The Pro-Trump Right’s Multi-million Dollar Extremist Offensive

The role of openly racist and xenophobic groups that support the Republican campaign, such as Citizens for Sanity, is pervasive and has become crucial in the presidential challenge.
MARCO MICHIELI
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During the 2022 midterm elections, a group called Citizens for Sanity aired ads on national and local networks, including during sporting events, that numerous critics called racist and transphobic. At the time, these advertisements were subject to strong criticism from the media and the American public. Today we know that Citizens for Sanity spent more than ninety million dollars on that campaign. This was revealed in an investigation by The Guardian, which got access to new tax documents that describe the very large sum available to this recently created association.

These advertisements focused on different themes. One depicted a flood of Latin American immigrants pouring across the border, while the narrator described it as a “giant wave of illegal immigration” that is “draining your wages, destroying your schools, ruining your hospitals, threatening your family”, adding that “drug dealers, sex traffickers and violent predators are mixed in the mass”. Another advert, focused on crime in Pennsylvania, attacked local Democratic politicians, accusing them of having “a love affair with criminals”; throughout the ad images were flashed in the background of shootings in which only African American citizens appeared. In another commercial, an actress of Latin American origin attacked the Democrats because “they want to impose radical ideas on schools”, telling “children that boys are girls and girls are boys”, promoting “drugs to stop puberty, even surgical interventions to remove body parts,” concluding with “these are not Latino values.”

The ads were aired mainly in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania, some of the Swing States which again next autumn, as in every recent electoral cycle, will be the decisive ones in determining the outcomes of the elections.

But what is Citizens for Sanity? This is what in the United States they call a dark money group, a non-profit organization that can spend money on electoral campaigns without revealing who their donors are. These organizations are often at the center of the US debate because they are accused of not disclosing connections between donors and politicians. According to the rules that regulate them, these organizations must engage primarily in promoting the common good and general well-being, and can dedicate up to 49.9 percent of their total expenses to political activity, while the rest should be allocated to educational activities. These groups also cannot coordinate spending with political parties or candidates.

In the 2020 election, more than a billion dollars came from dark money groups. This is a practice that involves both parties. In 2020, Democrats, who largely support the need to strengthen the transparency of political spending, benefited the most from these unreported funds. OpenSecrets, an organization that tracks and publishes data on campaign finance and lobbying, including a database that documents people who have worked in both the public sector and lobbying firms and who may have conflicts of interest, found that during the last presidential election the dark money groups close to the Democrats spent 514 million dollars, compared to the 200 million spent by conservative groups.

However, what is striking about the 2022 advertisements is the language and ideas that organizations like Citizens for Sanity are trying to spread.

The connection with some figures linked to former President Trump is also important. According to OpenSecrets, Citizens for Sanity’s board of directors includes three members of the America First Legal Foundation, a group founded by Stephen Miller, Trump’s former adviser and his former communications director.

America First Legal Foundation has been defined as a sort of far-right version of the American Civil Liberties Union, the historic civil rights association. The purpose of Miller’s organization is to “use every legal tool at our disposal to defend our citizens from unconstitutional executive overreach.” It basically provides legal assistance to whites in affirmative action lawsuits. In 2021, the organization successfully sued to block the implementation of a Covid-19-era program for restaurants owned by women and minorities, saying it discriminated against white-owned businesses.

The America First Legal Foundation also spent millions of dollars on racist and anti-transgender ads in swing states during the 2022 midterm elections. According to the Human Rights Campaign, Miller’s organization spent four million dollars to broadcast its radio ads with a focus on African-American and Latino populations in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas. Another radio ad, also funded by America First Legal, the ad accused the White House of putting white people last in line for COVID-19 relief funds, concluding with “since when has anti-white racism has become acceptable?”. All without mentioning the candidates running in the states for the elections, since America First Legal Foundation, like Citizens for Sanity, is registered as a non-profit organization and therefore cannot directly target political candidates, but must focus on the issues.

According to The Guardian, these racist and transphobic ads offer a clear warning of the potential risks of Donald Trump’s return to power. During its previous term, the Trump administration had already adopted controversial and discriminatory policies against immigrants, the LGBTQ+ community and other minorities. If Trump were to occupy the White House again, could we see an escalation of this type of repressive rhetoric and policies?

The presence of figures such as Stephen Miller, known for his extremist positions on immigration, does not bode well.

Miller has a cursus honorum entirely on the far right of the republican world. While still in high school, he was a fan of various right-wing Republican radio stations. A Rush Limbaugh listener, the very young Miller followed a program called “The Larry Elder Show”, hosted by conservative political commentator Larry Elder. An African-American, Elder was considered a darling of California’s white listeners, thrilled to find an African-American who often agreed with their racist positions (in 2021 Elder ran for governor of California and then in the primaries Republicans for 2024, withdrawing a few months later). While still in high school, Miller became a regular guest of Elder’s, with whom he attacked the world of school, multiculturalism and the alleged lack of patriotism.

One of the numerous alarmist investigations by the right-wing media on immigration at the border with Mexico

Even though he was very young, he aroused the interest of many exponents of the world of the extreme and alternative right, from Steve Bannon to Andrew Breitbart. But Los Angeles Times journalist and columnist Jean Guerrero says it’s David Horowitz in particular who saw potential in Miller (“Hatemonger. Stephen Miller, Donald Trump, and the White Nationalist Agenda”).

