Leaders in the white nationalist movement are thrilled that President-elect Donald Trump has named Steve Bannon as his chief strategist and senior counselor. They see Bannon, the Breitbart News executive chairman denounced for anti-Semitism and peddling white nationalist views, as someone who will push Trump toward extremism.
Rocky Suhayda, chairman of the American Nazi Party, told CNN he was “a bit surprised” that Trump chose Bannon, expressing hope the president-elect would “rock the boat.”
“Perhaps The Donald IS for ‘REAL’ and is not going to be another controlled puppet directed by the usual ‘Wire Pullers,’ and does indeed intend to ROCK the BOAT? Time will tell,” Suhayda wrote in an email.
Richard Spencer, a leader in the so-called “alt-right” ― a term he coined in 2008 ― told The Huffington Post that he’s “very excited” that Trump picked Bannon, who he says is a “real fighter and a genuine nationalist.”
“Trump is signaling that he’s not going to be your father’s Republican,” Spencer said. “He’s going to be something different, and new ideological space is opening up.”
Trump is signaling that he’s not going to be your father’s Republican. He’s going to be something different, and new ideological space is opening up. Richard Spencer, alt-right leader
The alt-right is a somewhat amorphous label for a what the Southern Poverty Law Center defines as “a set of far-right ideologies, groups and individuals” whose core beliefs rest in the notion that “white identity” is under attack by “political correctness” and “social justice,” and that these forces are acting to “undermine white people and ‘their’ civilization.”
Bannon, whose website traffics in racist and misogynist conspiracy theories, helped make Breitbart News a go-to resource for the alt-right and white nationalists, according to the SPLC, which monitors hate groups.
On the white supremacist internet forum Stormfront, users cheered Bannon’s appointment, calling him “[t]he man who will have Trump’s ear more than anyone else.”
The Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi website that claims to be America’s “#1 alt-right” news source, was only disappointed by the fact that Trump didn’t make Bannon White House chief of staff. (Trump chose Reince Priebus, the chairman of the Republican National Committee, for that position.) One comment on that story celebrated Bannon as “our man in the White House.”
Some white nationalists clearly view Bannon’s appointment as a signal that Trump won’t seek out a more moderate path, and see Bannon as someone who can hold the president-elect accountable for policy proposals like barring Muslims from the country and building a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Former KKK grand wizard David Duke, a vocal Trump supporter, praised Trump’s choice as “a good sign” on his radio show, saying Bannon has been “right on about a lot of issues.”
Jared Taylor, editor of the white nationalist publication American Renaissance, echoed those sentiments. “I am happy that Steve Bannon will have a policy role in the White House, and I hope he helps President Trump keep the promises made by Candidate Trump,” Taylor told HuffPost.
After festering on the margins of politics for decades, the white nationalist movement gained a significant boost during Trump’s presidential campaign ― and with the real estate mogul headed to the White House, its influence is only expected to grow. That’s in large part because white supremacist groups received a higher profile as Trump was slow to condemn them and even retweeted them on social media during his campaign.
The movement soon became so prominent that Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton felt compelled to publicly denounce it during her campaign.
Trump’s choice of Bannon “signals that White Supremacists will be represented at the highest levels in Trump’s White House,” said Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
“It is easy to see why the KKK views Trump as their champion,” he added.
White Supremacists will be represented at the highest levels in Trump’s White House. Adam Jentleson, spokesman for Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.)
“Mr. Bannon’s confrontational style, embrace of Euronationalism and support among the fringes of the alt right leaves president elect Trump open to criticism that prejudicial stereotypes about Jews, Muslims, women and immigrants have a place in the White House,” wrote Brian Levin, director for the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, in an email. “The fact that even Conservatives are airing concerns about his expressions of racism and anti Semitism is a cause of concern.”
The SPLC and Anti-Defamation League also voiced concern, with the ADL calling Bannon and the alt-right “hostile to core American values.”
“A man who led a media empire into becoming what a former Breitbart editor called ‘a cesspool for white supremacist mememakers,’ simply has no business in the White House,” SPLC President Richard Cohen said, adding that Trump’s choice of chief strategist undermines a core element of his victory speech.
Trump pledged to be the president for “all Americans” and to “bind the wounds of division” in our country. “Appointing someone like Bannon, who will have the president-elect’s ear every single day,” Cohen said, “makes a mockery of that pledge.”