Jared Taylor hits play, and the first Donald Trump ad of the general election unfolds across his breakfast table. Syrian refugees streaming across a border. Hordes of immigrants, crowded onto trains.
“Donald Trump’s America is secure,” rumbles a narrator. “Terrorists and dangerous criminals kept out. The border, secure; our families, safe.”
Taylor, one of America’s foremost “racialists,” is impressed and relieved. “That’s a powerful appeal,” he said. “If he can just stick to that, he is in very good shape.”
From his Fairfax County home, Taylor has edited the white nationalist magazine American Renaissance and organized racialist conferences under the “AmRen” banner. He said that Trump should “concentrate on his natural constituency, which is white people,” suggesting that winning 65 percent of the white vote would overwhelm any Democratic gains with minorities.
When Trump made Breitbart News CEO Steve Bannon his campaign’s chief executive last week, Taylor found reasons to celebrate. It was the latest sign for white nationalists, once dismissed as fringe, that their worldview was gaining popularity and that the old Republican Party was coming to an end.
The rise of the alt-right–named for the Alternative Right website that the “identitarian” nationalist Richard Spencer set up in 2010 and adopted by those opposed to multiculturalism and mass immigration–has come to define how many of its adherents see Trump. There’s less talk now about a “pivot,” or a moment when Trump will adopt the ideas of people that he conquered. His strategy now resembles the alt-right dream of maximizing the white vote–even as polling shows his standing with white voters falls short of Mitt Romney’s in 2012.
Kurt Bardella, who handled Breitbart’s public relations until the spring, said that Bannon’s staff meetings were roiled by discussions of Islam and mass immigration.
“It was stuff like ‘these people don’t belong here, they’re overrunning our country,’ ” he said. “That kind of white nationalist sentiment.”
Trump, who has frequently linked or retweeted white nationalists and decried them only under pressure, gave frequent interviews to Breitbart. Already supportive of the Trump campaign, people like Taylor see Bannon’s move and the change in Trump’s tone as validation.
“Imagine a media that was more Breitbart than New York Times,” Taylor said. “Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown have been even more important than Trump, in one respect. They are the people who make whites realize that what the media have been telling them about race relations is simply wrong.”
The alt-right was decidedly not boring. Its arguments about what a winning, identity-based politics might look like were embraced by readers. Its writers embraced the torrent of jokes and memes from the alt-right, which portrayed Trump as a sort of trickster god and establishment Republicans as low-energy “cucks”–the derogatory name referencing cuckolding and given to anyone seen to be selling out to liberals.
Trump’s new message–the combination of immigration restriction and the appeal to black voters–was no contradiction. Last year, in a November interview with Bannon, Trump regretted the loss of a worker who took his skills back to his native India.
“We’ve got to be able to keep great people in the country,” Trump said. “We have to be careful of that, Steve. I think you agree with that, Steve?”
Bannon did not. “A country is more than an economy,” he retorted. “We are a civic society.”