An ambitious effort to provide leadership to the fractured white supremacist right is taking shape in California
For years now, white nationalists have been adrift. William Pierce, founder of the National Alliance, the major neo-Nazi organization of its time, died in 2002. David Lane died in prison in 2007, where he was serving a 190-year sentence for his role in the murder of Denver radio talk show host Alan Berg while Lane was a member of The Order, a racist, domestic terrorist group. Former Klan boss David Duke lives on, but his commitment to the movement was sullied after he went to prison in 2002 for spending donations for racist causes for his personal benefit. Duke spends much of his time nowadays in Europe, selling his books and photographs.
Now, Los Angeles lawyer William Daniel Johnson — joined by California psychology professor Kevin MacDonald, whose anti-Semitic writings have become as important to the neo-Nazi movement as Hitler's Mein Kampf — is attempting to fill the white supremacist void with the formation of a fledgling political party, the American Third Position or A3P, with the aim of uniting disaffected racists. Its stated mission: to "represent the political interests of White Americans." Its method: to eventually run white nationalist candidates for offices in every state.
Johnson, 55, is not a big name in white nationalist circles. But the wealthy international corporate attorney has been a racist activist for 30 years and sought elective offices in three states. Most recently, in 2008, he was a judicial candidate in Los Angeles County. Johnson is a soft-spoken, earnest and unimposing man who has supported repatriating blacks to Africa and has been cozy with Klansmen and neo-Nazi skinheads. He has deep pockets and a willingness to spend wads of his own money on his quixotic campaigns. Most important, Johnson — who did not respond to voicemail and E-mail requests seeking comment for this story — has lined up some leading luminaries from the racist right to help guide the A3P.
William Daniel Johnson is a mild-mannered and unimposing white supremacist, but he has assembled a team of movement heavyweights.
The A3P could easily fall as flat as most of Johnson's projects. But it is appearing at a time when the radical right is growing rapidly across the country even as there is an obvious dearth of capable leadership. It seems possible that the A3P could continue to grow and start to unite the fractured racist scene.
In a four-minute introductory video on the A3P website — featuring an image of famed racist aviator Charles Lindbergh, who fretted about the need to "preserve our inheritance of European blood" — Johnson recites passages from a couple of 17th century poems and explains that the A3P embraces principles "that will secure the existence of our people and a future for our children." That's a restatement of David Lane's "14 Words," which remain a mantra for white nationalists: "We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children."
"This forced multiculturalism is seeking to destroy the living soil in which all people have their roots, their identity, their being," Johnson says in the video, a banner with the phrase "for race & nation" behind him. "The American Third Position rejects any and all attempts to impose this unnatural conformity onto mankind, whether it be advanced by slick propaganda or at the point of a gun. The Third Position insists that it is both healthy and divinely ordained that people should have a genuine love and preference for their own kind."
Johnson —who heads a four-lawyer firm in Los Angeles, where he says he represents Japanese corporations in international business deals — is finding people who agree. Two-and-a-half months after its start-up, the A3P had 488 Facebook "friends," including Harold Covington, John de Nugent and Richard Spencer. Covington is a longtime neo-Nazi; de Nugent is a frequent contributor to anti-Semitic and racist online forums; and Spencer speaks at and writes for white nationalist venues and edits a new online magazine called Alternative Right.
Four months after its formation, the A3P showed 792 people who liked its message. At the same time, the neophyte party was trumpeting a report by a Web information company showing that its website received more U.S. traffic than that of any other political party in the nation, including the GOP and the Democrats. The A3P "has grown … into a national network of growingly-sophisticated political activists," its website boasted.
A Team is Assembled
The A3P is the successor to the short-lived Golden State Party, which was affiliated with a Southern California racist skinhead group called Freedom 14. The Golden State Party notified California authorities last year that it would try to qualify as a political party for 2010. But after The Orange County Register revealed that its 26-year-old chairman was a felon with a penchant for using aliases, the party vanished, only to reemerge in somewhat altered form as the A3P.
The A3P project began to take shape last October, when Johnson met with a group including MacDonald, who is a psychology professor at California State University, Long Beach, to discuss the idea. It was officially launched this January, with Johnson serving as chairman and MacDonald as director. It wasn't long after that that Johnson notified California officials of the party's plan to gain ballot access by registering the required 88,991 voters. This March, Johnson and MacDonald attended an event sponsored by the Institute for Historical Review, a Holocaust denial group. They met later in the month with several party supporters at Johnson's ranch in suburban Los Angeles to map out the party's future.
For MacDonald, joining the A3P finalized a transition from being the academic author of an anti-Semitic trilogy of books — books that essentially argued that Jews are genetically driven to destroy Western societies and that anti-Semitism is a logical response to Jewish success — to becoming a hands-on racist activist. In addition to joining the A3P last year, MacDonald started up an online magazine, The Occidental Observer, to cover "themes of white identity, white interests, and the culture of the West." MacDonald's website celebrates the crude pro-Klan film "The Birth of a Nation," defends the rank anti-Semitism of automaker Henry Ford, and rails on about white victims of black criminality.
