I introduced myself to Taylor as he tried to adjust the fluorescent lights in the beige conference room that would play host to the weekend’s lectures. He had invited me to cover the conference and when I approached, he invited me to sit at a table near the front so we could talk.
We were unable to get a word in edgewise as soon as we sat down. First, a tall college-age man approached Taylor and asked shyly if he would autograph one of his books. Taylor did. He asked Taylor if he would translate into Japanese the “14 Words,” a white supremacist slogan that is a cornerstone of the movement. (Taylor grew up partly in Japan, the son of missionary parents.) Taylor demurred.
A second man came up, bearing a gift for Taylor: a round ceramic plate, about the size of a saucer, with markings on it. He made Taylor guess what it was. Part of a pulley system, maybe? No, the gift was a tribal Ethiopian lip plate, which the man had picked up on his travels. Taylor, who has written that Africa is an “utterly alien Africa of road-side corpses, cruelty, and anarchy,” accepted it with enthusiasm.
Most years, the American Renaissance conference is an obscure event in an obscure park, attended by a handful of the same fringe figures and elsewise only sparking the attention of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
That was before Donald Trump.
Now, I know what Trump supporters are going to say. These aren't the views of Trump himself. He's not at the rallies. He doesn't have a say in who decides to support him. And they are right. But it's not like we see white nationalists lining up to support Hillary Clinton. Or Bernie Sanders. Or hell, even Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio or any of the rest of the inhabitants of the Republican clown car. When Donald Trump loses the election in November, white nationalists and neo-Nazis are going to be disappointed.
That means something.