President Donald Trump’s embrace of the racist far-right wing of his party has encouraged some of them to run for office.
Paul Nehlen is the latest example. He’s been openly racist for years but only now is he suddenly a front-runner in Wisconsin to fill the congressional seat of retiring House Speaker Paul Ryan, according to Think Progress.
Ryan, 48, announced on Wednesday that he’s not running for re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives in November, ending a 20-year career. Part of Ryan’s challenge as a party leader has been answering for Trump’s numerous racist comments, such as his “shithole countries” remark about Haiti and African nations.
Politicians like Nehlen and Trump have an affinity for each other. The president sent a shout-out to Nehlen via Twitter back in August 2016. It read, “Thanks to @pnehlen for your kind words, very much appreciated.”
Trump’s election victory emboldened Nehlen, according to Think Progress. Nehlen became more aggressive is spewing his racist ideology—so aggressive that Twitter banned him in February after he attacked Meghan Markle, Prince Harry’s fiancé, for her Black heritage.
David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader who was a Louisiana state representative and candidate for Congress, thanked Trump for blaming the “alt-left” for the violence at a White nationalists rally last year in Charlottes, Virginia. It was a watershed moment in Trump legitimizing White supremacist groups.
The growing number of GOP congressional candidates, who are openly sympathetic to the White supremacist agenda, pleases the Klansman, Duke told The Huffington Post.
“I think it’s about time. I think there’s a tremendous amount of frustration in the White community and that we’re at a tipping point,” he added.
There are several White supremacists currently running for Congress. In addition to Nehlen, Arthur Jones is running in Illinois and Sean Donahue wants to represent Pennsylvania.
Perhaps the most notable racist candidate is former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who’s running for U.S. Senate in Arizona. He was imprisoned for unlawfully rounding up and detaining people in Arizona he accused of being in the country illegally. Trump, not surprisingly, pardoned him in 2017.