'We're Not Going Away': Alt-Right Leader On Voice In Trump Administration
KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
The new chief strategist for President-elect Donald Trump once said a website he used to run, Breitbart News, is a platform for the so-called alt-right. We're about to hear more about that movement from the man who says he came up with the term alt-right. His name is Richard Spencer, and in 2008, he began arguing there should be an alternative to George W. Bush-era Republicans and conservatives.
Richard Spencer now runs a small think tank that pushes alt-right ideas. To be clear, the alt-right movement is also a white nationalist movement that's associated with racism, misogyny and anti-Semitism. What the alt-right wants, Spencer says, is an awakening of identity politics, meaning white identity politics.
The alt-right used to exist mostly on the Internet, but with the rise of Donald Trump and his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, the movement is starting to hold conferences where hundreds of people attend. Spencer and others in the alt-right movement were suspended from Twitter this week. But now that Trump has been elected, Spencer says he believes the alt-right will continue to grow.
RICHARD SPENCER: This is the first time we've really entered the mainstream, and we're not going away. I mean this is just the beginning. And I'm very excited.
MCEVERS: Just a warning here. There are words and phrases and ideas in the next seven minutes that many people will find offensive, even hateful. But because this group has influence, we think you should hear what the alt-right is and what it wants from a Trump administration. So I ask Spencer that, and he said his end goal is a white ethno state sometime in the future.
SPENCER: What I would ultimately want is this ideal of a safe space effectively for Europeans. This is a big empire that would accept all Europeans. It would be a place for Germans. It would be a place for Slavs. It would be a place for Celts. It would be a place for white Americans and so on.
For something like that to happen and really for Europeans to survive and thrive in this very difficult century that we're going to be experiencing, we have to have a sense of consciousness. We're going to have to have that sense of identity.
MCEVERS: Going forward, should only white European people be considered U.S. citizens?
SPENCER: Well, no, I mean the citizenship of the United States - like, this is not something that can be changed right away. So I mean I think we need to differentiate identity and citizenship.
MCEVERS: So in your idea, like, there's a United States of America where different people still have citizenship but they're living in separate enclaves; they're living in places where they are kept separate from one another.
SPENCER: What I'm saying is that Europeans defined America. They defined what it is. Of course there are people who are non-European who are here, who are citizens and so on. What I would...
MCEVERS: Who many would argue also defined America.
SPENCER: Sure, and they did to a certain degree. But European people were the indispensable central people that defined this nation socially and politically and culturally and demographically obviously.
I care about us more. That's all I'm saying. But I respect identitarians of other races. And I actually can see eye to eye with them in a way that your average conservative can't.
MCEVERS: But you also believe that people of different races inherently do not get along. Isn't that right?
SPENCER: I think world history believes that (laughter). I mean I don't - it's not just my opinion. I don't see very many counterexamples.
MCEVERS: So you ride the subway in New York City. And you're sitting in a subway car, and you're looking at people from all over everywhere. And nobody's punching each other. Nobody's stabbing anyone. Everyone's going about their life, going to work, you know? You don't see that as, like, a way where people are getting along?
SPENCER: Do we really like each other? Do we really love each other? Do we really have a sense of community in that subway car? What I see are a lot of...
MCEVERS: Or a cul-de-sac or in kindergarten.
SPENCER: Whenever many different races are in the same school, what will happen is that there'll be a natural segregation at lunchtime, at PE, at - in terms of after-school play.
MCEVERS: Richard Spencer's views are obviously not easy to hear, but we do think they're important to hear because of the link between the alt-right and Donald Trump's team. I asked Richard Spencer what policies he's pushing for - natural conservation, he said, a foreign policy that's friendlier to Russia and this.
SPENCER: Immigration is the most obvious one. And I think we need to get beyond thinking about immigration just in terms of illegal immigration. Illegal immigration is not nearly as damaging as legal immigration. Legal immigration - they're here to stay. Their children are here and so on.
And I think a really reasonable and I think palatable policy proposal would be for Donald Trump to say, look; we've had immigration in the past. It's brought some fragmentation. It's brought division. But we need to become a people again. And for us to do that, we're going to need to take a break from mass immigration. And we're going to need to preference people who are going to fit in, who are more like us. That is European immigration.
MCEVERS: You know, how likely do you think it is that some of these policies that you want to see happen will happen?
SPENCER: What I want is influence. And sometimes influence can be invisible. If we can get these ideas out there, if people can see the compelling and powerful nature of them, I think we really can change policy.
MCEVERS: I just want to go down a list of things. And you tell me if they are OK or not OK.
MCEVERS: Graffiti that says make America white again.
SPENCER: I don't - look; graffiti is illegal, but...
MCEVERS: The slogan make America white again.
SPENCER: I don't have a huge problem with that I mean that people...
SPENCER: ...Are just expressing their opinion.
SPENCER: A swastika is an ancient symbol. I don't - like, you know, if you're asking me, do I have a problem with people expressing themselves and maybe, you know...
MCEVERS: With a swastika.
SPENCER: People want to express themselves. They can do whatever they want.
MCEVERS: So that's an OK - wearing white robes or hoods like the KKK.
SPENCER: Look. I'm - you're not going to get me to condemn any of this because you haven't said anything that is really fundamentally illegal or immoral. I might not agree with some people. I might not like this. I might like that, not like that. But the fact is these are people expressing themselves. I'm not going to condemn any of that.
MCEVERS: Do you agree with those expressions?
SPENCER: I agree with people who want to get in touch with their identity as a European. That can take a number of different forms. I don't support any kind of physical threats or anything like that. I think that does cross the line.
But in terms of people coming to terms with who they are, I don't oppose it. And I actually would respect - deeply respect the right of non-white people to try to understand themselves and to express themselves as they see fit.
MCEVERS: What about Republicans in particular?
SPENCER: Not a fan.
SPENCER: Well, I like their voters. Like, the voters are great. I - the fact that they just chose Donald Trump - that is great. I love them. In terms of Republican operatives, in terms of the conservative movement - not a fan.
MCEVERS: I guess I'm thinking of just Republicans in general - like, people maybe who did - who also voted for Donald Trump but who will say, you know, that your views are racist and are extreme and don't have a place in this country. How do you deal with them?
SPENCER: If I had told you in 1985 that we should have gay marriage in this country, you probably would have laughed at me. And I think most people would have. Or at least - at the very least, you would have been a bit confused, and you would have told me, oh that's ridiculous. The fact is, opinions do change. People's consciousness does change. Paradigms are meant to be broken. That's what the alt-right is doing.
MCEVERS: That was Richard Spencer, the leader of the so-called alt-right, a white nationalist movement that supported Donald Trump. Spencer says he is not in contact with the Trump transition team. We asked the Trump team to comment about links between Chief Strategist Steve Bannon and the alt-right, but we did not hear back. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.