Trump could count on the strong support of white supremacists in his race for the White House.
America has become increasingly polarized in the last four years, as Donald Trump has been more determined than ever to build an important electoral base to win again in 2020.
Trump has used a divisive rhetoric since the beginning of his campaign for the 2016 election. He shocked the general public with his failure to condemn far-right movements during various tragic events that took place in America during his presidency.
“I think there is blame on both sides,” Trump said in 2017 after the murder of an anti-racist protester by a neo-Nazi during the white-supremacist Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville.
More recently, during the first presidential debate against Joe Biden, Trump did not strongly condemn white supremacist groups even when Joe Biden mentioned the Proud Boys.
During the debate Trump called on the far-right extremists to “Stand back and stand by.”
Dr. Barbara Perry, Director of Ontario Tech University’s Centre of Hate, Bias and Extremism explained that people have interpreted this message as a call to arms for the far-right.
“He wasn’t talking just to the Proud Boys when he said ‘stand back and stand by,’ he was talking to the movement as a whole, that they should be ready to defend him should he lose and come to his aid,” she said.
During the 2020 election, Trump was aware of the support he had from the far-right, who have benefited from having a president who shares values with them.
“The far-right was looking for an anti-Obama,” said Dr. Perry. “They were ready for a Trump.”
His presidency made far-right movements grow not only in the United States but also across the border in Canada.
“It affected both sides of the border quite dramatically in terms of absolute growth in the number of [far-right] groups and in the number of people coming to these groups,” said Dr. Perry.
As soon as Trump asserted his desire for re-election, white supremacist movements supported him during his campaign and were especially active on social media.
Dr. Perry explained that the promotion of conspiracy ideologies by these groups on social media can influence some American voters. Movements like QAnon, greatly influenced by the pandemic, have therefore taken an important place in support of Trump’s re-election.
On social media, this promotion was also supported by the emergence of far-right Canadians under the name “Canadians for Trump.”
“In response to the Proud Boys incident at the debate, there were Canadian groups who were posting ‘we are also ready to come to your defence,’” said Dr. Perry.
“We are going to see some [far-right] mobilizations … whether Trump loses or wins,” she said. “They will be there locally, but I suspect there will be convoys to D.C. as well to defend him.”
Feature graphic by Taylor Reddam