Americans should be concerned about “daring” actions by white supremacists inspired by the “bile” of President Donald Trump’s rhetoric and the Civil War brewing in the Republican Party, according to two experts on white supremacism.
British scholars Clive Webb and Robert Cook, of the University of Sussex, sounded the alarm about the “resurgent” neo-Nazi movement in the latest episode of the university’s Trump Watch podcast.
“The far-right is resurgent … with a president that espouses demagoguery and bile,” said Webb, a historian of white supremacist movements. “That can only serve to energize the far right … making it more daring in its actions.”
This rise of white supremacist movements comes as a “war for the soul of the Republican Party” is brewing in the GOP, added Cook, an expert in the Civil War.
“In the months to come, we will see Trump siding with the opponents of the Republican mainstream and white supremacist rhetoric will undoubtedly play a very, very important role in those efforts on the part of the president,” Cook said. “The president of the United States is giving at least implicit sanction to the conduct of people who should be far beyond the political pale.”
Early this month, Trump’s former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, who has returned to head Breitbart news, said he is targeting at least 15 establishment Republicans to replace them in the 2018 primaries with hard-right candidates who are loyal to Trump.
It all comes as the alt-right is on the march and emboldened. One peaceful counter-protester was killed at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August by a car police said was driven by a white supremacist.
Former KKK leader David Duke said he was at the rally to “fulfill the promise of Donald Trump.” During his 2016 campaign, Trump promised to crack down on illegal immigration and expel Muslims from the U.S.
Trump’s equivocation in condemning the white supremacists drew condemnation from both Republicans and Democrats. The president blamed “both sides” for the violence — a comment that was praised by white supremacists.
With Trump in the White House, it “is an alarming situation in terms of how daring the actions of the far-right will become in the years immediately ahead,” Webb said.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups in the U.S., calculates there are roughly 900 hate groups operating in America today. The group’s research shows hate groups grew 17 percent from 784 in 2014 to 917 in 2016. And attacks against Muslims are up dramatically since Trump became a candidate in 2015.
These groups, said Webb, are gaining more influence, not only through Trump, but “through the power of social media” and hard-right media outlets like Breitbart.
In the meantime, elected officials try to douse the flames. Florida’s Governor Rick Scott declared a state of emergency in advance of white nationalist Richard Spencer’s talk at the University of Florida this Thursday. The move will put extra police and emergency services at the ready in case violence breaks out.
Spencer was one of the organizers of the Charlottesville rally.