Donald Trump’s Coded Message to White-Nationalist “Accelerationists”

Even as his
campaign stumbles through these bleak late-summer months, beset by a nationwide health and
economic crisis that’s largely of his own making, President Donald Trump is blowing full-bore on his racist dog-whistles. The president has,
in recent weeks, accused his Democratic opponent, Vice President Joe Biden, of
wanting to destroy “our beautiful suburbs.” He’s repeatedly made derisive
comments about black public figures and floated racist “Kung Flu” conspiracy theories.
He’s even threatened to designate Antifa as an official domestic terrorist
group, despite the fact that no such designation actually exists.

It’s nothing new
for Trump to traffic in racist tropes and false notions—these, were, after all,
present at the birth of his presidential campaign. But as a pandemic decimates
communities and economies, and police clash with protesters on the streets of
America’s major cities, there’s a different tenor to Trump’s latter-day
rhetoric. In place of the border-wall fearmongering
that the Trump used to summon traditional conservatives to his side four years
ago, there’s something more nihilistic, more slash-and-burn about his declamations
now. The man who once claimed that “I alone can fix it” now seems largely bent
on pouring gasoline on every conflagration. The president who once decried
“American carnage” now seems to want to play a strong role in facilitating it.

For those who
have become acclimated or inured to Trump’s typical blend of incompetence,
corruption, and giddy divisiveness, these most recent days of his presidential
tenure may not seem altogether distinct from any of the months that preceded
them. For those who study the ideas underpinning white
nationalism, however, what’s been lately emerging from the White House is a
distinct strain of rhetoric known as “accelerationism,” and it’s being heard by
a uniquely dangerous faction of America’s far-right
fringe.

It might not be
enough to save his electoral fortunes. As
a
new report
published by the Southern Poverty Law Center on the far right rallies of the Trump era notes, “right-wing
extremists have increasingly lost confidence in President Donald Trump,”
as well as in the political process more generally. As a result, “they have
resorted to more authoritarian means of achieving their political goals,”
with accelerationists in particular calling for “violence to speed the process
along.” But even if Trump is no longer the darling, or the savior figure, of
the far right, his rhetoric is continuing to give accelerationist ideas a
prominence they’ve never before enjoyed, and is setting the stage for future violence
and illiberalism long after he quits the stage. 


Originally born of the academic left, “accelerationism”
is a loosely coherent set of social theories built on the precept that action can and should be taken to “accelerate” the
assumed-to-be inevitable degeneration and collapse of capitalism. Such
collapse would then act as a kind of prescribed land-burn, prepping the soil
for the emergence of a more-economically-equitable government. Beginning in
the 1980s, however, white supremacist
propagandists latched onto the accelerationist story, adding their own dark
twist to the final chapter, in which the imagined post-collapse
government becomes an authoritarian, whites-only ethnostate­.

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