How will the white supremacist movement react to an Obama presidency? I probed this question in the wake of a bungled assassination attempt by two neo-Nazis. In a nutshell, here is what I determined:
On October 27, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms announced the arrest of two young neo-Nazis, Daniel Cowart and Paul Schlesselman, who allegedly plotted to assassinate Barack Obama. The strange event suggests that a criminal element within the white supremacist movement is hell-bent on racial violence if Obama becomes president.
On the other hand, key leaders of the movement’s organized front see a potential Obama administration as a rising tide that will lift their sagging boats. They hope to leverage white resentment against Obama’s presidency to generate unprecedented funding, bolster membership rolls, and influence the political mainstream.
Hours after my story appeared at the Daily Beast, I received in my mailbox exclusive footage of a leading white supremacist radio show and a cheerleader for anti-abortion terrorism organizing at a rally for Sarah Palin in Virginia Beach. The footage clearly supported my analysis: that the organized factions of the extreme right have attempted to mobilize white, Christianist anti-Obama resentment to pave a path back into the political mainstream. Together with the Daily Beast staff, I edited that footage into a revealing piece of video, “Guess Who Came To The Palin Rally:”
A full description of the characters who appear in this video is below the fold.
In the video, shot by an amateur videographer who provided me exclusive access to his footage, an unidentified staffer from one of the country’s most popular white supremacist radio programs, The Political Cesspool, is seen promoting his show’s website at an October 13 rally for Sarah Palin in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Just feet away, Randall Terry, founder of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue, hands out fliers and recruits volunteers to canvas for McCain-Palin.
Though neither Political Cesspool nor Randall Terry have any known contact with the McCain-Palin campaign, their presence at the recent Palin rally presents one of the clearest portraits yet of the far right’s attempts to exploit the Republican base’s anti-Obama resentment for organizational gain.
According to its “Statement of Principles,” the Political Cesspool “represent[s] a philosophy that is pro-White” and which “heartily endorse[s] and accept[s] as our own, the founding tenets of the Council of Conservative Citizens [CCC],” America’s largest white supremacist group. A 2007 article in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report noted that, “The Political Cesspool’ in the past two years has become the primary radio nexus of hate in America.”
The writings of Political Cesspool’s founder, James Edwards, offer bold evidence of the racist ideology behind his show. Here are a few revealing examples from Edwards’ blog, courtesy of Media Matters for America:
In an August 11 post, Edwards wrote: “For blacks in the Americas, slavery is the greatest thing that ever happened to them. Unfortunately, it’s the worst thing that ever happened to white Americans.”
In an August 6 post headlined “Jewish media reaches new heights,” discussing a Slate.com article by “Jew Timothy Noah,” Edwards wrote that the piece would “make sense once you understand that Jews are the ones who are always speaking in code; when they use words like ‘racists’, ‘bigots’, ‘anti-semites’, they simply mean white people.” Similarly, in a July 9 post headlined “Great moments in Jewish journalism,” Edwards referred to a column by The Washington Post‘s David S. Broder about former Sen. Jesse Helms as “another hatefilled Jewish attack piece.”
In a July 30 post, Edwards asked: “If the WNBA [Women's National Basketball Association] is so hell bent on diversity, why don’t they hire a couple of heterosexual players or coaches?”
In a June 6 post headlined “Does she hate Whitey?” Edwards wrote: “Michelle Obama, that is. Uh, yeah, I’m pretty sure she does. Just like her husband. Just like about 90% of blacks.”
In the footage, Randall Terry is seen nearby shouting into a megaphone, “We must do whatever it takes to stop Obama!” A Terry associate wearing a Palin t-shirt hands out fliers urging anti-abortion advocates to organize against Obama’s election. While the Political Cesspool organizer expresses no support for McCain-Palin, and seems reluctant to divulge his show’s racist politics, Terry seems openly supportive of the McCain-Palin campaign.
Who is Terry? During the 1990’s, Terry’s radical anti-abortion outfit, Operation Rescue, organized blockades outside women’s health clinics across the country. These blockades often turned violent, and some of Terry’s closest cadres resorted to domestic terrorism. Case in point: In 1998, while cooking dinner for his wife and four children, Barnett Slepian—an abortion doctor whose home had been the site of protests by Terry and his followers years before—was shot to death through his kitchen window by James Kopp, a former volunteer at Operation Rescue’s Binghamton, N.Y., office.
Terry is as avid proponent of Christian Reconstructionism, a radical ideology that calls for replacing the US Constitution with Biblical law. “I want you to just let a wave of intolerance wash over you… I want you to let a wave of hatred wash over you. Yes, hate is good,” Terry told his followers in August 1993. He went on: “Our goal is a Christian nation. We have a biblical duty, we are called by God, to conquer this country. We don’t want equal time. We don’t want pluralism.”
Arrested over 40 times, including once for mailing an aborted fetus to Bill Clinton at the 1992 Democratic National Convention, beleaguered by lawsuits, and reeling from a messy divorce that badly harmed his movement credibility, Terry is seeking a path back to movement prominence.
Terry’s politics might differ from the overtly racist overtures of Political Cesspool, but he shares similar strategies. Below the media’s radar, the far, far right is exploiting Barack Obama for political gain.