Horowitz is a former Marxist turned conservative writer. His writings are steeped in racism, according to Guerrero:

[Horowitz] says that white men are responsible for all the things we care about in America, like freedom and equality, which is obviously ahistorical, because it ignores the central role played by people of color in American history, particularly in the civil rights movement, in making true these once false ideals, such as freedom and equality.

Guerrero says that Horowitz introduced Stephen Miller to the idea of having to save the United States from the destruction to which the Democratic Party is leading it because of its alliances with the non-white population. In particular, he provided Miller with two lessons: to use the language of the civil rights movement, which Horowitz knew well, against the civil rights movement; and to appeal to people’s primary instincts, especially fear. Horowitz would then help Miller find his first job in politics.

Jean Guerrero, author of Hatemonger. Stephen Miller, Donald Trump, and the White Nationalist Agenda.

Thanks to his mentor, Miller began working as a press secretary for Michele Bachmann, a Republican congresswoman linked to the Tea Party (who would run in the 2012 Republican primaries, later won by Mitt Romney). Again, thanks to Horowitz he ended up working for Alabama senator Jeff Sessions, who later in 2016 would be appointed Attorney General – a sort of justice minister – by Donald Trump. At the time, Sessions was executive chairman of the far-right site Breitbart News and Trump’s future strategist, Steve Bannon, was the leader of the anti-immigration movement.

While working for Sessions, Miller began writing for Breitbart. The site publishes articles from white nationalist and white supremacist websites. He invites many of these to write their own stories in which immigrants represent an existential threat. In 2019, the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights organization known for its lawsuits against white supremacists and for monitoring hate groups, came into possession of more than nine hundred emails that Miller sent to Breitbart News between 2015 and 2016. In these emails Miller suggests white nationalist publications such as American Renaissance and VDARE (a website that talks about “white genocide” and the “great replacement”), as well as the far-right conspiracy website InfoWars; promotes Le Camp des Saints, a French novel with a “white genocide” theme circulating among neo-Nazis; as well as xenophobic conspiracy theories and eugenics-era immigration laws in the United States – the Immigration Act of 1924 – which Adolf Hitler praised in Mein Kampf.

As with Bannon and Sessions, the political opportunity that pushed Miller to center stage was Donald Trump.

When Trump ran in the Republican primary in 2016, Miller began working for him as an advisor. Here began a climb that would lead him to first be the director of national politics for the newly elected president, in the transition phase from the Obama presidency to that of the Republican. He then became the President’s senior policy advisor, with the responsibility of defining all domestic policy, although Miller would then focus on immigration policy.

In the White House, Miller becomes one of Trump’s (numerous) gray eminences. He collaborates with his former boss Jeff Sessions and with Steve Bannon, who in the meantime has become Trump’s chief strategist, to define the contents of the executive orders regarding immigration, in particular to repress the policies of the so-called sanctuary cities, the cities that limit or deny their cooperation with the federal government in immigration enforcement. Joe Biden’s Democratic administration will eliminate these rules.

Aerial photo of Donald Trump’s rally in the South Bronx (NYC) which MAGA (Make America Great Again) supporters say was attended by 25,000 people. In reality it was a tenth of that, as can be seen from this aerial image released by ABC channel 7

One of the first things Miller did is to work on the executive order establishing an office called VOICE – Victims of Immigration and Crime Engagement -, whose job was essentially to regularly publish press releases about crimes committed by immigrants. Again, the office was later eliminated by Biden.

Miller collaborated with Bannon in various ways. They wrote Trump’s famous inauguration speech together, in which the president pledged to put an end to “American carnage”, painting the United States as a “land of abandoned factories, economic anguish, rising crime” while at the same time promising “a new era in American politics.” The Bannon-Miller pair participated in defining the contents of the presidential executive order that limited travel and immigration to the United States for citizens of seven Muslim countries, and in suspending the Refugee Admissions Program in the United States for 120 days, in addition to suspending entry of Syrians into the United States indefinitely (an executive order eliminated by Biden).

Along with Sessions, Miller was a leading supporter of the Trump administration’s decision to begin separating migrant children from their parents when they crossed the US border.

Miller remained at Trump’s side until the end. So much so that in 2022 he was subpoenaed by a federal grand jury investigating attempts to overturn the 2020 U.S. presidential election, with a particular focus on the Jan. 6 Capitol attack. In fact, on television on December 14, 2020, Miller described a plan to send “alternative” lists of electors to Congress, while groups of self-proclaimed Republican “substitute electors” met in seven states to draw up fraudulent certificates of verification of the vote.

This is why those 2022 ads and the great financial firepower that this non-profit network linked to Miller has at its disposal worry many commentators. A return of Trump to the White House could in fact lead to the return of Miller and his political positions to the center of the political scene.

“Sick lies.” The ultra-conservative New York Post puts Dr. Fauci on the front page, the number one enemy of the extreme right, which has a significant anti-vax component

According to Axios, which cites Republican sources in contact with the Republican candidate, if elected, former President Trump would build a White House cabinet and staff based primarily on two imperatives: loyalty to him and a commitment to broaden legal and governance boundaries. Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller were also among the names mentioned. Trump’s desire would be not to have limitations as happened during his first term with figures such as John Kelly or James Mattis.

In this new administration Stephen Miller could fill the role of Attorney General, a role that was held by Jeff Sessions, who fell into disgrace in the Trumpian world for his management of the investigations into Trump. Or Miller could land a role to greatly influence immigration policy.

Translation by Paul Rosenberg

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The Pro-Trump Right’s Multi-million Dollar Extremist Offensive ultima modifica: 2024-05-24T21:00:23+02:00 da MARCO MICHIELI
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