followed, the number of immigrants living in the United States illegally would double and then triple, before leveling off under the Obama administration around 11 million. Deindustrialization, driven in part by global trade, would devastate the economic fortunes of white men accustomed to making a decent living without a college degree.

Demographers began to speak of a not-too-distant future when non-Hispanic whites would be a minority of the American population. In states like Texas and California, and in hundreds of cities and counties around the country, that future has arrived.

“It is the changes that are taking place that have created the national constituency for Donald Trump,” Mr. Buchanan said.

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Mr. Trump’s campaign electrified the world of white nationalists. They had long been absent from mainstream politics, taking refuge at obscure conferences and in largely anonymous havens online. Most believed that the Republican Party had been subverted and captured by liberal racial dictums.

Many in this new generation of nationalists shun the trappings of old-fashioned white supremacy, appropriating the language of multiculturalism to recast themselves as white analogues to La Raza and other civil rights organizations. They call themselves “race realists” or “identitarians”–conservatives for whom racial heritage is more important than ideology.

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Mr. Spencer, a popular figure in the white nationalist world, said he did not believe that Mr. Trump subscribed to his entire worldview. But he was struck that Mr. Trump seemed to understand and echo many of his group’s ideas intuitively, and take them to a broader audience.

“I don’t think he has thought through this issue in a way that I and a number of people have,” Mr. Spencer said. “I think he is reacting to the feeling that he has lost his country.”

This year, for the first time in decades, overt white nationalism re-entered national politics. In Iowa, a new “super PAC” paid for pro-Trump robocalls featuring Jared Taylor, a self-described race realist, and William Johnson, a white nationalist and the chairman of the American Freedom Party. (“We don’t need Muslims,” Mr. Taylor urged recipients of the calls. “We need smart, well-educated white people who will assimilate to our culture. Vote Trump.”) {snip}

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Mr. Taylor, who has written that blacks “left entirely to their own devices” are incapable of civilization, and whose magazine, American Renaissance, once published an essay arguing that blacks were genetically more prone to crime, wrote on his blog that Mr. Trump had handled the attacks on him “in the nicest way.”

Like others in his world, Mr. Taylor does not know if Mr. Trump agrees with him on everything. In an interview, he suggested that it did not really matter, and that Mr. Trump was expressing the discomfort many white people felt about other races.

“Ordinary white people don’t want the neighborhood to turn Mexican,” Mr. Taylor said, adding, “They just realize that large numbers of Mexicans will change the neighborhood in ways they don’t like.”

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{snip} When Little Bird, a social media data mining company, analyzed a week of Mr. Trump’s Twitter activity, it found that almost 30 percent of the accounts Mr. Trump retweeted in turn followed one or more of 50 popular self-identified white nationalist accounts.

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