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Nov 12, 2016

The secret Trump voter

Co-produced with PRX Logo

How did everyone miss the Donald Trump supporters who were hiding in plain sight? On Reveal, we’ll learn why they kept a low profile – until Election Day, that is – and hear what they have to say now that their candidate is headed to the White House.

This was the first presidential election in a half-century without the full protection of the Voting Rights Act, which was dismantled by a Supreme Court ruling. And over the past few years, states across the nation took steps to make it harder for African Americans and other minorities to cast their votes. So we sent reporters to several of these states to see how things played out on Election Day. Did voters face roadblocks? Yes. Did this help to swing the election? Probably not, but what we do know is that the discrimination that did happen often happened out of sight.

And finally, we’ll meet an emerging leader of the movement that helped push Trump to victory: the alt-right. Richard Spencer soon will pack his bags and leave his home in rural Montana for Washington, D.C., where he plans to set up a think tank to advocate for a white supremacist agenda.

DIG DEEPER

  • Listen: A frank conversation with a white nationalist
  • Read: Veterans voted for Trump to ‘drain the swamp’
  • Read: Ohio voting restrictions hit the elderly and homeless

Credits

Support for Reveal is provided by The Reva and David Logan Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and Mary and Steven Swig.


TRANSCRIPT:

Reveal transcripts are produced by a third-party transcription service and may contain errors. Please be aware that the official record for Reveal's radio stories is the audio.

Section 1 of 5          [00:00:00 - 00:10:04] (NOTE: speaker names may be different in each section)
Al: From the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I'm Al [Letson 00:00:07]. On election day, everything changed.
Ryan: Electing Trump is really a repudiation of not just democrats. It's a repudiation of republicans as well. The two-party system has really lost touch with your average voter out there.
Al: Gulf War veteran Ryan [Honl 00:00:32] lives in rural Wisconsin. He's a former army lieutenant who voted for president Obama in both 2008 and 2012, but this time he campaigned hard for Donald Trump.
Ryan: There's just so much disillusion on both sides, and that change had to happen. Putting Hillary Clinton in there simply wouldn't have been a change. It would have been the Bush-Clinton years all over again.
Al: Now, I had heard that sentiment before. Back in January, we did a show looking at Trump supporters to find out what they were looking for in a candidate. At the time we thought that Trump would never become the nominee, much less the president. Clearly, we were wrong. Even one poll that predicted a Trump victory sort of got it wrong by saying he would win the popular vote, which he didn't, but that poll tapped into something others missed: a hidden electorate. Conservative whites who sat out the 2012 election. The secret Trump voter.
Ari: Women who say they're going to vote for Trump were most uncomfortable telling this to anyone.
Al: That's Ari [inaudible 00:01:41]. He designed and ran the poll for the University of Southern California and the LA Times.
Ari: You do see that sort of the unlikely groups, if you like, the implausible groups, the groups we said all the women will go for Clinton. Those who didn't were a little less likely to tell that to a pollster, so you can also see why that would have got missed.
Al: That got missed, but some Trump supporters saw it a mile away. During the election we sent a team of reporters to battleground states to talk to those voters. We also investigated places that made it harder for people to vote, laws that targeted minority communities.
  We begin in Philadelphia with Reveal's Laura Starecheski who talks to a guy who says he knew in his heart all along what was going to happen.
Laura: Steve Walls had never been politically active before, but Trump spoke to him.
Steve: 4635, 4603.
Laura: Steve went out door-knocking for Trump about ten times in his Northeast Philly neighborhood Mayfair. It's pretty mixed politically. In 2012, about 60% of people here voted for Obama, 40% went for Mitt Romney.
  Steve is an electrician who hunts a lot on his days off. When I went out with him, he was wearing a camouflage Philly's cap, t-shirt, jeans.
Steve: Can I speak to Frank? I'm doing door to door about the presidential election. Could I ask you a couple questions?
Frank: Sure.
Laura: Frank [inaudible 00:03:09] is a disabled vet with a long, white biker beard.
Steve: The presidential election was held today, would you vote for Donald Trump or democrat Hillary Clinton.
Frank: Trump.
Steve: Okay.
Laura: Trump. Down the block, Kayla Blanc answers her door and says right away she's voting for Trump too.
Kayla: Don't you feel most of the people voting for Clinton are brain dead? Think about it! All the Catholics that are voting, and she's totally for abortion.
Steve: Partial-birth abortion. She announced it the other night at the debate.
Laura: When the weather turned cold and rainy, we headed back to Steve's Jeep. Steve wants more jobs, more money here at home, a Trump appointee on the Supreme Court. He's from a military family, and he wants support for veterans. He hates Hillary Clinton and loves that Trump is a political outsider.
Steve: I'm a little bit on the same temperament as him. You say something, I'm going to respond, and it may not necessarily be something that you want to hear.
Laura: He told me the Trump support we saw door knocking was exactly what he had been hearing everywhere across the city.
Steve: When you ask them what they're going to vote for, 90% of these people are going, "I'm going to vote for Trump." Like that. Quiet, because they're scared.
Laura: He knew this silent majority would carry Trump. Steve had planned to be a poll-watcher on election day after Trump called on supporters to go out and watch for voter fraud, specifically in Philadelphia, but then Steve thought he'd have more fun out on the street talking to people and handing out Trump literature. I met him outside his polling place, a firehouse in his neighborhood, minutes before the polls closed.
Steve: It is 7:58. I've been here since 6:45 this morning. It's been a long day. Obviously you can tell my voice is shot. I've talked to probably a couple thousand people. It's the end of the night. Polls close in two minutes.
