Donald Trump's statement last week that he would like to ban all Muslims from entering the United States was met with resounding and predictable outrage from nearly all quarters of society, with many condemning the plan as racist, unconstitutional, or just plain wrong.
White supremacists, on the other hand, were thrilled.
Don Black, a former Klu Klux Klan leader who runs the white supremacist website Stormfront.org, said he noted a spike in visits to his site after Trump unveiled his proposed Muslim ban. Trump "has clearly been a benefit to us," Black said, referring to his community of white supremacists.
"There's an insurgency among our people that has been seething for decades that have felt intimidated and demoralized," he added. "The Trump candidacy has changed all that."
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"There is absolutely nothing wrong, nothing illegal in what Donald Trump has proposed," said Richard Spencer, a prominent white nationalist and the director of the far-right National Policy Institute, in a recent video discussing the proposed Muslim ban.
Trump was popular with white supremacists long before he said Muslims should not be allowed into the country. Spencer said he witnessed a marked flurry of discussion on Twitter and other online forums from the white nationalist community over the past year, which he credits in large part to Trump.
"I really do admire and respect what he's doing," said Spencer. "I'm glad he's running."
'He's willing to talk about those things that make people uncomfortable and that's great.'
Black also agrees that Trump has attracted more people to the white supremacist cause, even though it remains a relatively small community. Ever since Trump announced he was running for president in June, Black says that visitors to the site have been up by 25 percent. He claimed the audience for his radio show has also increased by 30 percent.
In June, the Daily Stormer, another prominent neo-Nazi site, formally endorsed Trump for president.
Trump "is absolutely the only candidate who is even talking about anything at all that matters," wrote Daily Stormer's founder, Andrew Anglin. "[H]e is talking about actual issues, and this is severely important."
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Spencer says his community of white supremacists support Trump for much of the same reasons that his other supporters do — precisely because he provokes so much outrage in the elites, not in spite of it.
"He's willing to talk about those things that make people uncomfortable and that's great," said Spencer.
Black pointed out that his fellow white supremacists like that Trump speaks off the cuff, without the aid of a teleprompter. "Whatever he says, even if he gets the facts wrong, it still resonates with people," Black said.
Black spoke to VICE News from his hometown of Mobile, Alabama, where Trump held a rally that attracted 30,000 people in August. "There's never been anything like that, with any candidate before," he said, calling the turnout, "incredible."
'They can't believe that there is a politician leading the presidential Republican field that is expressing these positions that are so very close to their own.'
White supremacists like Black and Spencer are responding to the same outsider aspect of Trump that has been his selling point since his candidacy began. "Most of our people are pretty disenchanted with politics. Most of them usually don't vote, because there's no one to vote for," Black said. "They will vote for Trump, though."
The fact that Trump's message resonates with white supremacists in this way is unusual, considering that white supremacists normally don't have any interest in politics, said Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center and a leading expert on extremism.
"They see Democrats and Republicans alike as utter sellouts," Potok said. "The fact is, is that Trump's positions put him far, far outside the political mainstream and essentially in the world of white supremacist groups. They can't believe that there is a politician leading the presidential Republican field that is expressing these positions that are so very close to their own."
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So does this mean that Trump is going to be elected on the wave of white supremacist support? Probably not. White supremacists are still a relatively tiny community, and it's still likely that many of them won't vote. But the significance of Trump, says Potok, is not about whether droves of white supremacists actually go out to the polls to vote for him on election day. Trump's candidacy, he said, "has opened up a political space for people who have these feelings to express them and very often to express them virulently." He added that Trump is "legitimizing and normalizing hatred toward an enormous group of people."
Black agreed, albeit in different words. Trump has awakened a feeling among many white Americans that is not just going to disappear, he says. Regardless of whether or not those people go to the polls, "they're still part of this insurgency, they're part of this movement and our job is to keep it going."
The Trump campaign has not exactly welcomed the support from white supremacists with open arms, but he hasn't completely disavowed them the way other politicians might either. In August, after prominent white supremacist and KKK leader David Duke endorsed Trump, Trump brushed off the support.
"I don't need anyone's endorsement," Trump told Bloomberg. When asked how he felt about Duke's support, Trump responded by saying, "People like me across the board. Everybody likes me." The Trump campaign did not respond to VICE News' request for comment.
Trump's lukewarm reaction to Duke's endorsement didn't bother Black one bit.
"All I know is that our people — white nationalists and white Middle America out there who would never call themselves that — are inspired and energized," he said. "And I don't think that's going to go away. Trump is doing a great thing. And I never would have expected that."
Follow Olivia Becker on Twitter: @obecker928
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