Argument

The Awakening

Why white nationalists are thrilled with Obama's victory

The politics of race moved from the fringes to the front page last week in the wake of Mitt Romney's eggshell exit poll results -- whites made up a remarkable 88 percent of his votes, versus 56 percent of the president's. The New York Times dissected the Republican Party's demographics problem, and Fox News pundit Bill O'Reilly bluntly bemoaned the end of "traditional America" and "the white establishment." And, well outside the mainstream media, a deafening clatter arose across the land in the furious keystrokes of America's white nationalists.

Unsurprisingly, the re-election of Barack Obama reverberated across the spectrum of far-right extremism in the United States, where most see the president as an enemy of the Constitution who is planning to confiscate their guns during his second term. But while many vented anger and fear, some ideologically motivated racists saw a silver lining and -- detecting an opportunity -- reached out.

Just before the election, Gregory Hood, a prolific online writer with a single-minded focus on whiteness, wrote that Romney had to lose in order to make white Americans understand that they have lost control of the country. When his wish was fulfilled, he wasted little time taking advantage. The resulting essay, "A White Nationalist Memo to White Male Republicans," was cross-posted on several extremist websites and forums.

You worked your butt off at your church, your charity group, your neighbors. It was undone by some Somalis who can't speak English that the Democrats bussed in and told to vote "Brown all the way down," and they weren't just referring to the Democratic candidate's name....

Do you get it yet? America, your America, is finished. But you don't have to be. It's time to fight for what comes next. It's time to fight for a country of our own.

It's time to stop being Americans. It's time to start being White Men again.

Kevin MacDonald, a professor of psychology whose anti-Semitic writings make him a favorite of Neo-Nazis, penned a pro-secession piece for a prominent white identity site, The Occidental Observer, that might finally get him fired from California State University, where he inexplicably still works.

White males constituted only 34% of the electorate and this will continue to decline. It's no accident that stocks of gun companies soared after the election, even though the stock market as a whole took a dive. What we have here is a situation in which around 70% of traditional American White men (correcting for the overly inclusive White' category used by the media) are now pretty much officially disenfranchised in a country where they see themselves as the founding population. That's a lot of angry White men....

It may take a while for this 70% to wake up to the reality that they are politically impotent. But it will happen. Separatist movements in the many states that are deeply red are certainly a possibility. ... Is there any other realistic alternative? Apart from futile violence against the Leviathan, do White men really have any other choice?

The concept of a wake-up call articulated by MacDonald was widely echoed in posts on white nationalist blogs and forums. Some thought it would come sooner, others thought it might come later, but many agreed the writing was on the wall.

In the "later" camp was Adrian Krieg, a member of the board of directors for the American Third Position, a white nationalist political party whose presidential candidate got on the ballot in Colorado, Tennessee, and New Jersey. In an article headlined "It's Over!" Krieg wrote:

In the end, the reelected president is not the problem, whatever policies he makes can be undone by a new administration. The problem is that the Sheeple have changed, the demographics have changed, and the attitude of the electorate has differed. This is no longer my country, or that of my parents [sic] it is a new paradigm, with which I am unfamiliar. America has turned brown, and socialist, blaming the medium is counterproductive, it is the ghost who is the problem. It is an uneducated, lazy, and stupid electorate that is to blame, along with the government education that produced it, and that is a problem to which I have no immediate solution, because it is not until we reach "Rock Bottom" suffer cold and hunger that we shall see CHANGE!

John Derbyshire, the latest darling of the white nationalist blogging set after his high-profile sacking by National Review, laid out his take on the election in a podcast:

When you look at the overall picture, however, we are still fighting the Civil War. That is to say, the contest was mainly between two huge groups of white people who don't much like each other, with the colored folk playing a marginal role. That's how it was in the War Between the States, and that's how it still is today.

He went on to suggest whites will ultimately have no choice but to unite as a race-based voting bloc. The current problem, Derbyshire explained, was that "Republicans are white, sure enough, but whites are not Republican."