Laura: Steve had been working alongside Hillary supporter, Linda [Zobble 00:05:12] all day. She was thinking Hillary was headed for victory.
Linda: You know what, there will be a little piece of my heart that will feel sad because of you. You have such passion for Trump.
Steve: I believe you.
Linda: I'm very, very serious.
Steve: I believe you. I know if Trump wins, you're going to be in a better place. I believe that in my heart.
Linda: I have to accept whatever happens.
Steve: Just know that you're going to be better off. I'm telling you. I'm not wrong. I know I'm not wrong. Now the stress begins. The waiting.
Laura: Around 9:00, Steve and I headed to the Tailhook Tavern in Northeast Philly to watch the returns. Hours went by. Finally, around 1:00 in the morning ...
Steve: They just called Florida. They just called Florida. This is actually happening!
Laura: Steve said this energy reminded him of Obama's victory back in 2008, only this time he was on the winning side. The bar was half-full of blitzed Trump supporters swaying on their feet when the big news rolled in around 2:00 AM.
Steve: The New York Times just called Pennsylvania for Trump. That's it. It's game. It's over. That's checkmate. That's not plenty. That's a beating.
Laura: The next morning, Steve e-mailed me this recording.
Steve: Well, good morning. Day one, President of the United States, Donald J. Trump. Did you ever in your life think you would hear that? President of the United States, Donald Trump? I'm just glad we won. It's our time.
Al: Thanks to Reveal's Laura Starecheski for bringing us that story.
  What does Steve mean by, "It's our time?" That's one of the questions we set out to answer earlier this year during primary season. One of our reporters, Nate Halverson, traveled around South Carolina with something he called the Trump Game. He loaded a bunch or Trump's most bombastic moments on an iPad. He had Trump supporters play the clips and respond to them. Here's part of that story we first ran in January.
Nate: There's someone in South Carolina I want to play the Trump Game. A well-connected republican, Susan Chapman. I drive to Conway, a small southern town near Myrtle Beach. Her home, with a sweeping front porch and columns, is surrounded by willow trees. It sits just behind Main Street.
  This place is beautiful. Wow.
  Susan has deep political ties.
Susan: Of course I worked for Lindsey for years.
Nate: Lindsey is South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham.
  It seems like you're really part of the republican establishment, or at least you were.
Susan: I was, and that's a whole other story we'll go talk about.
Nate: We go to her parlor.
Susan: I was a republican senatorial life member, inner circle, and you name it, all that stuff.
Nate: What happened?
Susan: I think what happened is when all these people went to the stage to take down the flag, of course I was against taking down the flag.
Nate: The confederate flag. It was removed from the South Carolina capital.
Susan: That's when I went to Trump.
Nate: Susan feels betrayed by the republican establishment.
Susan: I think most people saw this as a political move to try to bring the South into this. Let's pull down that flag, and in doing this, we can bring the blacks into the party, be can become more diverse. The thing is, it opened my eyes, and a lot of people's eyes.
Nate: I pull out the iPad.
  Can I show you this? Can we play the Trump Game? This is what I've been having everybody do.
Donald: Washington is broken and our country is in serious trouble and total disarray.
Susan: Oh my gosh, it is so broken. It is. Exactly. I think that tells you, right there, what Trump supporters believe. It's broken.
Nate: Susan and other white voters I spoke with feel their legacy is being pulled down, just like the confederate flag.
Susan: It is not racist to us. Maybe to some it is racist. To me, it's history. When you grew up in the south, the black families were your families. I was basically raised ... I can name off the ladies that basically raised me. Ruby Lee, who basically raised me was a black lady. Her children were my friends. When my father died, she rode with us in the car. When I got married, she sat with the family.
Nate: These were people who worked for her family.
Susan: They were extension of our family. We didn't see it as racist.
Section 1 of 5          [00:00:00 - 00:10:04]
Section 2 of 5          [00:10:00 - 00:20:04] (NOTE: speaker names may be different in each section)
Susan: We didn't see it as racist. I'm sure that there's some blacks that did. I concur on that.
Al: Susan said something to me I was going to hear over and over again from people playing the Trump game.
Susan: If we are a party of the big tent, where we want diversity, we want blacks, and immigrants, and women, and gays, and everybody else in it, but we don't want conservatives, then we, as conservatives need to go somewhere else. We need to go where we're wanted.
Al: Susan left the Republican establishment to become a Trump supporter, but now Trump has become the establishment, so what does his victory mean for his supporters who never felt connected to the GOP?
  We sent Katharine Mieszkowski to Nevada to find out.
Catherine: When I meet up with Michael Augustine, he's wearing a red t-shirt with "Observer" written on it in big, white letters.
Michael: I started to write "Peaceful" on top of it, but I don't think there will be any problems. It's pretty calm, isn't it?
Catherine: It's just after 7:30 in the morning, and Michael is outside a community center in Pahrump, Nevada. It's his polling place in this rural town about 60 miles outside of Las Vegas. Michael has got his cup of coffee, and his dog, Abby, on a leash. He's about to go inside and vote.
Michael: For president?
Catherine: Yeah.
Michael: Well, Donald Trump.
Catherine: Michael is a 55 year old white guy who's been through good times and bad. He sold real estate here, but that dried up in the housing bust. These days, he's getting by. He's living in the trailer he grew up in. He farms pot in a backyard grow behind it. Despite the observer shirt, he's not poll-watching in any official capacity today.
