Democracy Dies in Darkness

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Clinton plans Thursday address in Nevada on Trump and the 'alt-right'

By John Wagner, David Weigel

August 23, 2016 at 5:15 PM

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. (AP)

In a renewed effort to diminish her opponent, Hillary Clinton plans to deliver a speech this week in Nevada on the "disturbing" connection between Donald Trump's campaign and the "alt-right," a conservative movement often associated with white nationalism.

The address by the Democratic nominee, planned Thursday in Reno, follows news reports, including in The Washington Post, that the alt-right has been heartened by Trump's candidacy, finding recent moves by the Republican to be consistent with its goal of maximizing the white vote in November.

Related: [‘Racialists’ are cheered by Trump’s latest strategy]

The alt-right began with a speech the conservative writer Paul Gottfried gave in 2008, after the Republican Party's electoral wipeout. Gottfried called for an "alternative right" that could defeat "the neoconservative-controlled conservative establishment." That idea was soon adopted by the "identitarian" nationalist Richard Spencer, who founded an Alternative Right website, but it was also claimed by supporters of Ron Paul and conservatives who opposed multiculturalism.

But it was Donald Trump's presidential campaign that brought the movement into the mainstream. From the moment he told a national audience that Mexico was sending rapists and drug-dealers across the border, Trump surged in the polls. He humiliated pro-immigration reform Republicans like Marco Rubio; he derided the Bush family's national security credentials by arguing that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was a mistake.

Aides said Clinton's speech is an attempt to go on the offensive again against Trump after weeks of mostly lying low as the businessman endured a series of controversies and missteps resulting in unfavorable news coverage and a drop in national and state polls.

Representatives of Trump's campaign did not respond for comment Tuesday morning. In recent days, he has been hitting Clinton hard on issues related to her email controversy and foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation.

A Clinton aide said the decision to target Trump was prompted by his campaign's recent efforts to "soften the edges," a reference to signs the candidate could be backing off his plan for mass deportations of illegal immigrants, his recent outreach to African Americans and a vague apology for having sometimes not chosen his words carefully.

Those steps have come in the wake of a leadership shake-up in Trump's campaign that included the installation of Breitbart News CEO Steve Bannon as the campaign's chief executive last week. Bannon's publication has been popular among the alt-right.

John Podesta, Clinton's campaign chairman, said the arrival of Bannon and other Trump advisers completes Trump's "disturbing takeover of the Republican party."

"We intend to call out this 'alt-right' shift and the divisive and dystopian vision of America they put forth because it tells voters everything they need to know about Donald Trump himself," Podesta said in a statement. "Republicans up and down the ticket are going to have to choose whether they want to be complicit in this lurch toward extremism or stand with the voters who can't stomach it."

The recent Post article cited the views of Jared Taylor, one of the country's foremost "racialists," who was complimentary of Trump's first television ad of the general election, which depicts Syrian refugees and other immigrants and whose narrator says Trump wants to keep the borders secure and U.S. families safe.

Taylor, who lives in Fairfax County, Va., and has edited the white nationalist magazine American Renaissance, told The Post that Trump should "concentrate on his natural constituency, which is white people."

A Clinton aide said that Clinton will stop short of accusing Trump of being a white nationalist in her speech Thursday. In the past, she has strongly accused the Republican nominee of being racially divisive.

In a speech last month in Springfield, Ill., Clinton argued that Trump does not belong in the White House when the country is grappling with difficult issues of race and violence.

"Donald Trump's campaign adds up to an ugly, dangerous message to America," Clinton said. "A message that you should be afraid — afraid of people whose ethnicity is different, or whose religious faith is different, or who were born in a different country or hold different political beliefs."

Nevada, the site of Thursday's speech, is considered a battleground state in the November election. Recent polls have shown Clinton with a narrow lead.


John Wagner is a national political reporter covering the White House.

David Weigel is a national political correspondent covering Congress and grassroots political movements. He's the author of "The Show That Never Ends," a history of progressive rock music.

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