Since 2008, and even more visibly in 2012, white nationalist extremists have been nipping at the heels of the Republican Party, trying with little success to exploit a wave of extravagant hostility toward Obama and siphon off recruits and sympathizers from people at the fringes of the party who feel disenfranchised.

The election's demographic results have opened a frank and difficult discussion of race in American electoral politics, which may already be creating fracture lines in the GOP. Some party leaders are already calling for more inclusiveness, while others are spoiling for a fight. This debate itself will leave some traditional Republican voters feeling disconnected and disgruntled. Its outcome could create still more discontent.

White nationalist leaders will probably see this as a chance -- very possibly their last -- to make a case to mainstream Americans and convert pedestrian, non-obsessed racists into ideological, single-issue racists. In recent years, the movement's center of gravity has begun to shift toward "race realism," an effort to repackage white nationalist ideas in a less overtly repugnant form. Such outlets -- including VDARE and Jared Taylor's American Renaissance -- have been busy preaching to Republicans throughout Obama's first term. If they have any chance of really succeeding, the moment is now. 

That will no doubt be an ugly show, but its epilogue could be worse. Ideological racism is a movement in decline -- splintered and divided, financially and intellectually bankrupt, and widely reviled. When the door finally, definitively closes on white nationalism's fading dream of political relevance, the committed few who remain with the movement will see few options remaining but violence, perhaps recalling the Klan's last ditch efforts to stop the civil rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s.

Despite the demographic window, white nationalists may reach that conclusion sooner than later. After all, they did have a horse in this race -- Merlin Miller, the American Third Position candidate. He received 2,833 votes, not counting write-ins -- just 0.0046 percent of the number of votes cast for Obama and just 6 percent of the votes cast for David Duke in his 1988 presidential bid. A mandate, this is not.

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Argument

Reaction Time

Why terrorism derails every administration.

Controversy still follows the death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and his colleagues during the assault on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The issue dominated U.S. campaign news as candidate Mitt Romney's supporters charged that President Barack Obama's administration was either deliberate or inept in misrepresenting events. The administration was accused of failing to protect the consulate or even go to the aid of its defenders. The response of the White House, State Department, and CIA was halting and defensive. Now the resignation of David Petraeus has prompted conspiratorial thinking in blog commentary.

The Obama campaign certainly did not expect or prepare for a sharp challenge to the president's successful foreign-policy record, especially his counterterrorism credentials. After all, they were burnished by the dramatic elimination of Osama bin Laden and indeed most of al Qaeda's top leadership through calculated drone strikes. If anything, critics thought the president was too aggressive in his use of drones. But it was by no means the first time that a president's plans and reputation for toughness have been derailed by the messy reality of terrorism.

The most memorable point of comparison is, of course, the devastating shock of the 9/11 attacks, which derailed the priorities of George W. Bush's administration and, in the space of a few short hours, thrust terrorism to the top of the national agenda after decades as a second- or even a third-tier threat. (In fact, before 2001, most international relations scholars took the view that terrorism was a minor blip on the grand radar of international power.) But terrorism has been disrupting the plans of presidents for decades, forcing America into a reactive mode that makes it difficult to address the threat strategically.

President Jimmy Carter was completely flummoxed by the November 1979 seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and the prolonged Iran hostage crisis, during which U.S. diplomats were held captive for 444 days. Carter's international focus was on human rights and peaceful settlement of conflicts, not terrorism. U.S. intelligence agencies had failed to foresee the Iranian revolution and Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini's rise to power, and the Carter administration seemed stunned by the anti-American drift of the regime. Everyone knew that revolutionaries in Latin America and Palestinian resistance organizations targeted diplomats, but it was inconceivable that the leaders of a state would condone and support the takeover of an embassy. Now Carter could focus on little else but the hostages -- he even uncharacteristically resorted to military force to try to free them.