Michael: It was just so that people knew that I'm here, and I'm aware, and I'm awake. It's certainly not meant to be [threatenist 00:11:51], but I felt a responsibility to do something. I wouldn't say, "Hey, if you're cheating on your vote, I'm going to shoot you," or nothing. It's just ... I want people to know I'm observing.
Catherine: He tells me he's wearing that shirt as a way of showing support for his candidate, and for people like himself.
Michael: You get stuck away as a middle-aged white guy. We've been put away, and now there's this whole democratic society out there, for the most part, my experiences with them, is they do not want anything to do with me, with a middle-aged white guy. I got that feeling a lot during Clinton rallies that I'd watch and observe.
Catherine: Donald Trump has a way of making Michael feel good about who he is. I first met Michael about a year ago at a Trump rally where there was no shortage of middle-aged white guys.
Michael: It's amazing. You can see the complete separation. Especially in the early days at Trump rallies, everybody points it out, it's mostly white guys.
Catherine: The event happened at a casino hotel in Las Vegas. This was long before Trump was the GOP nominee, when most political insiders considered him a fringe candidate, but Michael was already intrigued.
Michael: This is where I fell in love with him. When he first announced his candidacy, I remember looking and going, "Is this insane? Donald Trump? What the ... " I'm listening to him, and he's kind of an ass. He's pompous, and the crazy hair, and all that stuff, but in simple, laymen lifestyle, he really un-complicates it.
Catherine: That Trump rally feels like a lifetime ago. Since then, more people signed on than any of the so-called experts predicted, but Michael saw signs of that growth in the crowds at more recent Trump rallies.
Michael: Towards the end, now you're seeing a lot more white women and more minorities too. Thank god. They're finally getting it. Trump treats everybody the same.
Catherine: Since we first met, Michael's love for Trump hasn't wavered. Michael's a registered Republican, and Trump's campaign inspired him to get more involved in politics. He's volunteered, and even went to the state party convention.
  On election day, I catch up with Michael after he casts his ballot.
  How do you feel?
Michael: Elated. I feel good.
Catherine: Great.
Michael: Glad it's done, like everybody else.
Catherine: Michael heads to Las Vegas to spend election night in the mist logical possible place.
Michael: Staying at Trump International tonight.
Catherine: That's right, Trump's hotel. Here's what the bar and the lobby sounded like on election night. A couple of days later, I called Michael, who was home in Pahrump.
  Now that we know he's elected, how do you feel about the future?
Michael: Honestly, boots to the ground. I think that once Trump's plans get into play, and the boots are on the ground, and America starts working again, on American projects, in American cities, and towns, and in our rural areas specifically, I mean, the rural areas have to grow, because the cities can't grow anymore. They can't sustain ...
Catherine: What do you say to the people who voted for Clinton and now are worried about the future of the country? What do you want to say to those people?
Michael: I want to give them a hug and say, "Look, keep your eyes open. Keep your hands on the steering wheel. Keep going forward. Yeah."
Al: As excited as Michael is about what's coming in the next four years, there are other people in all corners of the country who are feeling the opposite. We're going to hear from them later in the show, and also from a guy who thinks Trump's victory will help pave the way for his dream of an all-white ethno-state. You're listening to Reveal.
  From the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX, this is Reveal. I'm Al [sLetson 00:16:17]. At the white hot center of this election were race and identity. You heard those issues play out loudly on the campaign trail with Donald Trump calling Mexicans rapists and criminals and saying that all Muslims should be banned from the US. Those issues also played out in quieter, more subtle ways, and they made it harder for people of color to vote in many states across the country. This goes back to 2013 when the Supreme Court gutted a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. That decision allowed officials in 15 states to put in place new voting restrictions without federal oversight. We sent reporters to several states to see how this played out on election day. Now, we're not saying that the voter suppression we witnessed was enough to swing the election. We don't know that yet. What we do know is that it's happening often out of sight in states like Georgia.
Speaker 5: Hancock County Board of Elections and Registration called meeting. I'd like to bring this meeting to order. Thank you for coming. Kathy [crosstalk 00:17:20] ...
Al: At this public meeting last year, about 100 miles outside of Atlanta, voter after voter in this mostly poor, black community was called up to prove that they did, in fact, have the right to vote in the city of Sparta.
Speaker 5: The next one is Angela Ingram.
Al: Angela Ingram had to fight off an accusation from another voter that she didn't live there.
Angela: I would just like to start by saying you are correct. My driver's license ...
Al: She admitted her driver's license said Milledgeville in the next county over, but her life? It was right here in Sparta because she was taking care of her sick 86 year old mother.
Angela: Five to six nights out of a week, I'm living in that house. If my right is taken away from me, I will fight it until the day I die, and I mean that. This is my home, and it will forever be my home.
Al: The first question the board asked?
Speaker 5: When your mother is no longer on this earth, do you intend to return to Milledgeville, or do you intend to reside at her house?
Angela: This is my home. This is my home.
Al: The board voted three to two not to take her off the rolls, but they did vote to remove her husband and 52 other people. Nearly 20% of the city's voters were challenged.
  46 states have laws that let private citizens challenge other citizens right to vote, including North Carolina. In the lead-up to the presidential elections, Republican activists there decided to take advantage of that law. Reveal's Amy Julia Harris traveled to Moore County, where hundreds of people were purged from voter rolls.
Amy: One day in October, James Brower learned from a neighbor that the local board of elections was planning to remove his name from the voter rolls.
James: She had obtained a letter somehow, and she brought it down here, and I read it, and it just basically said that I had been challenged by my right to vote.
