White Nationalism and the Tea Party

The NAACP recently released a Special Report on Tea Party Nationalism, which addresses the overlap and interconnectedness between white nationalist hate groups and the various Tea Party groups that are sprouting like bad weeds across the U.S.    As if to highlight this connection, David Duke, former KKK leader, early Internet adopter for the cause of white supremacy, and one-time candidate for Louisiana governor, has released a video addressing the Tea Party.

The report, written by Devin Burghart and Leonard Zeskind, is just 80 pages, 9 chapters and includes 17 figures and maps.   It’s in Chapter 8, “Racism, Anti-Semitism, and the Militia Impulse,” that the authors address the link to overt racists such as Duke, a connection that many Tea Partiers vigorously deny.      In this chapter, the authors write:

“In preparation for Tea Party protests held on July 4, 2009, national socialists and other white supremacists created a discussion thread on Stormfront.org, the largest and most widely accessed of the many white nationalist websites.216 While highlighting the distinction between themselves and the majority of Tea Partiers who were not self-conscious about their own racism, one person argued, ‘We need a relevant transitional envelop-pushing flyer for the masses. Take these Tea Party Americans by the hand and help them go from crawling to standing independently and then walking towards racialism.’ “(p.60)

This quote highlights the use of the Internet by white nationalists who see the Tea Party as an opportunity for “walking Tea Party Americans…towards racialism.”   And, this seems to be the general take in the report, that the Tea Party includes some white nationalists, but is mainly seen as an opportunity for those in the white nationalist movement.    The authors take this stance with regard to Duke, as well.  The video linked to above appears to have been around awhile, as the authors refer to it in the NAACP report.

David Duke’s embrace of the Tea Parties reveals less about the Tea Parties than it serves as a reminder of the former Klansmen’s never-ending opportunism. He used the Internet to broadcast a ten minute video speech, “Message to the Tea Party.” Duke began the “message” by paying homage to the Tea Parties and the “Founding Fathers,” and ended with his usual roundhouse attack on “the Zionists” (meaning Jews). Over the decades Duke has switched organizational allegiances as new openings emerged for him, but he never abandoned his core national socialist ideology.
“Most recently, Duke had spent time flitting across the globe: In France, Duke had his picture taken with Jean-Marie Le Pen, leader of the anti-immigrant Front National. In Russia, he turned a 1995 meeting with Zhirinovsky into a spot at a 2002 “anti-Zionist” conference in Moscow. In November of that year, he spoke at a meeting in Bahrain. He reappeared in Iran in 2006 for a Holocaust denial conference where he thanked President Ahmadinejad for his “courage” and “foresight.” And in 2009, the once and future Republican, David Duke, was unceremoniously expelled from the Czech Republic (although the charges were later dropped.)
Duke’s announcement that he will use a year-long speaking tour to gauge potential support for another campaign in the Republican presidential primaries (in 2012) should not be understood as anything more than a declaration of his perennial search for contributions from new followers. He is quite unlikely to repeat anything near the successes he has had in the past, when he won a majority of white voters in two statewide Louisiana elections. It is, however, one more sign that hardcore white nationalists regard the Tea Party movement as a reservoir of racists, and as potential supporters of a more ideologically defined white nationalism.
The actions of the Council of Conservative Citizens, the Stormfront.org posters and other white nationalists need be understood, in aggregate, as one measure, among many, of the Tea Party movement’s political characteristics. Together they point to a truth many Tea Party leaders will not want to acknowledge.” (p.62)

This is the cautious tone of analysis taken throughout the report.  The Tea Party is dangerous for the way that it appeals to white nationalists and for what it could become, but less so for what it is now.   Here’s is another passage from the report which illustrates this point:

“Despite the fact that Tea Partiers sometimes dress in the costumes of 18th century Americans, wave the Gadsden flag and claim that the United States Constitution should be the divining rod of all legislative policies, theirs is an American nationalism that does not always include all Americans. It is a nationalism that excludes those deemed not to be “real Americans;” including the native-born children of undocumented immigrants (often despised as “anchor babies”), socialists, Moslems, and those not deemed to fit within a “Christian nation.” The “common welfare” of the constitution’s preamble does not complicate their ideas about individual liberty. This form of nationalism harkens back to the America first ideology of Father Coughlin. As the Confederate battle flags, witch doctor caricatures and demeaning discourse suggest, a bright white line of racism threads through this nationalism. Yet, it is not a full-fledged variety of white nationalism. It is as inchoate as it is super-patriotic. It is possibly an embryo of what it might yet become.” (p.11)

The rise of the Tea Party, with its embryonic white nationalism and the racism, antisemitism and xenophobia of videos like David Duke’s, are political trends that people committed to racial justice should watch closely.


  1. Seattle in Texas

    This is just not surprising for me, which is very very sad to say.

    On all this I do think back to Durkheim and said that things only change form…in this society, that’s exactly the case with white supremacy. Durkheim also said that punitive and retributive societies are the most “primitive” and the more advanced societies are those that resort to non-violence to handle their social issues…. Then what are the social facts? What are the conditions that create the harms and ills people endure? etc. When I think of contemporary and past white American society, Durkheim often comes to mind. And I think of how primitive American white society has always been from the beginnings and when it seems as though things are getting better for the oppressed, really they are only changing form…. That will always be the case until a new foundation is established.

    The other thing I wanted to just mention is that the David Duke video reminded me of many things. Firstly, how charismatic these folks are in regards to the vulnerable and less educated white populations they thrive on–Rafael Ezekiel’s work demonstrated this so well. The American education system conditions white student populations to think in much the same way Duke was rationalizing white supremacy by presenting students a very false history and making too much invisible–glorifying the whites as heroes, etc. It might make some brief mention of slavery, perhaps Jim Crow, etc. But even those presentations are presented through the frame of white supremacy. They are brief, and socially and emotionally distant. And if hero’s of color are presented, such as Dr. King, they are presented through the white racial frame. So Duke’s rhetoric, in many ways, only melds with much of the prior knowledge and understanding that many whites got from their earlier education. And it blends more so for many, than historical truths and facts that have either been previously unknown or not properly introduced and taught in their earlier education through counterframes, and firsthand socialization in predominately segregated sectors of society. To be re-socialized means much psychological re-working. Also, it means some how the information being channeled through sources has to be from people who impact them in positive ways so much that their countering messages and the ways they are channeled are more powerful then those that come from folks like Duke and so on.

    The other point is that Duke reminded me of how they all blend in to society and are invisible in so many ways. Stereotypes say they these folks wear sheets and swastikas. They do on and in their hearts. But they are smooth folks. This is so dangerous because if they open wore their sheets and swastikas, I’m sure many of the same exact people who do and are coming to listen and follow would otherwise turn away…not all, but a significant number because “racists” for them are those people who wear the symbolic attire. So I think people are highly affected by their senses, regardless of the past affiliations of those they are listening to and following.

    The point I think Duke does have right, is that “this” society that we currently live in was meant for white people and white men in particular…which is why we need a different society and/or fundamental changes in “this” society. Nevermind the genocide and slavery, as well as the massive contributions people of color have made to “this” society with their own blood, sweat, and tears…they weren’t a part of “this” society and anybody whose not white was not meant to be a part of “this” society…. What to say what to say….


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