If President Trump is really the white supremacist his critics insist he is, he must be a huge disappointment to his bigoted brethren.
For more than a year, we have heard the president’s critics insist he is this worst type of racist. Or that at the very least, white supremacists support him. But if these vile folks really do back the current occupant of the White House, it is not because Trump shares their worldview.
How do I know this? I interviewed Richard Spencer, who is undoubtedly the poster boy for white supremacy. Spencer is such a toxic figure that when he showed up to speak at a university in Florida the governor declared a state emergency. Spencer is routinely portrayed as a right-wing neo-Nazi and confirms this narrative by insisting he is a Trump supporter.
Yet when I interviewed him recently for my new movie “Death of a Nation,” Spencer turned out to be anything but right-wing and his views were markedly different from those of Trump.
Here’s an excerpt from that interview:
Me: What do you think of the American founding?
Spencer: I’ve been critical of the American founding throughout my career.
Me: “All men are created equal.” True or false?
Spencer: False, obviously.
Me: The idea that we have a right to life, true or false?
Spencer: I don’t think we have rights to really anything.
I asked Spencer about the two main prongs of Reaganite conservatism.
Me: One prong is American influence is good for the word and that American power should project American values, agree or disagree?
Spencer: If American values are we need to destroy other cultures and bring them into one big capitalist market or something, I don’t think we should be promoting American values in that sense.
Me: The second prong of Reaganism was free market economics, promoting a global free market in which people trade with each other. Would you like to see the world be a global capitalist order?
Spencer: Absolutely not. This notion that we need to destroy our own industries, that our people are just one more competitor in a global marketplace. “Good luck, sink or swim, pal.” The notion that that should be the guiding philosophy of our citizens is disgusting, actually. I totally reject that.
I asked Spencer about his advocacy of a concept called the white ethno-state.
Me: What I take you to be saying is that the white ethno-state would have a powerful state at the center of it.
Spencer: No question.
Me: But this notion of limited government…As you know, the founders saw the government as the enemy of our rights.
Spencer: No individual has a right outside of a collective community. You have rights, not eternally or given by God, or by nature.
Me: Who gives them to us?
Spencer: Ultimately the state gives those right to you. The state is the source of rights, not the individual.
Me: Would it be fair to say you are not just against illegal immigration but immigration, period?
Spencer: I’m against immigration coming in from the Third World that is ultimately going to change the ethnic and cultural constitution of the United States. I wouldn’t say I’m against immigration in itself. I would actually be happy to open the door to white South Africans among many who are truly suffering.
Me: Would you be happy with an immigration policy that said, we want people from New Zealand, Australia, white guys from Europe and South Africa. We don’t want people from Barbados or Bombay.
Spencer: Yes, and that was the immigration policy beginning in 1924 up until 1965. That period of time coincided with American greatness.
Me: Now this seems very different than Trump. Trump was quoted in the paper saying, if there’s an Indian guy working in Silicon Valley and his visa runs out, and we have to send him home, that’s a loss. That’s something we should try to prevent. You disagree?
Spencer: I do disagree with that. The H-1B Visa Program has been totally detrimental to white people. I want white people to become doctors, lawyers. I want white people to achieve their dreams.
See how distant Spencer’s politics are from Trump’s?
Trump is a patriot who cherishes the founders; Spencer isn’t and doesn’t.
Trump is a capitalist; Spencer prefers a strong state regulating markets on behalf of white interests.
Trump wants to keep illegals out so legal immigrants – white, black and brown – can thrive. Spencer wants more white immigrants, fewer – if any – black and brown ones.
In sum, Trump is generally conservative and Spencer is clearly not. In fact, Spencer’s racialized politics of the powerful centralized state is reminiscent of the ideology of Woodrow Wilson and the early twentieth-century progressives.
Yet the media continues to depict Spencer as a right-winger because it serves the ideological narrative of pinning the racist and fascist tail on the Republican elephant, when it belongs more clearly on the Democratic donkey.