Donald Trump has built his campaign on the strength of his white-nationalist dog-whistle. He has a habit of retweeting racist and anti-Semitic memes from white-supremacists. His campaign gives radio interviews to explicitly racist media outlets.
Yet while Trump’s comments outraged many — like his claim that a Latino judge couldn’t be impartial — a virulent subculture heard his call and came out swinging. When Trump talks about “heritage” and the criminality of immigrants and people of color, white nationalists hear an endorsement of their core beliefs. Over the past year, they’ve come out in droves: making robocalls, organizing rallies, and raising money. Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke cited Trump as his inspiration to run for Senate.
But until now, Trump has danced around openly embracing the white nationalist alt-right: He’ll retweet their adulation of him and borrow their talking points, but when asked, say the absolute minimum to defuse the controversy. To the white nationalists, Trump’s words are taken as a tacit signal of approval, but it’s one that still leaves Trump some wiggle room to claim ignorance in front of more mainstream audiences.
On Wednesday, Trump named Steven K. Bannon, the executive chairman of the conservative website Breitbart News (known for their drooling Trump coverage), as his new campaign CEO. In doing so, Trump signaled that he’s ready to formally embrace the alt-right and their white nationalist views.
“Under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart openly embraced the white supremacist Alt-Right,” former Breitbart Editor-at-large and currently editor-in-chief of the Daily Wire Ben Shapiro wrote. Shapiro resigned from Breitbart after the site’s leadership ordered its reporters to stop defending former Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields, who was allegedly assaulted by Trump’s then-campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.
Under Brannon, Shapiro writes, “Breitbart has become the alt-right go-to website, with Yiannopoulos pushing white ethno-nationalism as a legitimate response to political correctness, and the comment section turning into a cesspool for white supremacist mememakers.”
“Under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart openly embraced the white supremacist Alt-Right”
Milo Yiannopoulos, whom Shapiro calls a “Trump-worshipping alt-right droog stooge,” is a prominent figure at Breitbart. He was recently banned from Twitter for orchestrating a racist and sexist troll-swarm of Ghostbusters actress Leslie Jones that temporarily drove her from the platform. Yiannopoulos remains an editor at the site.
After Yiannopoulos wrote a piece defending Donald Trump’s retweet of a sexist meme comparing his and Ted Cruz’s wife, Glenn Beck compared Yiannopoulos to “Goebbels” — Hitler’s minister of propaganda — and called it “one of the more evil stories I have read” (as reported by Breitbart itself, with insouciant commentary from Yiannopolous).
Yiannopoulos penned another Breitbart piece in which he praised the alt-right for “a youthful energy and jarring, taboo-defying rhetoric that have boosted its membership and made it impossible to ignore.” He scoffs at claims made by “Establishment types” over its ties to anti-Semitism, white supremacism, and neo-Nazism.
A quick perusal of the #altright hashtag on Twitter reveals a rash of racist, sexist, and xenophobic memes. Outright anti-semitism and references to “Aryans” and Nazis are also common — as are tweets marked #MAGA (the abbreviation for Trump’ campaign slogan) and fawning over Trump himself.
Trump’s rise and the rise of the alt-ride go hand-in-hand. And under Bannon’s leadership, Breitbart has enthusiastically gone along with both.
In choosing Bannon as his new campaign manager, Trump has signaled definitively that there will be no pivot to the mainstream — instead, he’s doubling down and formally embracing his alt-right support.
He’s done dancing around them — now he’s openly dancing with them.