Ever since the violent “Unite the Right” rally that rocked Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017, the far-right has been on the defensive.
White supremacists like Richard Spencer have been kicked off web pages and fundraising sites, while others, such as the “Crying Nazi” Chris Cantwell, have infuriated their followers by cooperating with law enforcement. Anti-fascists continue to regularly doxx members of groups like the Proud Boys, which makes any sort of overt far-right organizing an increasingly fraught endeavor.
One group, however, responded to the increased scrutiny by hiding its overt far-right sympathies and attempting to rebrand itself as a GOP-friendly organization — actively encouraging its members to join local chapters of the Republican Party.
“Identity Evropa leadership *strongly* encourages our members to get involved in local politics,” the group’s leader, Patrick Casey, wrote in November 2017 message, obtained by the autonomous media collective Unicorn Riot. “The GOP is essentially the White man’s party at this point… so it makes far more sense for us to subvert it than to create our own party.”
Identity Evropa purports to be a group of “European-Americans seeking to restore America” by protesting against globalization and mass immigration. The group was formed in 2016 by Nathan Damigo, a former Marine, who experienced a “racial awakening” after reading David Duke’s autobiography in prison.
Since then, the group has been an active in the far-right sphere, helping to plan the “Unite the Right” rally and regularly launching flyering campaigns with slogans like “Protect your heritage” and “Serve your people.” The Southern Poverty Law Center has designated Identity Evropa as a hate group.
Despite its relatively young age, Identity Evropa has experienced a fair amount of internal turmoil. Damigo quit as the group’s leader soon after the Charlottesville rally and is currently filing for bankruptcy in order to protect himself from a lawsuit against the rally organizers. Elliot Kline, otherwise known as Eli Mosley, took over as the group’s leader, but he stepped down just a few months later. Not long after his resignation, The New York Times revealed that Kline had lied about his military service.
In response to the Unite the Right fallout, Casey, the group’s current leader, has attempted to fashion Identity Evropa into a more outwardly respectable group. Last November, he did an interview with The Today Show, during which he claimed that his group was not racist, merely “identitarian” — a reference to a European far-right movement.
Now, however, newly leaked chat logs obtained by Unicorn Riot reveal that Casey doesn’t just want to present a clean-cut version of Identity Evropa to the world; he actively wants its members to get involved with the Republican Party.
“If we’re going to win this, it’s going to take time, effort and sacrifice,” Casey told fellow members. “If you’re unable to do activism for various reasons, I’d like to encourage you to join your local Republican party. Present as a Trump supporter/nationalist. No need to broadcast your radical views.”
“White Trump supporters/civic nationalists are fertile ground for recruiting,” Casey said in an October 2017 message. “They’re our main targets. They just need a push, so it’s prudent for us to remain active within their spheres.”
This isn’t the first indication Identity Evropa was working to wiggle its way into Republican Party politics. In June 2018, the Daily Beast reported that James Allsup, an Identity Evropa member who was present at the Unite the Right rally, was elected as a precinct committee officer for the Republican Party in Whitman County, Washington. White nationalists were thrilled with the result, and saw it as an important new strategic shift.
“[Ten thousand] of us can be James Allsup,” one white nationalist podcaster noted last year. “You might not be the guy who swings the nation or who swings the Overton window. But if there’s 10,000 of us or 1,000 of us, the cumulative effect of all those little influences can really change things.”
In January 2019, the Whitman County Republican Committee finally voted to remove Allsup from office, seven months after his white nationalist ties were first revealed.
Last weekend, Casey further tried to cement Identity Evropa’s Republican ties by making an appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC). He was denied entrance into the conference, however, and proceeded to launch into a diatribe on Twitter about how CPAC was full of fake conservatives. Casey then announced he was organizing his own conference at an undisclosed location within the Gaylord Resort in National Harbor, Maryland.
The leaked chat logs show Identity Evropa members were full of praise for the more hard line elements of the Republican Party, chiefly Rep. Steve King (R-IA). King has a long and storied history of re-tweeting far-right personalities and espousing white nationalist views; most recently, King drew widespread criticism for asking when the term “white nationalist” became offensive during an interview with the New York Times in January.
As HuffPost notes, during the fallout from King’s remarks to the Times, Casey encouraged Identity Evropa members to call House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and voice their support for the congressman. In the run-up to King’s reelection, Identity Evropa members encouraged each other to donate to King’s campaign.
The leaked chats also include plenty of discussion about how best to infiltrate college Republican groups and mold them in Identity Evropa’s image, as Splinter noted. “I’m an officer in my college republicans,” one Identity Evropa member wrote in September 2018. “I’m sure many other IE members are. It’s easy to infiltrate low level GOP stuff if you just show up.”
Predictably, and perhaps most worryingly, the chat logs show that, behind Identity Evropa’s attempted rebranding, the same level of racism and anti-Semitism remains. Members of the group regularly linked to the neo-Nazi website the Daily Stormer, and posted memes defending Charlottesville attacker James Alex Fields and racist mass-murderer Dylann Roof. Casey also admitted that no Jews were allowed in Identity Evropa and that “we screen for this during the interview process.”
All of this despite Identity Evropa’s self-professed “rule on extremism” which states that “extremist ideologies go against Identity Evropa’s core values as an organization for normal, well-adjusted people of European heritage.”
When ThinkProgress reached out to Casey for further comment on the leaks, Casey replied, “Go fuck yourself.”