California’s secretary of state published yesterday the official list submitted by the Trump campaign of its choice of 169 delegates to the Republican National Convention. Among the delegates is William Johnson, a Los Angeles lawyer who is one of the nation’s most prominent white supremacists and heads a party dedicated to deporting all non-whites from the United States.
He is the leader of the American Freedom Party (AFP), a group whose stated aim is “to represent the political interests of White Americans” and preserve “the customs and heritage of the European American people.” The party advocates deporting “all non-white immigrants and U.S. citizens, including anyone with any ascertainable trace of Negro blood” and believes that “diversity is white genocide.” In 1989 Johnson published a book entitled Amendment to the Constitution: Averting the Decline and Fall of America that laid out his plans for these racial deportations and called for the repeal of the 14th and 15th amendments. The book garnered him significant notoriety and he even appeared on many talk shows to discuss it.
With a rap sheet like that it is almost impossible to believe that the Trump campaign was unaware of Johnson’s background. If they were their ignorance would be a sign of massive incompetence and irresponsibility. Johnson says that in his application to become a Trump delegate he did not explicitly use the words “white nationalist” but did disclose multiple details about his “background and activism.” And indeed the AFP has gained notice this primary season for financing pro-Trump robocalls that have gone out to voters around the country with messages like “The white race is dying out in America and Europe because we are afraid to be called ‘racist’” and “Donald Trump is not racist, but Donald Trump is not afraid. Don’t vote for a Cuban. Vote for Donald Trump.”
The AFP has benefitted tremendously from its association with Trump, and is now “flush with cash from top donors.” According to Mark Potok, a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which tracks hate groups, the party is “arguably the most important white nationalist group in the country.” (Johnson, it should be noted, always refers to himself as a “white nationalist,” which is politically correct speak for “white supremacist.”)
This is far from the first time that prominent white supremacists have inevitably come to the support of Donald Trump and his message of xenophobia, hatred, and exclusion, and Mr. Trump has an exceptionally poor record of disavowing such support. Unsurprisingly, both the Trump campaign and its California delegate coordinator refused to comment on Mr. Johnson’s appointment when asked by to do so by Mother Jones.
Indeed many among the nation’s disturbingly large contingent of white supremacists are coming to see Mr. Trump as one of their own, and have been enthusiastic in their support of him after years of being excluded from the political mainstream. Johnson has said that in his position as a delegate he “hopes to show how [he] can be mainstream and have these views,” and unfortunately Trump’s rise has made that possible. Mr. Potok of the SPLC says that Trump has “legitimised and mainstreamed hate in ways we haven’t seen since the days of George Wallace,” and the group has is worried that a 14% increase in hate groups in the country in 2015 following years of their decline could be tied to Trump’s popularity. As Mr. Johnson himself said in his interview for Mother Jones, “For many, many years, when I would say these things, other white people would call me names: ‘Oh, you’re a hatemonger, you’re a Nazi, you’re like Hitler,'” he confessed. “Now they come in and say, ‘Oh, you’re like Donald Trump.'”
James DeVinne is a student at American University in Washington, DC majoring in International Service with a focus on the Middle East and South Asia. He is a founding member of Occupy Baltimore and interns at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.