Amy: James soon discovered that a local citizen had gone to the election board and claimed that he no longer lived in the county. The evidence? One piece of unreturned mail sent to James's address earlier this year. James makes $14 an hour at a local mine, and lives with his wife and grandson in the home his father built.
James: About 200 acres. We did everything from raising cows, to hogs, saw mill ...
Section 2 of 5          [00:10:00 - 00:20:04]
Section 3 of 5          [00:20:00 - 00:30:04] (NOTE: speaker names may be different in each section)
James Brower: From raising cows, to hogs, sawmill right across the street, I mean it was just something to keep you busy.
Amy Julia H. : The idea that he might not be allowed to vote in the place where he grew up was a shock. At 60, he is old enough to remember the way things used to be.
James Brower: I remember a time when blacks could only be served in the back door. Blacks could only ride in the back. When I first started going to school, all of the schools around here were segregated.
Amy Julia H. : As an adult, James says he's been passionate about voting. One of his most powerful memories is going to the polls in 2008 with his father to vote for Barrack Obama. A short time later, his father passed away.
James Brower: It is so sad that after everything that we have gone through that people are still having to fight for the rights which were given to us by the Constitution of the United States.
Amy Julia H. : What happened to James wasn't a fluke. In recent months more than 4,000 people in three North Carolina counties got similar challenges after a Republican activist launched a coordinated campaign to trim the voter rolls. In Moore County where James lives, nearly 400 people were purged in one day. How these activists do it, they used a law from the Jim Crow era. It allows private citizens to question someone's eligibility to vote. Allison Riggs is a senior attorney at the Non-Partisan Southern Coalition for Social Justice.
  She says these challenge laws were once used to go after minorities and women. In recent years, they've been rediscovered.
Allison Riggs: They are not doing it one, two, three at a time. They are doing it thousands at a time. It creates a situation where a lot of legitimate voters can get pulled off the list.
Amy Julia H. : It turns out that most of the challenges were orchestrated by a guy named Jay Delancey. He is a retired air force colonel who runs the Voter Integrity Project, a group that claims election fraud is rampant. Since Delancey founded the project five years ago, some people have denounced him as a vigilante.
Speaker 1: To me a vigilante is those old westerns because they kill a lot of people and took law on their own hands, I'm just like no, no.
Amy Julia H. : Instead Jay sees himself as something like an election commando. His group scours public records and voting data. He even goes door to door to identify people he thinks shouldn't be on the voter rolls.
Jay Delancey: A big reason we are doing these challenges was to finally help the public understand how flawed the federally mandated voter list maintenance procedures are.
Amy Julia H. : When I asked Jay about the potential for mistakes with the mass challenges in places like Moore County, he defended the effort and said his approach was solid and color blind.
Jay Delancey: These people are not random idiots trying to go out and just get people off the roll that don't like them or some nonsense. They are just trying to clean up their country.
Amy Julia H. : Jay tactics have been loudly criticized by election experts. Allison Riggs says just because the voter rolls are sometimes out of date, that doesn't mean there is voter fraud.
Allison Riggs: He likes to exaggerate the scope of the problem but he also tends to misrepresent the fact that for every voter that has moved, one, no one was committing fraud under that voter's name. Two, he gets way more wrong than he does get right.
Amy Julia H. : With thousands of people in North Carolina purged from the voter rolls, a federal judge ordered them reinstated just days before the election. On Tuesday afternoon, I met up with James Brower at a polling station set up in a fire house. No line?
James Brower: No lines. I was just in, nobody in front of me, quick in and out.
Amy Julia H. : Back at his home, under a maple tree that sprawls over his driveway, I asked him how he is feeling.
James Brower: I feel great. Like I said, I feel like we've gotten victory. I feel so many people being restored to this voting thing. My thing is all about the voice of the people being heard and it's not about what I want, it's what about this country in whole wants. The voice of the country is what's important because that's what makes us a democracy. If we as a country made a mistake, we had our say.
Al Letson: That piece was from Amy Julia Harris. She worked with Michael Montgomery on the story. Kicking people off the voter registration rolls isn't the only tactic Republicans in North Carolina have used to go after perceived voter fraud. In 2013, the states GOP governor signed one of the most restrictive voter ID laws in the country. This summer, a federal judge threw it out saying it targeted African American voters with almost surgical precision.
  Voters in at least seven other states face new photo ID restrictions in this presidential election. In Wisconsin, everyone needed some kind of government issued photo ID. Reveal's Michael Corey is from Wisconsin and he's been reporting on the election from there all week. Hi Mike.
Molly McGrath: Hi Al, how is it going?
Al Letson: Good man, so a lot of these new laws were challenge in court. What happened in Wisconsin?
Michael Corey: Well, Wisconsin laws are still tied up in court. In July, a federal judge ruled that early voting restrictions Republicans had put in place, those were discriminatory and the judge said that Wisconsin's photo ID requirements made it disproportionately hard for people of color to vote.
Al Letson: Help explain for us why requiring an ID is voter suppression. I think a lot of people would think we need IDs to do all sorts of things, what makes this voter suppression?
Michael Corey: For a lot us and yeah, it's not that hard to get an ID but there are people, like elderly people who are poor people, this actually is really hard to do partly because you got to get transportation to the DMV. You got to pay for it and for some people even $20 for your birth certificate that's a lot of money. If you were born at home in the South in the early 20th century, you probably don't have a birth certificate. There is a lot of people that's true for. The reality is that a lot of the people who fall into these categories are people of color.
