Nativism Watch

Nativism at RNC 2016: Everything you need to know

Imagine2050 Staff • Jul 25, 2016
Source: Getty Images

The much-anticipated, chaotic, sometimes laughable, but mostly terrifying 2016 Republican National Convention has come to end. And, oh, what a ride.

There were certainly the highly publicized moments: Melania Trump’s partially plagiarized speech and Ted Cruz being, well, Ted Cruz. And who could forget Laura Ingraham’s apparent Nazi salute? There was also everyone’s favorite political pundit and underwear model, Antonio Sabato, who said he “absolutely” believes President Obama is a Muslim.

Nativism (noun):  the policy of protecting the interests of native-born or established inhabitants against those of immigrants.

The event ended with Donald Trump accepting the Republican nomination for president. His speech contained the same dangerous undertones prevalent throughout the real estate mogul’s campaign. He once again vowed to “build a great border wall to stop illegal immigration.” He also claimed American children were “being sacrifice[d] on the altar of open borders.”

Citing recent attacks that killed and wounded police in Baton Rouge and Dallas, Trump promised to “restore law and order our country.” He, however, made no mention of the fact that police continue to wrongfully shoot and kill unarmed (or lawfully armed) Black people.

Trump’s speech aside, there was another element of the convention, as initially previewed at Imagine 2050: a prominent nativist and extreme far-right presence. The themes of the four days were “Make America Work Again,” “Make America Safe Again,” “Make America First Again.” However as the Center for New Community’s Kalia Abiade summed it up, the true theme seemed to be make America fear and hate again.

With that, let us take a walk down (a not-so-distant) memory lane and look at the who said what among the nativist and far-right presence at the RNC.

White Nationalists Crash the Party

There was a notable white nationalist presence in and around the RNC. As promised, Matthew Heimbach and his white nationalist outfit Traditionalist Worker Party, was seen hanging around outside the event.

Notorious white nationalist figures Peter Brimelow and Richard Spencer, who run the vehemently racist and the National Policy Institute think tank, respectively, were spotted at off-site  at the anti-Muslim ‘Fab Party” on Tuesday.

Inside the RNC, a tweet from was featured during a roll call vote. Media Matters for America also reported a white supremacist figure obtained a guest pass to the convention and broadcasted from within.

Rep. King Shows Up for White People

Source: C-SPAN

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) made headlines during the convention when he questioned what contributions non-white people have made to civilization (spoiler: quite a lot. Maybe start here).

“This ‘old white people’ business does get a little tired, Charlie,” King said during an interview at the RNC. “I’d ask you to go back through history and figure out, where are these contributions that have been made by these other categories of people that you’re talking about, where did any other subgroup of people contribute more to civilization?”

This, of course, is par for the course for the Iowa lawmaker, as the folks at Right Wing Watch highlighted.

Elsewhere at the RNC, King was spotted holding a “summit” with far-right, anti-Muslim Dutch Parliamentarian Geert Wilders. What were these two anti-immigrant figures talking about? Considering Wilders holds similar views as King about Western civilization, and is currently on trial for allegedly inciting hatred against the Dutch Moroccan minority, they may have been talking about how superior they believe white people and Christianity are.

As previously noted at  Imagine 2050, this is hardly the first time King and Wilders have associated with one another.

Transatlantic nativism: Geert Wilders Makes An Appearance

Source: Wikipedia

Far-right Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who heads the Party for Freedom, was in attendance and seen snapping selfies throughout the GOP event. Wilders is known for his party’s draconian stance on immigration and disdain of Muslims, once saying Islam is not a religion but the “the ideology of a retarded culture.” Leading up to the RNC, Wilders expressed his interest in attending the event, saying he is “encouraged” by Trump. The Tennessean later revealed the far-right figure attended the event as a guest of Tennessee State Sen. Bill Ketron and the Tennessee Republican Party.

While at the convention Wilders fielded interviews with the media, saying The Netherlands needs a leader like Trump. He was documented associating with several elected officials including Sen. Bob Corker and Gov. Bill Haslam of Tennessee as well as New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez.

Most  ‘Fab’ Party or Most Hateful?

An event billed as the “most fab party at the RNC” transparently attempted to exploit post-Orlando grief to foster Islamophobia. Rather than being a substantive rally on advancing LGBTQ rights, it turned out to be a glorified press conference for anti-Muslim opportunists to inject their agenda in the convention.