"It's obvious we need a third party to represent White interests," MacDonald wrote on the A3P site. "The major problem is to overcome the stigma attached to anyone who explicitly advocates White interests."
Johnson and MacDonald aren't the A3P's only notable racists. Recent additions to its board of directors include James Edwards, the Tennessee-based host of the racist radio program "The Political Cesspool," and Tomislav Sunic, a Croatian author and frequent guest speaker at racist and anti-Semitic events.
Even more recently, Don Wassall joined the A3P board. He was director of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens chapters in Pennsylvania and Nevada, and is the longtime publisher of a monthly white nationalist newspaper. He also directed the Populist Party presidential campaigns of 1988 and 1992. The Populist Party candidate in 1988 was neo-Nazi David Duke, while the party's 1992 candidate was Bo Gritz, a decorated Vietnam vet known for his associations with leading white supremacists and antigovernment conspiracy theorists.
Yet another influential member of the party's inner circle is Jamie Kelso, a one-time aide to David Duke and a former member of the neo-Nazi National Alliance. After joining Stormfront.org — the leading white supremacist Web forum in the world — in 2002, Kelso became a moderator on the site and successfully pushed leading radical-right movement writers to start posting there. He now describes himself as Johnson's "executive assistant."
Today, the A3P hopes to get on as many other states' ballots as possible, with Florida being a particular target. If successful in California and Florida, its leaders say that as many as one in six Americans would have the opportunity to register as A3P voters. In February, Johnson told Edwards' radio audience hopefully: "Rank-and-file America is becoming less and less timid with regard to the issues of race and they're more and more concerned with it. As they become more aware, there is only one place for them to turn, and that is to our party."
Pace and Race
William Johnson's history as a racist activist goes back at least a quarter of a century. But he started out on a more normal path, graduating from Brigham Young University, where he majored in Japanese. Later, he went to Harvard Law School before transferring to Columbia, where he earned his law degree in 1981. He took jobs at law firms in Tokyo and, subsequently, in Seoul, South Korea.
By 1985, Johnson was back in the United States, where, using the pseudonym of James O. Pace, he wrote a 179-page paperback, Amendment to the Constitution: Averting the Decline and Fall of America. In it, he proposed the repeal of the 14th and 15th Amendments. The 14th Amendment provides that everybody born in the United States (including ex-slaves) is a citizen, and that all citizens are entitled to equal protection under the law. The 15th Amendment prohibits denying the right to vote based on race.
Johnson advocated amending the Constitution to limit U.S. citizenship to non-Hispanic whites "in whom there is no ascertainable trace of Negro blood, nor more than one-eighth Mongolian, Asian, Asia Minor, Middle Eastern, Semitic, Near Eastern, American Indian, Malay or other non-European or non-white blood." The millions of non-whites who weren't bona fide citizens would be deported to their homelands and provided with financial assistance.
(Johnson was hardly the first to propose such a scheme. Vitriolic racist bomber J.B. Stoner and his Stoner Anti-Jewish Party proposed in 1946 that blacks should be resettled in Africa and "Orientals should be re-settled in the Orient." On another occasion, Stoner — who, like Johnson, was a lawyer — advocated giving every black American a Cadillac in return for relocating to Africa.)
Among those praising the Pace book in dust-cover comments were pastors Richard Butler and Dan Gayman. Butler, now dead, established the Aryan Nations compound in northern Idaho and sought a whites-only homeland in the Northwest. Gayman is the pastor of the Missouri-based Church of Israel and an adherent of Christian Identity, an anti-Semitic theology. Gayman and Butler both received money from The Order, which carried out several armored car robberies.
Johnson, using the name Daniel Johnson, formed the League of Pace Amendment Advocates in Glendale, Calif., and served as its spokesman while initially denying that he was Pace. In 1986, he promoted the amendment at Butler's Aryan Nations World Congress, an annual gathering of leading neo-Nazis, racist skinheads and other white supremacists on Butler's Idaho compound.
Over the next three years, Johnson made speeches and mailed his book to state legislators. On at least two occasions, demonstrators brawled at venues where he was going to speak in Glendale. A 1988 speaking appearance at a hotel in Missoula, Mont., was canceled after University of Montana students raised objections. Tired of his difficulties in Glendale, Johnson explored moving his organization to Helena, Mont., but city officials there made it clear that he wasn't welcome.
Vying for Votes
Instead, Johnson moved in 1989 to Casper, Wyo., where in just 10 days he had collected the signatures of 479 registered voters that he needed to get on the ballot in a special election for the Congressional seat of Dick Cheney, who had been nominated as secretary of defense by President George H.W. Bush. "Whites don't have a future here in this country, and that is … one of many issues that I am addressing," Johnson told The Associated Press in a rare interview. His campaign manager was a 19-year-old Klansman named John Abarr, who later told a reporter that the Klan is "basically a civil rights organization that stands up for the rights of white people." He had similar insights into the Holocaust. "I'm not saying Germany was a paradise for Jews, but there wasn't any plan to exterminate 6 million Jews."
In the end, Johnson got well under 1% of the vote.