  The judge decided that anyone should be able to get a free ID but they still had to go to the DMV to do it.
Al Letson: Yeah, and we all love the DMV.
Michael Corey: Oh yes, perhaps not too surprising to anyone who has ever been to a DMV. When people went and tried to get the free IDs with the process you are supposed to use, they were getting wrong information sometimes. There are people like Molly McGrath who scrambles to help people get their IDs before they had to vote.
Molly McGrath: Yesterday I was just with an 85-year-old couple.
Michael Corey: She would take them to a DMV, sometimes two or three times and even then sometimes it was just too much of a hassle for people.
Molly McGrath: The woman had an expired driver's license from years ago and was told with her husband when they went to vote early that she could not vote because her driver's license expired before the law regulates. Her husband was so irritated that he decided not to vote either. The bottom line is that there's a lot of people who are close to losing their right to vote because of this law.
Al Letson: Wow, is that a lot of people or is it a really small group?
Michael Corey: It's a little hard to say how many people this actually affects. The DMV wouldn't give me a full interview but they did give me some stats and they said that about 800 people in Wisconsin went through the process in October and almost all of those people got IDs but they were still having trouble getting in to about 40 people. On the other hand we don't know how many people don't have an ID, they did want to vote, and they didn't try because it was too much of a hassle.
Al Letson: What's next? Is Wisconsin State the place where it's hard for people to vote?
Michael Corey: I don't think we know what's happening next. There is a federal appeals court that's going to rule soon on all of Wisconsin's voter regulation and so maybe photo ID goes away, maybe it gets stronger, maybe it stays the same but Republicans are not done yet. A lot of people turned out to vote in the big Democratic cities like Milwaukee and Madison and before the election even happened, the Republican speaker in the State Assembly is saying, "You know maybe that's not fair to smaller towns, maybe we need to try again to put limits on that early voting."
  There is a lot still happening here. It's not done yet.
Al Letson: That's Michael Corey reporting from Wisconsin. Mike we'll see you around the office.
Michael Corey: See you soon.
Al Letson: When we come back, a conversation with a man who thinks that Donald Trump will help lay the groundwork for his cause, one day forming an all white state. That's next on Reveal. From the Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX this is Reveal, I'm Al Letson. In more than two dozen cities protesters took to the streets to stand up against the election of Donald Trump. Social media is fired up with unhappy Americans circulating hash tags like Dump Trump and Not My President. There is another that you may be familiar with, Black Lives Matter.
  We sent Reveal's Amy Walters to visit one man behind the movement in Jacksonville, Florida, my home town.
Amy Walters: I met Ron Davis and it was the day Donald Trump won the presidential election. I needed some place quiet ...
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Section 4 of 5          [00:30:00 - 00:40:04] (NOTE: speaker names may be different in each section)
Speaker 1: Won the presidential election. I needed someplace quiet to talk to him so he suggested walking by a small fishing pier. The pier was destroyed in Hurricane Matthew but it was a quiet spot, so we stayed. Yeah, there's a "Do not feed alligator" sign.
Ron Davis: Yeah, yeah, yeah, because they come up. I've seen alligators out here.
Speaker 1: Ron Davis isn't really afraid of alligators. He's actually not afraid of much.
Ron Davis: You know, what I've been through with my son, this other stuff is just really ...
Speaker 1: Jordan Davis, Ron's son, was shot and killed on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, 2012. Jordan and his friends had the day off and they were hanging out. The music in their car was pumped up when they stopped for gas. And then ...
Speaker 3: Call police. Shooting. Somebody is shooting out their car. I swear to god.
Speaker 1: The person shooting was a white man, named Michael Dunn.
Speaker 3: He's shooting. Right here, in front of us. Call the cops.
Speaker 4: Oh my god.
Speaker 1: In less than 10 minutes, Dunn shot four bullets at the car. Jordan Davis was dead. Ron Davis couldn't have imagined his son's life would end the way it did. Nor that so many other young black lives would be lost. He found himself a member of this club, Black Lives Matter. He never volunteered to be a part of it. There are other members too.
Ron Davis: Trayvon Martin's parents and the parents of Jordan Davis and the parents of Mike Brown and Eric Gardner and Tamir Rice. You know, we get the platform to speak our mind and we're blessed with that. We fight through the tragedy of losing our children.
Speaker 1: Those lives were lost under President Obama, the first black president. He remembers voting for Obama. He was thinking about it, and how uplifting that was. But now, his realization about that election, about Obama's presidency, it's different.
Ron Davis: All he did was make them mad. That's all the Obama presidency does. Then when he was re-elected, oh god, we really got to take our country back. That's why Trump was elected. We got to take our country back.
Speaker 1: He wasn't happy, but the surprising thing is, he wasn't surprised.
Ron Davis: We haven't learned lessons from the past. The things that they used to do in the 50s were under the sheets, so to speak.
Speaker 1: Now they don't even need the sheets, he says. He showed me the local paper and on the cover was this guy who claimed to be the grand wizard of the KKK. The paper said he lived nearby.
Ron Davis: We see America for what it really is. We see how far we have to go. Every time we shut our eyes and think, "Okay, we're moving in the right direction." With this presidency, we've taken two steps back. Well, at least we know.
Speaker 1: What's going on here?
Ron Davis: I don't know?
Speaker 1: We realized while we've been standing there, we were being checked out. Several trucks started to appear on what was an empty road before, and one of them, this big, white pickup, it stops, and these two guys, big, tall, white guys get out. At first Ron just keeps on with the conversation, like everything's normal. But looking at his eyes, something was not right. Maybe they're just out to fish.
