Speaker of the House Paul Ryan announced yesterday that he will not seek re-election in 2018, which, as many observers have pointed out, leaves white supremacist Paul Nehlen as the leading Republican candidate in the race for the time being. Given that the Wisconsin Republican Party has formally disowned Nehlen, it seems unlikely that they won’t find somebody—anybody—to go up against Nehlen. But even if Nehlen can’t clinch the nomination, running for an open seat will give him yet another opportunity to seek a wider audience for his racist ideology.
Nehlen was supported by former White House strategist and Breitbart executive Steve Bannon and other far-right activists like Ann Coulter when he waged his first campaign against Ryan in 2016. However, as Nehlen started to become more transparent about his white supremacist and anti-Semitic views, even far-right figures started to cut their public ties with him.
Bannon publicly disowned Nehlen in late December, after he appeared on an anti-Semitic podcast and shared a stream of white supremacist memes on social media. By February, Nehlen had gone far enough off the deep end—sharing a racist image of royal fiancée Meghan Markle and publishing a list of people he believed to be his Jewish foes in the media— that he was disavowed by Wisconsin’s Republican Party (never mind that the party had willfully ignored the flagrant anti-Semitism that he had displayed for months). Republican officials in Wisconsin called Nehlen a “racist bigot” and told reporters that they didn’t want Nehlen in the state’s GOP.
And as if that wasn’t enough, Nehlen lost even many of his remaining supporters in the racist alt-right movement when he published the private identity of an alt-right troll, leaving him with a support base that now seems to consist solely of violent, neo-Nazi fascists.
Despite Nehlen’s massive unpopularity—even among extremists—Ryan’s departure from Congress means that he is now the frontrunner in the Republican primary in Wisconsin’s 1st District. Nehlen may respond to this turn of events by trying to present himself as a more moderate candidate, although that might be difficult given that he openly declared himself a “race realist” as recently as last week.
Last week, Nehlen appeared on “Radical Agenda,” a podcast that host “crying Nazi” Christopher Cantwell describes as a “white nationalist podcast.” During the interview, Cantwell asked Nehlen about the fact that he claimed to be “pro-white” but was married to a person of color.
“I completely get that people have a problem with that and quite honestly I don’t give a shit. I am a pro-white candidate. I’m white. I personally am white all the way, Northern European. So when I hear people say that the white man needs to die, that the problem in this nation is the white man, I have a huge freaking problem with that and I’m not going to back down to it,” Nehlen told Cantwell. “Not to anyone.”
He continued, “When the [Southern Poverty Law Center] or the [Anti-Defamation League] says I’m a white supremacist, well if a pro-Jewish person isn’t a Jewish supremacist then a pro-white candidate isn’t a white supremacist. I don’t want to hear it.”
Cantwell told Nehlen that “white supremacy” was really just “observations of reality.”
“If you’re like, her white people sort of have accomplished more than other groups then you’re a white supremacist and that just happens to be the case and so fuck it, right?” Cantwell said.
“Look, I’m a race realist. My wife is a race realist. We all have a good sense of what each other’s races are best at,” Nehlen responded.