Breitbart News’ alt-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos headlined the event, which featured anti-Muslim figurehead Pamela Geller and Dutch politician Geert Wilders, a well-known and inflammatory nativist.

The event promoted a narrative that Trump himself adopted in his acceptance speech, where he said, “As your President, I will do everything in my power to protect our LGBT citizens from the violence and oppression of a hateful foreign ideology.”

Sorry, Trump and friends, promoting anti-Muslim hate won’t convince anyone that the far right supports LGBTQ rights.

Ultra-Nationalist UK Politician Nigel Farage Shows Up

Wilders was not the only figure at the RNC representing Europe’s far-right. Nigel Farage, the former leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) leader and one of the main spokesperson for the so-called “Brexit” campaign, also attended the convention as an observer.

Like Wilders, Farage was also spotted meeting with Sen. Bob Corker. He was also busy during interviews with various media outlets about the Brexit campaign, including this cringe-worthy one with McClatchyDC.

Kris Kobach Flexes His Muscle

Source: C-SPAN

Anti-immigrant Kansas Secretary of State and GOP delegate Kris Kobach not only attended the convention, but successfully inserted nativism and other far-right language and policies into the GOP platform. 

Kobach was also seen schmoozing with other GOP delegates like those from Kentucky, which is concerning given his history of promoting voter suppression and draconian anti-immigrant measures in states across the country.

During the convention on July 19, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against Kobach’s dual voting system that potentially disenfranchises 17,000 Kansans from voting in state elections.

Sheriff Joe Speaks from the Main Stage

Arizona’s notoriously anti-immigrant Sheriff Joe Arpaio showed up at the convention to endorse Trump. During his speech, Arpaio who fancies himself  “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” claimed Trump “will build the wall” in order to keep out the “terrorists.”

Elsewhere in his speech, Arpaio said his most “important mission is to elect Donald Trump.”

His speech came just one day after the judge presiding over the racial profiling case against Arpaio handed down the first round of punishments for the sheriff who was held in contempt of court.

Nativists Continue to Turn Tragedy into Hate

The RNC featured three speakers who have suffered the tragedy of losing a loved one, and have unfortunately joined up with the anti-immigrant group The Remembrance Project as a result. Groups like the Remembrance Project have long exploited the experiences of grieving families to promote nativism and policies aimed at rolling back rights for immigrants.

The Remembrance Project has seen its profile soar after the death of Kathryn Steinle in California, who was allegedly killed by an undocumented immigrant. This high-profile tragedy provided the opportunity for nativist groups like the Remembrance Project and the Center for Immigration Studies to spread fear and promote anti-sanctuary city legislation nationally, undoing years of immigrant rights advocacy and trust built between local police forces and immigrant communities.

Sen. Sessions’ Disingenuousness is on Display

Source: C-SPAN

Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL), who has repeatedly proved he is no champion of American workers, took to the convention stage to warn that immigrants are planning to “steal our jobs.” His message sought to invoke a divide-and-conquer strategy and convince Black people and low-wage workers that immigrants are to blame for scarce opportunities instead of the shady employers and systems that exploit so many of us.

“Our middle class is steadily declining, with our African American and Hispanic communities being hurt the most,” Sessions said, as if Black and Latino communities are his main priority.

This is the same Sessions who is an advocate of “self-deportation.” (Thought we were rid of that nonsense with Mitt Romney, did you? Think again!)

In another interview during the RNC, Sessions referred to Trump as a “rational nationalist,” whatever that is. Actually, arguably only one of those adjectives can used to accurately describe Trump. Can you guess which one?

Anti-Muslim Adviser Flynn Weighs In

Source: C-SPAN

Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Michael Flynn used his convention speech to be sure to fit in with the prevailing anti-Muslim sentiment. Flynn serves in an advisory role on the board of directors of ACT for America, a grassroots group whose brand of nativism is steeped in Islamophobia.

Not surprisingly, Flynn used his time to rail against “political correctness” and blame  “radical Islamists” for the problems the United States faces-two themes we’ve previously heard from ACT’s founder and president Brigitte Gabriel.

Moving Forward

The Republican National Convention was a wild ride, indeed, and chock full of nativist undertones (and not-at-all-under tones). Now, onward to the Democratic National Convention. Be sure to check back in to Imagine 2050 to see what sort of shenanigans those Democrats get into.

The Center for New Community is a 501(c)(3) organization and does not endorse any political parties or candidates for elected office. This post, and any post on Imagine2050, is not intended to support or oppose any candidates for elected office.

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