Ron Davis: Well, they got the right place, because they're not going to be able to go in here and fish. All right, look, I've got to run.
Speaker 1: All right.
Ron Davis: Okay.
Speaker 1: Then one of the guys yells at us.
Speaker 5: What y'all doing out here?
Speaker 1: What y'all doing here? It sounds territorial, like someone pulling rank. "Talking." I stumble for words. I'm trying to explain what's going on. Everything feels really tense. It's scary. "Yeah. I'm media. I'm with the media. We're just having a chat." And both of us start to walk away.
Speaker 5: All right. Y'all have a good day.
Speaker 1: "Have a good day" he says. But then there's this laugh, like that's not what he means. At all.
Ron Davis: That's what I'm talking about.
Speaker 1: At that moment, I know exactly what Ron is talking about.
Ron Davis: Right here, right now, in the south, that's what's going on.
Speaker 1: And now, with the Trump presidency, Ron's afraid, well he's afraid it's going to get worse.
Ron Davis: People want to try to intimidate you, want you to say something to them wrong. It's happening right here, right now, and you'll never forget this moment. You will never forget this moment. We live this black life every day, and that's why we say black lives matter.
Speaker 6: That story was from Reveals, Amy Walters.
Speaker 7: The man we're about to meet represents the nightmare scenario for the African American community.
Richard Spencer: My name is Richard Spencer and I'm the president of the National Policy Institute.
Speaker 7: His organization sounds pretty bland, and that's how Richard Spencer likes it.
Richard Spencer: If you called it the "Danger Radical Society for the Total Overthrow of the Status Quo" that would be a little too, a bit on the ridiculous side.
Speaker 7: Richard is 38 years old. He grew up in a wealthy neighborhood of Texas Republicans. But during the campaign, he loved watching Donald Trump tear apart the Republican party. His claim to fame is coining the term "alt-right." It means an alternative to mainstream conservatism, as in "Bye bye GOP. Richard goes way far to the right, all the way to whites only land.
Richard Spencer: I want to be in a world where there are white societies, white nations, white ethnic groups that there's white culture, what could be called an ethno state.
Speaker 7: A white ethno state. Richard says Trump made room for his far right views in the political landscape.
Richard Spencer: Trump has slingshotted us ahead. That's absolutely true and that's a good thing.
Speaker 7: So how exactly does he plan to capitalize on those gains?
Richard Spencer: Reveal's Emily Harris and Josh Harkinson, a reporter for Mother Jones magazine are going to tell us.
Josh H.: You might remember Richard Spencer from the Republican Convention. He was the guy standing outside, holding a sign inviting people, "Want to talk to a racist?" I knew him before then. I grew up in the same conservative area of Dallas, and graduated from the same all boys prep school a few years before he did. To see how Richard wound up riding the crest of rising white nationalism, Emily and I went to Whitefish, Montana, his adopted hometown.
Emily Harris: Whitefish is little. It's in northwestern Montana. The area caters to skiers at big mountain and visitors on their way to gape at the glory of Glacier National Park.
Josh H.: Richard runs the National Policy Institute from a one room office downtown. He apologized for the clutter when I visited.
Richard Spencer: You have here your basic provisions, dried cranberries and hot and spicy beef jerky and cashews with sea salt.
Josh H.: From this office, he spreads his message to the world through tweets, posts and podcasts. He also makes videos for his website, like this one.
Richard Spencer: Who are we? We aren't just white. White is a check box on a census form. We are part of the people's histories, spirit and civilization of Europe."
Josh H.: When Richard talks in this video about white history and spirit, images of western Renaissance art and modern engineering fill the screen.
Richard Spencer: This legacy stands before us as a gift, and as a challenge. So long as we avoid and deny our identities. At a time when every other people is asserting its own, we will have no chance to resist our dispossession.
Josh H.: When he talks about every other people, the video shows crowds of Muslims, African Americans and Jews taking to the streets and protesting.
Emily Harris: Richard Spencer has one child. He and his wife are separating. His blond hair is long on top and cropped on both sides.
Josh H.: Yeah, it's called a fasci, as in fascism. If you didn't know, that haircut was a fashion statement among the alt-right, you wouldn't think twice.
Emily Harris: Richard doesn't come across as angry and you won't hear him use racial slurs.
Josh H.: Even the one African American student in Richard's high school class told me they were friends back then. After Texas, Richard studied in elite schools, including UVA and the University of Chicago. He'll often bring up quotes from Friedrich Nietzsche, you know the 19th century German philosopher to argue that it's really the white race that can lead humanity to its maximum potential.
Emily Harris: Another major influence that led Richard away from his mainstream conservative upbringing is a contemporary, Jared Taylor. Taylor is an American white nationalist. Among his writings, there is this. "When blacks are left entirely to their own devices, western civilization, any kind of civilization, disappears."
Richard Spencer: I would say that reading Jared Taylor in the early 2000s definitely led me to be a race realist, that is to understand that race is real and that race matters.
Josh H.: The Southern Poverty Law Center tracks hate groups and it calls Richard one of the most successful, young, white nationalist leaders out there. Ryan Lenz edits the law center's hate watch blog.
Ryan Lenz: I think Richard Spencer in many ways is the vanguard.
Josh H.: He says Richard is pushing American politics to be even more divided along racial lines than they already are.
Ryan Lenz: The well coiffed and highly polished image that he maintains puts a countering face on this idea that racists are like southern, you know, poor white people who are angry or uneducated.