Rejected by Wyoming voters, Johnson returned to Glendale, Calif. Two weeks later, a bomb went off in the building housing Pace Amendment offices.
For almost the next two decades, Johnson was relatively quiet. In 1992, he made the news briefly after being scheduled to give the invocation at a Los Angeles conference of black and white nationalists and Holocaust deniers. That same year, Johnson printed 3,000 copies of a paperback titled Establishing African Homelands for Black Americans. It was endorsed by "James O. Pace" (that is, Johnson), Robert Brock and Kirk Lyons. Brock, who organized the earlier L.A. conference, was a Holocaust-denying black nationalist who wanted a homeland and reparations for blacks. Lyons is a longtime white supremacist lawyer.
Then, in 2006, Johnson showed up in Arizona, filing a ballot-qualifying petition with 1,431 registered voters to become a candidate in a Democratic primary for the 8th Congressional District seat. Federal Election Commission documents show that Johnson paid Russ Dove, an anti-immigration zealot with a felony conviction for attempted grand theft, more than $15,000 for "gathering signatures" and "consulting." Johnson billed himself as "a traditional Democrat taking a stand for ‘the republic.'" But he was an invisible candidate, with a campaign that provided virtually no information on his views to the public. He finished fifth, getting 2.9% of the vote despite spending more than $133,000 of his own money, or more than $75 per vote received.
Johnson returned to California, where in 2007 he hosted a $2,000-a-plate fundraiser at his ranch for U.S. Rep. Ron Paul's presidential campaign. Records show that Johnson's wife, Lois, contributed $2,300 to the Texas Republican. (A year later, she gave $1,500 to Proposition 8, the anti-gay marriage measure called the California Marriage Protection Act.) In March 2008, he announced on his website that he was going to run in the June primary for Los Angeles County Superior Court judge — as Bill Johnson, rather than Daniel Johnson as in earlier campaigns.
Once again, Johnson was a stealth candidate, even declining to respond to a questionnaire or provide information to the Los Angeles County Bar Association. But the Metropolitan News-Enterprise, a Los Angeles newspaper that covers law and the courts in detail, wrote a long article about Johnson's background, including his role in promoting the racist Pace movement. Paul then retracted an earlier endorsement of Johnson, and the bar association rated Johnson "Not Qualified" to be a judge. Johnson went on to lose another election, getting 26% of the vote.
Whither the A3P?
Only 16 months later, Johnson publicly returned to politics, this time as architect of the A3P. Since its official launch in January, the party's website has kept members apprised in often breathless prose of its "outreach efforts," in which young men hand out leaflets and brochures. A fundraiser that pulled in $700 in one day showed there is "a growing rage at the dispossession of the founding people of America," MacDonald proclaimed on the party's website.
Six weeks after its launch, A3P said it had 65 members, had printed 13,000 pieces of literature and had raised several thousand dollars. It was preparing to run ads on Liberty News Radio, which carries Edwards' "Political Cesspool." A3P also has run numerous banner ads on Stormfront.org.
The A3P has created position papers on subjects such as immigration, crime and the environment, though many of its statements are simplistic platitudes. The four-paragraph treatise on the environment, for example, states: "We will enforce laws designed to protect our environment from both businesses and individuals. The A3P is committed to a beautiful, clean and healthy America." The party's two-paragraph position on space declares, "The A3P will restore America to its former glory." The complex subject of foreign aid merits three paragraphs.
Immigration, however, gets 16 paragraphs. Among other things, the A3P implies that undocumented immigrants in federal prisons are violent, failing to mention that most of them are serving time for immigration and other nonviolent offenses.
Johnson hopes to find people who agree with these positions to serve as A3P leaders in every state. Initially, however, the goal is try to qualify as a political party in states with the easiest regulations, such as Florida, Johnson said on "Political Cesspool." He added that he hopes to have A3P candidates running in each of Florida's 25 congressional districts, even if they don't live in the Sunshine State. That's theoretically possible because the Constitution only requires that a candidate for the U.S. House or Senate "when elected, be an inhabitant of the state."
And Johnson recently disclosed that he plans to contribute a "generous sum" to establish a nonprofit offshoot of A3P that would steer clear of being a political organization. He said the A3P also will create a political action committee (or PAC) to organize, finance and manage the political campaigns of white nationalists running under various party affiliations. "These candidates will use the mainstream parties as vehicles to challenge the mainstream parties," the A3P website says.
Is William Johnson's new political effort — the latest in three decades of essentially fruitless racist activism — significant? Longtime racist icon Tom Metzger, who heads the neo-Nazi White Aryan Resistance from his home in Warsaw, Ind., is skeptical. "Every right wing thing he has tried has failed," he wrote in January. "Anything new he has started will most likely fail."
But to hear Johnson tell it on "Political Cesspool," A3P is positioned to grow. "Our positions are reasonable and moral and everybody can understand them and accept them," he said. Be that as it may, the reality is that Johnson has assembled a team of veteran white supremacist organizers and propagandists and seems to be bringing in still more. He has money. And he is catering to a growing American rage that could bring him some of the first political victories he has known.