In a bundle of leaked emails obtained by the Southern Poverty Law Centre (SPLC), Stephen Miller, senior political advisor to the Trump administration, expressed and recycled ultranationalist far right and white nationalist viewpoints. Miller, employed by Trump since the 2016 election campaign, regularly emailed his views to the rightwing Breitbart news outlet. Miller restated white supremacist and ultraright talking points, and is an architect of the Trump administration’s policies.
The emails by Miller, covering the period from March 2015 to June 2016, reveal the white supremacist thinking that underlies much of the Trump administration’s anti-immigrant and racist policies. Miller lamented the demolition and removal of Confederate statues across the nation – monuments to the slave-owning states. He advocated the ‘great replacement’ conspiracy theory, a racially-paranoid view that sees white populations being systematically ‘replaced’ by immigration from nonwhite countries.
The ‘white replacement’ conspiracy theory is not only bonkers, it motivated far rightist and fascistic killers from Christchurch to El Paso. This perspective provides a perverse sense of solidarity – aggrieved victimhood along white nationalist lines. Such views have influenced the Trump administration’s policies against undocumented immigrants and refugees, denouncing them as a ‘security threat’ and ordering their deportation.
There is nothing particularly surprising about finding a white supremacist political advisor in the White House. However, there are a number of observations to make regarding the place of Miller in such a prominent position in the halls of political power. Earlier this year, Representative Ilhan Omar suggested – in a tweet – that Miller is a white nationalist. Her comment was met with volcanic rage from the rightwing Twittersphere.
Omar’s tweet – greeted with howls of outrage and scornful condemnations by the conservative bloviators – has been vindicated with the most recent revelations. Miller has not only directed his advice along white nationalist lines, he has resurrected racist literature from the recent past. One book that Miller approvingly cites, along with other white nationalists, is the French novel The Camp of the Saints.
The novel, published in 1973 by Jean Raspail, sets out a fictional dystopian scenario – France, a white European power, is overrun by teeming swarms of nonwhite and darker-skinned immigrants from Africa and Asia. Nonwhites, portrayed as ravenous and savage, gradually overwhelm white, Christian France – an early statement of the ‘white genocide’ conspiracy theory.
The portrayal of immigrants and refugees as ‘invaders’ pervades and underlines the immigration policies of the US administration. As refugees from Honduras and other Central American countries set out towards the United States, the Trump government denounced them as ‘criminals’, and began militarising the US-Mexico border. Honduras and El Salvador are afflicted by inequality and poverty. These outcomes are the results of decades of US regime-change policies implemented in Latin America.
The white nationalist fixates on the alleged racial threat posed by the nonwhite refugee, yet refuses to see the economic and political policies that turn those nations – such as those in Central America – into unliveable, poverty-stricken countries. In the wake of Hurricane Dorian, which hit the Bahamas in September this year, the Trump administration’s response to refugees from that disaster was to deny asylum – on the spurious pretext that ‘gang members might be’ among those seeking refuge.
While the mainstream corporate media has focused criticism of Trump on his mental state, narcissistic mindset and duplicity, this perspectives avoids discussion of a deeper malaise. It is not so much that Trump the individual has a fragile ego and frail mind – that may very well be the case. It is the fact that Trump personifies a free-wheeling, free-market white supremacist nationalism which is the scandal of the American political system.
Trump’s skulduggery, his vulgarity and deceitful behaviour are all appalling – but that behaviour is underscores by a white nationalist outlook. His campaign rallies have featured open calls by him and his supporters for vigilante violence against his opponents. When his acolytes chant ‘send her back‘ in reference to Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, they are actively encouraging extrajudicial violence against their political opponents.
Alexander Hurst, writing in the New Republic magazine, states that when immigrants and refugees are routinely described as criminals, invaders, rapists, murderers and animals, vigilante violence against said immigrants in the predictable result. In fact, the United States has a long tradition of vigilante violence, in support of racist state measures. Throughout the history of American settlement, frontier-violence by white settlers was directed at the indigenous communities, abolitionists, ethnic and religious minorities, and civil rights campaigners.
Racial violence against ethnic minorities is not a relic of a long-distant past. The civil rights movement was historic and its accomplishments were game-changing. But let us not draw a false finish line under the issue of racism in the United States because it formerly elected a black president. The presence of Miller as a senior advisor indicates that white nationalism is being codified into institutional bigotry.
Vann Newkirk II, writing in the Atlantic magazine, states that the real scandal of the Trump White House is not the financial malfeasance or corrupt dealings overseas, but its platforming of white nationalist views and policies. Embracing bigotry is not just an academic exercise, but has real-world human consequences.