Hate Groups: Preparing for an Obama Win?

We spoke with a white supremacist, as well as a hate-group expert, about how racists see Nov. 6.

Spencer Platt/Getty Images News; David S. Holloway/Getty Images News
Spencer Platt/Getty Images News; David S. Holloway/Getty Images News

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“We have political speakers all the time at the local level and national,” including federal officials, he claimed. When asked for specific names, he declined, saying that after the unflattering coverage Lott and others received for ties to the group he will never divulge the name of political supporters without explicit approval from them.

When asked if there is a particular political affiliation common among the group’s political supporters Baum replied, “Most of them are probably Republicans. Not all, but most, because they tend to be more conservative.” Though Baum declined to discuss current membership numbers, he did say that the group, which once had a roster of 15,000 members, currently has members “in every state of the union and 12 foreign countries.”

Baum stressed that while the group doesn’t endorse candidates, it does strive to keep members politically informed and engaged through its newsletter and conducting polls. Its most recent poll on the presidential election was conducted this summer, although he said the results would not be made public until after the election. He did, however, say the winner “was overwhelmingly Romney.” The results of the organization’s poll may not have been particularly surprising, but Baum’s election prediction was. After decrying President Obama as “the worst president of my lifetime,” Baum said, “I hope you got a good job because we got Obama four more years.”

The Specter of a Meltdown

According to Potok, Baum is not alone in this sense of resignation within the white supremacist movement. Potok said that “there is surprising little activity from Klan, etc.” The number of white supremacist groups ballooned from 600 in 2000 to more than 1,000 last year, but his sense is that “What we’re seeing is a kind of meltdown as they contemplate four more years under the hated black president.” Potok recalled that as soon as President Obama first received the Democratic Party nomination, there was a skinhead plot to murder him, and other white separatists have been arrested for similar plots since his election. But while the activity of some hate groups may appear to have mellowed in this election cycle, their rhetoric has not.

In a recent TV segment for Nightline, Steven Howard, a grand wizard for the Ku Klux Klan, attempted to rev up his fellow Klansmen by chanting, “Barack Obama does not care about us, he does not care about America.” He later said, matter-of-factly, that if President Obama is re-elected there will be a race war, and white Americans will be in danger of being placed in concentration camps.