Midterm elections in Trump era bring high engagement from racists, extremists
When Donald Trump ran for president in 2016, racists, neo-Nazis and alt-right extremists embraced his candidacy with enthusiasm.
That election marked a shift because radical right extremists, for years largely confined to the fringes of the political conversation, saw their interests represented in the mainstream. But their energy is not confined to Trump, as a variety of hate groups and extremists fervently followed midterm races around the country.
The neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website, multiple figures in the racist “alt-right” and Richard Spencer’s National Policy Institute (which had been quiet for months), live-blogged the elections, offered commentary and encouraged their followers to participate.
“You can take it to the bank: American elections are now a race war. It is us against the brown hordes,” Andrew Anglin wrote Wednesday on the Daily Stormer.
Nicholas J. Fuentes, a YouTube personality who attended the deadly “Unite the Right” rally in 2017, also live-tweeted election results, praising Trump and criticizing national Republican leaders.
“Hopefully this will be a wake up call for the GOP and most importantly Trump that the Heritage agenda just won’t win elections anymore. We have to fully embrace populist-nationalism or we’ll fail,” Fuentes tweeted Tuesday night.
Some extremists took their message offline and onto the campaign trail, becoming candidates themselves. Outspoken neo-Nazi Art Jones ran as a Republican and lost his bid for a Chicago-area seat in a reliably blue district, although he pulled in 55,000 votes. Russell Walker, a Republican state House candidate in North Carolina who said, “God is a racist” and Jewish people “all descend from Satan,” got 8,500 votes.
Other candidates with experience courting the political mainstream fueled their campaigns with hateful rhetoric. U.S. Rep. Steve King, a Republican incumbent from Iowa who has expressed neo-Nazi and racist sympathies, won re-election.
But Corey Stewart, the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate in Virginia who has sympathized with neo-Confederate causes, failed to unseat Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine. Virulent nativist and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach was also cleared from the field, losing the Kansas governor's race.
The candidates took part in an unusually ugly election season that saw Trump toss coded racial insults on Twitter, like referring to Florida’s Democratic nominee Andrew Gillum as a “thief” without offering anything to back it up. Florida’s governor-elect Ron DeSantis didn’t even bother with codes when he told voters they would “monkey this up” if they elected his opponent Gillum, who is black.
The tight contests in Georgia and Florida, where African Americans were the Democratic nominees in both states, caught the attention of League of the South chief Michael Hill.
Hill tweeted Tuesday that “two negro Communists” were running, along with “numerous socialists/communists.”
“If you choose not to vote for national candidates in today’s elections (e.g. Senate, House of Representatives), please at least vote in your local and Statewide races,” Hill wrote.
In the past, the League of the South has steered members away from congressional and Senate races, as those elected would have little impact on the Southern Secessionist movement.
Instead, Hill and other white nationalists have focused on local races, where a smaller number of voters and elected officials can push their cause more effectively and with less widespread attention.
Voters in Georgia were also targeted by racist robocalls from Idaho white supremacist Scott D. Rhodes, who has made similar calls to Virginia and Florida. The calls came from Rhodes’ neo-Nazi propaganda operation, Road to Power. They featured a voice identifying itself as “Oprah Winfrey” and asked voters to elect “my fellow negress” — Abrams — governor.
Florida voters got similar calls about Gillum earlier in the election cycle.
Late in the race, Trump’s campaign pushed the envelope too far with an offensive campaign ad.
CNN rejected the racially charged ad, that portrayed migrants seeking asylum as murderers and criminals. It spliced footage of migrants walking toward the U.S. southern border with video featuring a man who killed a police officer saying he wanted to kill more.
While CNN refused to air the ad, NBC and Fox News both ran it on their networks. After a backlash, NBC, Fox News and Fox Business all pulled the ad.
But Trump tweeted the ad, a move that drew praise from former Ku Klux Klan leader and career antisemite and racist David Duke.
“Go Trump Go!” Duke tweeted Nov. 2. “Your Midterm Ad is a masterpiece personifying the insanity of our immigration Policy. Bravo Trump!”
On Tuesday, Duke took part in a live election night podcast.
Now, with the election over, the alt-right, neo-Nazis and assorted racists who became engaged by the midterm elections are looking to keep that enthusiasm going.
And they are lobbying for personnel changes in the Trump team.
From Anglin at the Daily Stormer to provocateur Ann Coulter to Fuentes, alt-righters, neo-Nazis and the far right want Trump to tap Kobach for his administration.
“He is a solid, solid guy, and I think it is better he be in the administration instead of governor of an irrelevant state like Kansas, where no people even live,” Anglin wrote Tuesday morning.
Spencer’s National Policy Institute, a white nationalist hate group, is already taking aim at potential 2020 Democratic candidates. In a non-bylined essay posted Tuesday evening, NPI predicted California Sen. Kamala Harris will be the Democratic nominee to take on Trump.
“That all red-blooded American men will recoil in horror at the prospect of a President Harris will be a feature, not a bug, of her appeal during the primary process,” the essay says.
It looks like the movement Trump energized will be involved on the national political scene for a while.
Photo by Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images