The Awakening

Why white nationalists are thrilled with Obama's victory

David McNew/Getty Images
David McNew/Getty Images

The politics of race moved from the fringes to the front page last week in the wake of Mitt Romney’s eggshell exit poll results — whites made up a remarkable 88 percent of his votes, versus 56 percent of the president’s. The New York Times dissected the Republican Party’s demographics problem, and Fox News pundit Bill O’Reilly bluntly bemoaned the end of "traditional America" and "the white establishment." And, well outside the mainstream media, a deafening clatter arose across the land in the furious keystrokes of America’s white nationalists.

Unsurprisingly, the re-election of Barack Obama reverberated across the spectrum of far-right extremism in the United States, where most see the president as an enemy of the Constitution who is planning to confiscate their guns during his second term. But while many vented anger and fear, some ideologically motivated racists saw a silver lining and — detecting an opportunity — reached out.

Just before the election, Gregory Hood, a prolific online writer with a single-minded focus on whiteness, wrote that Romney had to lose in order to make white Americans understand that they have lost control of the country. When his wish was fulfilled, he wasted little time taking advantage. The resulting essay, "A White Nationalist Memo to White Male Republicans," was cross-posted on several extremist websites and forums.

You worked your butt off at your church, your charity group, your neighbors. It was undone by some Somalis who can’t speak English that the Democrats bussed in and told to vote "Brown all the way down," and they weren’t just referring to the Democratic candidate’s name….

Do you get it yet? America, your America, is finished. But you don’t have to be. It’s time to fight for what comes next. It’s time to fight for a country of our own.

It’s time to stop being Americans. It’s time to start being White Men again.

Kevin MacDonald, a professor of psychology whose anti-Semitic writings make him a favorite of Neo-Nazis, penned a pro-secession piece for a prominent white identity site, The Occidental Observer, that might finally get him fired from California State University, where he inexplicably still works.

White males constituted only 34% of the electorate and this will continue to decline. It’s no accident that stocks of gun companies soared after the election, even though the stock market as a whole took a dive. What we have here is a situation in which around 70% of traditional American White men (correcting for the overly inclusive White’ category used by the media) are now pretty much officially disenfranchised in a country where they see themselves as the founding population. That’s a lot of angry White men….

It may take a while for this 70% to wake up to the reality that they are politically impotent. But it will happen. Separatist movements in the many states that are deeply red are certainly a possibility. … Is there any other realistic alternative? Apart from futile violence against the Leviathan, do White men really have any other choice?

The concept of a wake-up call articulated by MacDonald was widely echoed in posts on white nationalist blogs and forums. Some thought it would come sooner, others thought it might come later, but many agreed the writing was on the wall.

In the "later" camp was Adrian Krieg, a member of the board of directors for the American Third Position, a white nationalist political party whose presidential candidate got on the ballot in Colorado, Tennessee, and New Jersey. In an article headlined "It’s Over!" Krieg wrote:

In the end, the reelected president is not the problem, whatever policies he makes can be undone by a new administration. The problem is that the Sheeple have changed, the demographics have changed, and the attitude of the electorate has differed. This is no longer my country, or that of my parents [sic] it is a new paradigm, with which I am unfamiliar. America has turned brown, and socialist, blaming the medium is counterproductive, it is the ghost who is the problem. It is an uneducated, lazy, and stupid electorate that is to blame, along with the government education that produced it, and that is a problem to which I have no immediate solution, because it is not until we reach "Rock Bottom" suffer cold and hunger that we shall see CHANGE!

John Derbyshire, the latest darling of the white nationalist blogging set after his high-profile sacking by National Review, laid out his take on the election in a podcast:

When you look at the overall picture, however, we are still fighting the Civil War. That is to say, the contest was mainly between two huge groups of white people who don’t much like each other, with the colored folk playing a marginal role. That’s how it was in the War Between the States, and that’s how it still is today.

He went on to suggest whites will ultimately have no choice but to unite as a race-based voting bloc. The current problem, Derbyshire explained, was that "Republicans are white, sure enough, but whites are not Republican."

Since 2008, and even more visibly in 2012, white nationalist extremists have been nipping at the heels of the Republican Party, trying with little success to exploit a wave of extravagant hostility toward Obama and siphon off recruits and sympathizers from people at the fringes of the party who feel disenfranchised.

The election’s demographic results have opened a frank and difficult discussion of race in American electoral politics, which may already be creating fracture lines in the GOP. Some party leaders are already calling for more inclusiveness, while others are spoiling for a fight. This debate itself will leave some traditional Republican voters feeling disconnected and disgruntled. Its outcome could create still more discontent.

White nationalist leaders will probably see this as a chance — very possibly their last — to make a case to mainstream Americans and convert pedestrian, non-obsessed racists into ideological, single-issue racists. In recent years, the movement’s center of gravity has begun to shift toward "race realism," an effort to repackage white nationalist ideas in a less overtly repugnant form. Such outlets — including VDARE and Jared Taylor’s American Renaissance — have been busy preaching to Republicans throughout Obama’s first term. If they have any chance of really succeeding, the moment is now. 

That will no doubt be an ugly show, but its epilogue could be worse. Ideological racism is a movement in decline — splintered and divided, financially and intellectually bankrupt, and widely reviled. When the door finally, definitively closes on white nationalism’s fading dream of political relevance, the committed few who remain with the movement will see few options remaining but violence, perhaps recalling the Klan’s last ditch efforts to stop the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s.

Despite the demographic window, white nationalists may reach that conclusion sooner than later. After all, they did have a horse in this race — Merlin Miller, the American Third Position candidate. He received 2,833 votes, not counting write-ins — just 0.0046 percent of the number of votes cast for Obama and just 6 percent of the votes cast for David Duke in his 1988 presidential bid. A mandate, this is not.

J.M. Berger is co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror and a nonresident fellow at the Brookings Institution.