Emily Harris: As we mentioned, one of Richard Spencer's long term goals is a white ethno state, but what does that mean exactly? He's vague on details, but it would be for white people, of European descent only, and it would erase current national borders.
Richard Spencer: How would you argue to an imm-
Section 4 of 5          [00:30:00 - 00:40:04]
Section 5 of 5          [00:40:00 - 00:54:35] (NOTE: speaker names may be different in each section)
Speaker 1: Current national boarders.
Speaker 2: How would you argue to an American who's black or brown skinned that this is something they should support?
Richard: A European ethno state is this really long term goal.
Speaker 2: I mean, clearly you're up front with where this is all headed, so there has to be, and I think you've talked about this, an argument for why non white people should participate in this on some level.
Richard: Right. You could say that. You know, living together Europeans and Africans, it hasn't worked out. We don't really like each other. I think that is the way that I would present myself to someone who's non white. That we went to work with you. We want to help you go home. We want to help you preserve your own tradition and your own race.
Speaker 2: His all white dream state would not be a democracy.
Richard: I don't know, but I don't think they'll be a lot of voting involved.
Speaker 1: Richard says he heard the essence of his ideas in Donald Trump's calls to build a southern boarder wall, and to ban Muslims from entering the U.S.
Speaker 2: It wasn't something Trump said that brought Richard's movement unprecedented attention. It because a speech by Hillary Clinton.
Hillary Clinton: This is not conservatism as we have known it. This is not republicanism as we have known it. These are racist ideas, race baiting ideas, anti Muslim, anti immigrant, anti women. All key tenants making up the emerging racist ideology know as the alt right.
Speaker 1: Soon Richard was contacted by main stream reporters who he had never heard from before.
Richard: I couldn't it. I knew that this was really going to change the landscape because now millions of people have heard the term alt right. Who have Googled it and started to look into it who are thinking about our ideas for the first time.
Speaker 2: He has a game plan to get those Googlers coming back for more. Step one, leave White Fish. It's too remote for him now.
Speaker 1: He plans to move his small think tank to Washington D.C. In September he and other white nationalists held a news conference there to proclaim their arrival into the main stream.
Richard: We are not just some marginal movement that you can dismiss. The fact is our ideas are so powerful that despite the fact that we're doing all of this on a shoe string, we're getting at people. We're affecting them. They know we're right.
Speaker 1: To move and to grow he'll need money. So far Richard says most support for the national policy institute has come from it's founder, William H. Regnery II. Regnery's family started a book business. It's published conservatives like Ann Coulter and Sarah Palin.
Speaker 2: Now Richard wants to build his think tank to be on par with main stream organizations like the heritage foundation or the brickings institution, so he needs more wealthy backers. He's already courting some.
Richard: There are a lot of billionaires who no one has an idea of what their names are. I mean, they're people who can come out of the woodwork. It's hard for me to imagine that at least one of them isn't on our wave length.
Speaker 1: Richard wants to influence policy in Washington by creating a congressional white caucus in the next five or 10 years. A group of law makers that advocates specifically for white people.
Richard: Why is there a congressional black caucus? Why is there a congressional Hispanic caucus? It's a group based on identity where people want to work together and collaborate.
Speaker 1: Never mind that the vast majority of congress is already white. Spencer's strategy is to appear to seek common ground. This is politics.
Richard: We're not going to communicate with Joe and Sally in Ohio, by talking about the ethno state and heroism and going to outer space, but we are going to communicate with them by saying oh immigration, this matters. Maybe we should have a totally different trade policy because you and your children are getting screwed.
Speaker 1: Much of the growth and attention to white nationalist ideas including Richard's has been online often anonymous. Richard believes that now white nationalism can openly pursue a place in mainstream politics. The fact that Trump appeared has changed the world. It's changed everything. You can't go back and pretend that this never happened.
Al Letson: After listening to that story I really wanted to know what Richard was thinking now that the election is over, so we got him on the phone from Washington D.C. where he had been celebrating Trump's victory.
  Hey, Richard. How you doing?
Richard: I'm doing very well. A little bit sleepy.
Al Letson: Yeah, you and me both, man. Now that your candidate has won, what do you see the future of America being because I feel like Trump winning means that kind of all bets are off.
Richard: Yeah. I think you're absolutely right. I don't think this was just an unusual election with an unusual candidate. I think this really was a paradigmatic shift. The new paradigm that Donald Trump brought into the world was identity politics, and in particular white identity politics. This question which he second directly, are we a nation or are we not?
Al Letson: To you when he says are we a nation or not, does nation mean specifically white people?
Richard: Well, obviously there are people of other races who are United States citizens, they're here. What really defined the American nation? Is the American nation just defined as a kind of economic platform for the world? Is the American nation just purely defined by the constitution and some legalisms? No. The American nation is defined by the fact that it is derived from Europe. That European people settled this continent. That European people built the political structures. That European people influenced it's architecture, it's economy, it's art, it's way of life and society and so on.
Al Letson: I disagree with you completely, but I'm going to go past that because I want to get back more to your idea about what the future is going to be because if you see America as a place that was predominantly created by white people and for white people, is that where you see it going?
Richard: To be honest that's not where I have seen it going. Over the course of my lifetime I've experienced something that is quite the opposite of this notion of an America of and for white people. I have experienced a great transformation of the American nation and American culture and society where if a non white actor is hired for this new movie role or more non white applicants apply to this college, or there's a new not white CEO of this major corporation, that that's thought of as inherently a good thing morally speaking. We need more of that. We need less white people in positions of power. This has been my experience of America. The arrow has not been pointing towards a country of and for white people.
