Two sociologists examine the election of Donald Trump in the context of how the Ku Klux Klan won extensive support in the United States during three different historical periods.
In this academic research–based yet approachable narrative, McVeigh (Sociology/Univ. of Notre Dame; The Rise of the Ku Klux Klan: Right-Wing Movements and National Politics, 2009, etc.), the director for the Center for the Study of Social Movements, and Estep (Cultural and Social Studies/Creighton Univ.) note that while the ascendancy of the KKK occurred during different socio-economic conditions than those of 2016, the similarities between the KKK’s successful appeals to white nationalism and Trump’s tactics are inescapable, and they provide important insights into the hard-wired hatreds of American politics. Most of the authors’ findings revolve around what they call “structural changes” occurring across the nation, which provided an agenda for white nationalist opportunists to gain support from citizens who did not view themselves as extreme racists. However, an ancillary insight from the research might surprise some readers: Just as Trump has monetized the presidency for his personal benefit, many KKK leaders kept much of the money they raised, enriching themselves at the expense of their ostensible cause. In the 1920s, KKK Grand Dragon David Curtis Stephenson, a notorious womanizer, lost his standing after kidnapping, raping, and murdering a woman. The authors write compellingly about the conditions of the three eras of KKK popularity—just after the Civil War, during the 1920s, and again from the 1960s forward—times when white Protestants in all parts of the nation felt threatened by immigrants, Jews, Catholics, blacks, and other nonwhite segments of the population. As is well-known, Trump has shifted the focus of hatred and fear south of the border, to Mexico and other Latin American countries. After cogently mining history, McVeigh and Estep look at the possible future of white nationalism across the disunited U.S.
A welcome addition to the literature on white supremacy, which sadly shows few signs of going away.