Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) must be feeling pretty good this week, if by "good" one means "proven right in an allegation anyone of good conscience must always hope will be proven wrong." Omar caught flak earlier this year for calling White House senior policy adviser Stephen Miller a "white nationalist," and a huge trove of emails obtained and reported Tuesday by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has amply demonstrated exactly that.
Many on the right are reflexively suspicious of the SPLC, and it is true the organization has had to make some significant retractions and apologies in the past. But, as Reason's Robby Soave tweeted, despite the messenger's "well-documented history of exaggeration," it is "hard to argue with the basic facts" of the message. The content of Miller's emails isn't debatable, "does he not realize the preferred nomenclature has changed?" type stuff. It's straight up white nationalism.
Consider what strikes me as the single most inculpating item in this initial report: Miller's 2015 proposal to the Breitbart editor with whom he corresponded that the outlet favorably cover The Camp of the Saints, a French novel popular among neo-Nazis and other white supremacists. This is an obscene and dehumanizing book. (Click that link to see a summary and some truly revolting excerpts if you're fortunate enough to be unfamiliar with the work.) The leader of Camp's migrant caravan is literally named "the turd eater," and among its more positive characters are leaders of Apartheid South Africa.
Appraisals which insist the book is not primarily about race, like the 2014 National Review article quoted in Breitbart's coy statement to the SPLC, are absurd. The book's very popularity with white nationalists as a supposed prophecy of the present situation at the southern border undermines this claim: In Camp, the migrants are Indian, but the caravans coming to our border are Latin American. The similarity white nationalists see between these groups is not "culture and political principles," as the NRO piece said; it's skin color.
Beyond the book recommendation, the emails see Miller sharing content from white nationalist and conspiracy theory sites, recommending a story deploring the law which ended racial immigration quotas, and describing content like that story as a means of "show[ing] people they can still control their destiny." It isn't difficult to guess which people he means: It's obviously not the would-be immigrants, whose destiny Miller wants to shape with ultra-restrictive immigration policies. In more than 900 emails, the SPLC reports it was "unable to find any examples of Miller writing sympathetically or even in neutral tones about any person who is nonwhite or foreign-born."
Another point the SPLC report emphasizes is Miller's habit of taking many of his conversations offline. "Miller has gained a reputation for attempting to keep his communications secret: The Washington Post reported in August that Miller 'rarely puts anything in writing, eschewing email in favor of phone calls,'" the story notes. The emails include repeated references and invitations to phone conversations, though The Daily Beast has reported he is increasingly wary of calls being recorded. This suggests the views Miller expresses and sources he links to in these emails are not some sort of hidden online identity he conceals from those with whom he interacts in person, they are part of his real-life brand.
That's what makes consequences like the resignation demanded by Omar and her fellow "Squad" member Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) so improbable.
But Miller's views on immigration are why he's at the White House shaping U.S. immigration policy. He has reportedly declared he'd "be happy if not a single refugee foot ever again touched America's soil" and is said to open White House "meetings with specific horror stories about innocent Americans assaulted or murdered by noncitizens." The most objectionable Trump administration policies pertaining to migration — ending DACA, the travel ban, family separations, and cutting refugee admissions — are all Miller's doing. These measures are unacceptable even to many Americans who otherwise favor limiting immigration: Almost nine in 10 want to let DACA recipients stay in the country, for example, and two in three, including a substantial minority of Republicans, oppose the family separations. Miller, by contrast, called splitting up families a "simple decision."
Miller's defenders may argue these policies don't have to be motivated by white nationalism and the reported statements could be false. And when Omar made her allegation against Miller in April, her supporters pointed to Miller's policies and their backing among open neo-Nazi groups, which is not the same as explicit statements of white nationalism from Miller himself. Still, that policy context is why much of the collective reaction to the SPLC report amounts to, "Well, yeah." That Miller would rely on sites like VDare or recommend a book as disgusting as The Camp of the Saints just doesn't come as a huge surprise — and his real-life colleagues, those privy to all the communication he won't put in writing, must have more than an inkling of the fundamental inhumanity of his beliefs.
That a high-ranking administration official would be caught trafficking in such content and not fired or forced to resign is bizarre. It would be unimaginable just a few years ago, regardless of party affiliation. But now, the revelation of Miller's emails (and SPLC said this report was the first of a series) probably will effect little change or none at all.
These emails prove Miller to be a white nationalist. They are unlikely to prove adequate to oust him from the White House.
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