| 09 January 2009
|What Next for White Nationalists in the Obama Years|
What Next for White Nationalists in the Obama Years
January 9, 2009
The Zeskind Fortnight No. 9
By Leonard Zeskind
Concerns for the safety of Barack Obama, and questions about the next steps by hard-core racists continue to bubble up as the president’s inauguration nears. One set of white supremacists allegedly plotting against his life has already been discovered. And several newspaper articles have concluded that an upsurge in activity by racists and anti-Semites is already underway. If history is any guide, we can be certain that some sort of white nationalist rising will come in the not-too-distant future.
Remember the Reconstruction era after the Civil War, when newly-emancipated black men were elected to public office across the states of the former Confederacy. As soon as it was possible, Ku Klux Klan night-riders and white mobs used violence of every sort to break the incipient multi-racial democracy and re-establish white supremacy as the law of the land. After the victories of the black freedom movement in the 1960s, a racist and far right resurgence during the presidency of Jimmy Carter (1976-1980) laid the ground work for both the white supremacist movement of the 1980s and 1990s and the Reagan-Bush administration’s assaults on the gains made during the so-called Second Reconstruction. In 1992, Bill Clinton had not been in office six months before Jerry Falwell and the Christian nationalists had re-inflated their coffers with direct mail dollars. The militia insurgency, the Oklahoma City bombing and the Aryan bank bandits all took place before Clinton’s first term ended. And that is not even considering the Gingrich-led Republican takeover in the House of Representatives in 1994, a change in political dynamics that lasted until 2006.
Although the ascension of the first black president has not yet met such an outsized response, it should be noted that white nationalist and anti-immigrant activity levels have already been too high for too long. Crimes against Latinos motivated by bigotry rose for the fourth year in a row to 597 incidents in 2007, according to a report in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report. Nativist (anti-immigrant) politicians were re-elected to Congress last November at about the same levels as they were in 2006, according to an article, “Nativism and Election 2008,” written by Devin Burghart for Searchlight magazine. By Burghart’s count, 91 members of the so-called House Immigration Reform Caucus are taking their seats this month. And among the young and the Nazi-esque, the National Socialist Movement has continued to grow, primarily in the Midwest, where it has very few organizational competitors. While the white nationalist movement has splintered organizationally over the last few years, it is best to think of this phenomenon as something akin to a broken thermometer, where the mercury continually reconfigures itself into silver beads smaller and larger.
Quite independently of any particular presidency, white nationalists have been long quite certain that they would face a life or death challenge to the “white race” before mid-century. They have cited the predictions by