Al Letson: I've done some reading on you. Just a little bit of research and watched a couple videos, and you're a handsome guy, man.
Richard: Thank you.
Al Letson: You're well put together. You're really smart.  I'm actually enjoying like having this conversation with you, but what's the difference between you and the racists that like hung people up from trees? What's the difference between you and the Klansman that burned crosses on people's lawns? Like, what's the difference because you have this great sheen about you, but you known I mean to me it just sounds like the same old thing that I've heard before in a different packaging.
Richard: Well, I don't think it is the same old thing you've heard before. I think you just said that it's not. That you're actually intrigued by it. I'm not going to comment about you know some hypothetical Klansman or whomever-
Al Letson: There's no such thing as a hypothetical Klansman because the people that I'm talking about exist. They have gone out. They have burned crosses on people's lawns. They have lynched people, and I'm not intrigued by your ideas I'm saying to you that like your ideas sound just like them except you wear a nice suit and you can speak to me directly. That's what I'm asking. Like, what is the difference?
Richard: I'm sure there is some commonality between these movements of the past and what I'm talking about, but you really have to judge me on my own terms.  I'm not those people, and I think someone who would go down the path of becoming a Klansman or something in 2016 I think those people are very different than I am. It's a nonstarter. I think we need a movement that really resonates with where we are right now.
Al Letson: Richard, how are you different from them because you are talking about a white ethno state. You are saying that white people don't have space in this country, and I heard the interview with our producers, and one of the things that you said is that you were going to be able to talk to people of color about going along with your white ethno state. You've got a person of color right now. Talk to me about your white ethno state.
Richard: Let's not talk about the ethno state. Let's talk about identity. Who are you? If I say that don't think about it. Just answer. Who are you?
Al Letson: Sure.  I'm an African American male that has four kids. One of those kids is a white kid. I adopted him. He's my 16 year old boy, and I love him to death. I have a child that's biracial, and I have two black kids. Yeah, I'm a black man who has love in his heart for everybody on this planet including you. That's who I am. Who are you?
Richard: I'm Richard Spencer.  I'm a European person.  I'm part of this great story of Europe and our history. I was born in Massachusetts. I grew up in Texas. I like mountain biking. You know, what I'm getting at is that when I ask you that even despite the fact that you have I guess a white wife perhaps or a white child, you still answered that I'm an African American male, and that has meaning for you, and I respect that. I want to see different people's, different civilizations, having a sense of themselves and finding out ways to live together.
Al Letson: A white ethno state is not people living together. What you're saying to me now is different from what you said before because what you said before would basically mean that I would live in one state and my son, my white son, would have to live in another state. That's the difference between me and you is that I want to move forward together, and you feel like those fissures that are between us are too big to pass over.
Richard: The question I would have to ask is do you really think that we're all better together? Do you think that modern America, contemporary America, there's greater levels of trust and togetherness than we had decades ago or that more ethnically homogeneous nations have? I don't think so, and I have to be honest, I think we actually kind of hate each other, and that is a very tragic thing, and that's a very sad thing, and we don't trust each other. We can talk about how one day we're going to all be holding hands, or we can actually be realistic about this, and we can actually look at the power of human nature and the power of race.
Al Letson: If that is your world view then I'm sorry because like I said I have white family members that I love, and I think that they love me, so no I don't think that we hate each other. I think that there's not a nation in this world that doesn't have problems, but I would say when you just said like if we could go back X amount of years would we be better? No, because I wouldn't be talking to you right now. Listen, you and I could go back and forth nonstop, so Richard I appreciate your time. Thanks for talking to us. I don't know how many black people you get to talk to in your life, but if you'd like to have a conversation at anytime feel free to give me a call, and if you'd like to talk to my son I would love to put you on the phone with him to hear his experience of America.
Richard: Interesting. Let's do it.
Al Letson: After talking to Richard Spencer I wanted to write a wrap up to this episode. Something that would stick with you. Something to ponder as we move into the age of Trump, but Reveal producer Ike Sriskandarajah found someone who summed it up far better than I could.
  It was election night and Ike  came across a protest in Oakland, California not far from our offices. He met Fareesa Ali who was marching against Trump's election, but still stopped a group of fellow protesters from burning the American flag.
Fareesa: Okay wait. Can you not burn the flag? Do you really think that's necessary?
Male Speaker: Yes. It is necessary.
Male Speaker: I feel it's necessary.
Ike: Why do you oppose the burning of the flag?
Fareesa: I have woken up every day proud to be an American. Proud to be born in this country because my parents are immigrants. I know what it was like back in their home country, and I have so many opportunities that they don't have just because I'm in America.
Ike: Where is your family from?
Fareesa: They're from Fiji, and I've also severed in the military, so like the flag means something to me. I know I have so many brothers and sisters who have died defending that flag, and I know it doesn't represent everyone in this country, but that's a problem with the people who voted. Not a problem with what this country stands for.
Al Letson: What this country stands for. We're going to find out in the next four years. Thanks to everyone at Reveal for putting this show together. We also want to thank Mother Jones, ProPublica's election land, and WHYY in Philadelphia for their help this week. To hear an extended version of my interview with white nationalist Richard Spencer check out our podcast at revealnews.org/podcast. Support for Reveal is provided by the Reva and David Logan Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Ford Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the John S. And James L. Knight Foundation, and the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation. Reveal is a co production of the center for investigative reporting and PRX.  I'm Al Letson, and remember there is always more to the story.
Section 5 of 5          [00:40:00 - 00:54:35]