One of those to whom he has given confidence is Richard Spencer, the intellectually unimpressive, historically illiterate huckster who rallied the far right in Charlottesville. Spencer, who wants to create an “ethno-state” for white people, claims to have coined the term “alt-right” – a sanitised word for the extreme right. In July last year, Trump’s former chief strategist, Steve Bannon, boasted that his website Breitbart News was a “platform for the alt-right”.
When I encountered Spencer at Montgomery Bell park, he emerged carrying a glass of what smelled like bourbon and an entourage of adoring bigots soon surrounded me in the car park. More odious troll than eloquent polemicist, he claimed, among other things, that Africans had benefited from white supremacy and that, despite having been banned from 26 European countries, Europe would always be more his home than mine. “If Africans had never existed, world history would be almost exactly the same as it is today,” he claimed. “Because we are the genius that drives it.” Like a vulture preying on the anxiety, and with few alternatives on offer – as much as people cited Trump as the problem, few offered Democrats as the solution – he felt confident.
“People are now aware of the term ‘alt-right’ … I don’t think Trump shares the ideal of the ethno-state … But he wouldn’t have run the campaign that he ran if he didn’t feel some sense of loss, that America has lost something,” he said.
He felt he was gaining influence. This was one of the few accurate things he actually said. And by far the most chilling.