Carter's loss in the 1980 election had more to do with the economy than the hostages, but the crisis and the failed rescue attempt in April 1980 did little for the president's standing as a leader. The lesson was not lost on incoming President Ronald Reagan. During the campaign, Reagan decried the weakness of the administration and promised to stand strong against terrorism. During the single presidential debate he vowed, "There is no room worldwide for terrorism; there will be no negotiation with terrorists of any kind." The Reagan administration put the term "state-sponsored terrorism" into currency, aimed at exposing the evil empire of the Soviet Union. It looked as though the administration had a consistent counterterrorism strategy -- at least rhetorically.

The reality was that once in office, Reagan administration officials soon found themselves negotiating with the same "terrorists" who defied and humiliated Carter. Again, the government found itself reacting to events rather than controlling the agenda.

Intervention in the Lebanese civil war, though ostensibly multinational and directed at restoring the peace after the Israeli invasion, unexpectedly opened the United States to terrorism from Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah. Attacks in Beirut -- including not one but two bombings of the U.S. Embassy and the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks, resulting in more than 300 deaths -- led the United States to withdraw its military force in 1984.

At about the same time, the administration embarked on secret maneuvers to sell arms to Iran in exchange for the release of hostages held by shadowy groups in Lebanon. Like Carter, Reagan found it impossible not to respond to the emotional dilemma created by hostage seizures. Then, to get around congressional prohibitions, some officials used the profits thus acquired to support the anti-communist Contras of Nicaragua. In the middle of what turned out to be an embarrassing muddle, the administration retaliated against Libya for its involvement in the 1986 bombing of a West Berlin disco frequented by U.S. servicemen. The raid could be seen as compensation for having shown "weakness" in negotiating with Iran or as a return to the original strategy of zero tolerance for terrorism. Certainly some administration figures such as Oliver North had been looking for a smoking gun since at least 1984. Any satisfaction felt at having finally returned to principle was short-lived. In 1988, Libya retaliated with the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.

President Bill Clinton was also forced onto a reactive footing by terrorism. In 1993, the new administration was not in the least eager to take on terrorism as a major issue. The Cold War was over, and the Middle East seemed remade in the aftermath of the Gulf War. The White House rejected what was thought of as the "clash of civilizations" approach favored by Reagan. The president's public speeches downplayed terrorism as but one of a series of modern transnational or "border-crossing" threats, along with drug trafficking, global organized crime, epidemics of disease, and environmental disasters. These were problems of the global commons, not existential threats to U.S. national security. The strategy was to be a modest approach of putting terrorism in perspective, a sort of return to normalcy in foreign policy.

But immediately, in February 1993, the bombing of the World Trade Center opened an era of terrorism that came bewilderingly from all ideological directions -- the early progenitors of the jihadi movement, right-wing Americans, Iraq, Iran, and finally in 1998 al Qaeda fully formed. Although the United States wasn't the target, the use of sarin gas in the Tokyo subway by an apocalyptic sect set off alarms about terrorist "weapons of mass destruction," worries that had already been sparked by the reality of Russian "loose nukes." An administration that did not want to make terrorism an issue found it impossible to escape. Clinton used force twice in responding to terrorism, once against Iraq and again in 1998 when the embassies in Tanzania and Kenya were bombed. This was far from what the administration intended when it took office. The United States simply could not respond to terrorism in the same way that it responded to crises caused by drugs, crime, disease, and natural disasters.

Why does terrorism have this disruptive effect? Is it the nature of terrorism itself to frighten, shock, and outrage its audiences, or is it the politicization of the issue in American domestic politics, or is it a combination of the two? In general, terrorism is not as deadly as many other life-threatening phenomena, so it is not a question of magnitude of physical harm but of emotional effects on audiences. It is hard to develop and even harder to maintain a consistent, logical counterterrorism policy, one that is not just a sequence of ad hoc responses to discrete events. Presidents who did not want to exaggerate or perhaps even recognize the threat of terrorism wound up having to confront the issue, and presidents who placed terrorism high on the agenda still struggled to maintain control of policy. A challenge for the next four years will be to find a reasonable long-term strategy to deal with terrorism, a threat that has not disappeared despite over a decade of military responses.

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