Last weekend, havoc reigned in Sacramento as 30 white nationalists clashed with hundreds of anti-fascists during a protest. At least ten people were injured in the brawl, two of them critically. The white nationalist Traditionalist Worker Party, the group that organized the protest, doesn’t seem fazed by the violence — they appear emboldened. They’ve since promised to go to the Republican National Convention to “make sure that Donald Trump supporters are defended.”
This isn’t an isolated incident. According to experts, white supremacy has experienced a renaissance in the last two years, reaching levels of popularity and influence not seen since the late-1960s. What does the new face of white supremacy in America look like? Meet Matthew Heimbach, the founder of the Traditionalist Worker Party.
Heimbach, 25, has either personally worked with or has connections to almost a dozen white supremacist organizations. Dubbed “The Little Führer” by the SPLC and the “next David Duke” by the Washington Post, he describes himself as “self-radicalized”. He’s the sort of man who quotes infamous Nazi doctor Joseph Goebbels on Twitter, and he’s been banned from the U.K. and excommunicated from the Orthodox Christian Church for his inflammatory rhetoric. He’s gained media attention for violently shoving a protester at a Donald Trump rally and attacking a participant with a cross at an anti-rape “Slut Walk.” Now, he’s focusing on the development of a political party to build support for the rising white nationalist movement.
The White Student Union
When he was in high school, Heimbach encountered the writings of neo-conservative Pat Buchanan and has relied on his writings for insight ever since. This is the Buchanan who called the “aging, dying, disappearing” of people of European descent “the existential crisis of the West” and said that the “rise of egalitarian society means the death of free society.” Lately, Heimbach’s also been taken with Corneliu Codreanu, a far-right Romanian politician from the 20th century. Codreanu was — like Heimbach today — deeply anti-Semitic.
Inspired by these thinkers, Heimbach’s own philosophy relies on racial realism. Racial realism claims that different races are inherently distinct from each other — despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary. He also pulls from the far-right European concept of identitariansim. The premise of identitarianism is that regions should be split up along cultural and ethnic lines. In America, this translates to creating communities based on racial identities; this is why he suggests that cities like Atlanta, which is predominantly black, should become exclusively black.
“I support white power, black power, brown power, and yellow power,” Heimbach has said. “All races should be the dominant political force in their region. That is why America needs to be divided into smaller, ethnically and culturally homogeneous states … We need to stop the hate and separate.”
You might remember Heimbach from his undergraduate years at Towson University, where he founded the controversial White Student Union. “We [Towson students] have black student development, Latino student development, gay student development, student success programs for those who can’t make it, and things for women,” he said. “So one day white people will be on there. We’ll be treated equally with every other single group, hopefully. But demanding equality for white people on campus apparently isn’t very popular.”
It became even less popular when he started a night patrol to target “black predators” who he claimed “prey upon the majority white Towson University student body.”
After he graduated with a degree in history in 2013, he quickly assumed positions as training director with the neo-Confederate League of the South and as the national director of the Traditionalist Youth Network. The TYN encourages young people in high school and college to speak out against “the united voices of decadence, individualism, Marxism, and modernity.”
“The affable, youthful face of hate in America”
In January 2015, Heimbach created the Traditionalist Worker Party, a political arm for the TYN. According to its website, the TWP is “America’s first political party created by and for working families. Our mission is defending faith, family, and folk against the politicians and oligarchs who are running America into the ground.”
The website claims that “European-American identity is under constant attack,” but that they “reject racial supremacism.”
Ryan Lenz, the editor of the SPLC’s Hatewatch blog, calls Heimbach’s bluff.
“Heimbach does this whole gymnastic move where he says, ‘Listen, I’m not a racist, I just love white people. My nationalism comes from a place of love,’” Lenz told ThinkProgress. “To my mind that’s a really convenient way to sidestep concerns, sidestep accusations that what he’s doing is racist. And I’ve told Matt this personally. I said, ‘You know, you can call it love all you want, but it’s hate.’”
How did Heimbach respond?
“He laughed, he chuckled, he said ‘Ryan, you’re just a communist liberal.’”
To my mind that’s a really convenient way to sidestep concerns, sidestep accusations that what he’s doing is racist.
The TWP platform supports strong local government, is anti-abortion and same-sex marriage, and supports “net zero” immigration.
Instead of promoting their own candidates in an untenable presidential campaign, the TWP focuses on running for local offices in small communities — there’s already a candidate affiliated with the TWP running as an Independent for County Commissioner in Knox County this November. Heimbach himself has toyed with the idea of running for state legislature.
He’s looking internationally, too. Heimbach has met with the Greek neo-fascist political party Golden Dawn on multiple occasions, and says he attempted to go to Syria to fight for President Bashar al-Assad, whose regime has committed numerous human rights abuses. Unsurprisingly, Heimbach’s also a big fan of the Brexit, which he calls”the greatest European nationalist victory since 1933″ — during the Nazi party’s rise to power.
Heimbach has built connections with other prominent white nationalist groups in the United States, such as with the Council of Conservative Citizens, the League of the South, and the American Freedom Party.
“He’s the affable, youthful face of hate in America,” Lenz told the Washington Post, “and in many ways, he’s the grand connector between all of these groups.”
Heimbach also recognizes a connection between the TWP and a certain presidential candidate: Donald J. Trump.
The Rebirth of White Supremacy
White supremacism has experienced a renaissance of sorts in the past two years, spurred by Trump’s candidacy and push-back against the Black Lives Matter movement, rising immigration, and increasing income inequality. The SPLC estimates that the U.S. is returning to levels of hatred and anger not seen since 1968. According to their report, the number of radical right hate groups in America increased 14 percent in 2015, including 118 new Klan chapters. These hate groups find support from working-class and middle-class white people, particularly those with less education.
“In general, the concerns of Hispanic and black American voters are often different than those of white voters,” Eduardo Porter wrote in The New York Times. “But the reaction of whites who are struggling economically raises the specter of an outright political war along racial and ethnic lines over the distribution of resources and opportunities.”
Even if Trump doesn’t win the general election, Heimbach believes the candidate heralds a new movement for white nationalists in the United States: Trump “has opened this floodgate that I don’t think can be restrained regardless of what happens in the 2016 elections.”
“You’re scum, your time will come”
“That’s what we’re really seeing: the fires of nationalism, the fires of identity, the fires of anger against the establishment are rising from all around Europe, all around America, all around the entire world,” Heimbach said on Aryan Radio. “… Hail, Emperor Trump and hail victory.”
Trump’s campaign is good news for TWP’s recruitment, since regions where Trump is successful tend to be places where people are more receptive to the party’s message.
Heimbach made the news in March after a video surfaced of him shoving and yelling at a black protester at a Donald Trump rally. An attendee at the rally said Heimbach and other Trump supporters were shouting, “You’re scum, your time will come, you’re scum, your time will come” at the woman, who was a student at the University of Louisville.
Things getting a little heated at the Trump rally pic.twitter.com/X974Ih3tZI
— Carly Price (@CarlyPrice18) March 1, 2016
Following the incident, Heimbach wrote on the Traditionalist Youth Network that “I’ll avoid any additional Trump events to ensure that I don’t become a distraction, but the entire point of the BLM’s [Black Lives Matter’s] tactics is to push people until they push back. It won’t be me next time, but White Americans are getting fed up and they’re learning that they must either push back or be pushed down.”
Rachel Cain is an intern at ThinkProgress.