The main beneficiary of this whole set of stories about Rep. Scalise was David Duke. While it doesn't help the Republican brand to be mentioned in a dozen stories alongside "former KKK leader David Duke," ultimately even the worst stories made it clear that the group had an unlikely name for a hard-right white supremacist group ("EURO"), and the best stories make clear that the original tale was probably untrue. It's unlikely you convinced anyone that establishment Republicans were closet racists who didn't already believe it, and if you bought the story whole hog you did it at some damage to your brand's credibility.
On the other hand, for David Duke it was great. It's been years since he got any significant press. The Washington Post argument for worrying about white supremacist groups should make that clear even on its own terms.
What is the group that Scalise addressed?So, his 'latest effort' started a decade and a half ago, and it has been largely inactive for years! Wonderful way to give revitalizing attention to a withered field.
It is called the European-American Unity and Rights Organization, or EURO. It was founded in 2000 (under a different name) by David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader. This group is best known for being Duke’s “latest vehicle,” Potok says, and has not been particularly active in recent years.
Furthermore, the whole episode gave Duke and his cohort a chance to do their favorite dance on a national stage for a good part of a week. "Why would you ever be offended by a group celebrating European heritage and traditional Western notions of political rights?" they got to ask in the national press. "You wouldn't treat Black or Latino groups that way."
Great job, all around.
Reading further into that Post piece, you see that the real story of white supremacism in America is one we counterinsurgents would call "disaggregation." That's a good thing, if you've forgotten: it means the insurgent groups are falling apart.
How many white supremacist groups are there right now?So this "growth," in other words, is made up chiefly of larger, better-organized groups falling apart and fighting among themselves.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups in the United States, estimates that there are a little more than 930 such groups in the country right now. Most of these are white supremacist groups or white nationalist groups, according to Potok, a senior fellow at the SPLC.
Is that more groups than there were recently? Fewer groups? Give me some context.
That number is up from 602 hate groups in 2000, according to the SPLC. That is “steady, significant growth,” Potok said Tuesday, but it pales in comparison to the growth among other groups the SPLC tracks....
How have these white supremacist groups changed since 2000?
If anything, the groups “were much better organized” in 2000, when there were several major groups, Potok said. Even as their numbers have grown, these groups are “constantly at each other’s throats,” which means they are not tremendously well-organized, he added.
The story you want to tell is of how white supremacism and racism are flourishing among Republican America in response to a black President and a rapidly growing illegal immigrant population that is depressing labor participation and compensation in a long-slog recession. I can see why that story would sound plausible! One might easily imagine that this would be the case.
It just happens not to be. The facts don't support it. Middle America has rejected racism root and branch, and is not making any move to return to its embrace in spite of what might seem to be likely factors to spur a growth in racism. It just isn't happening.