- Jan 2015
Thoughts?How did explicit racism move from a taboo to an open, unabashed force in American politics? A loose but sprawling internet army, often called the alt-right, gave white supremacy a massive megaphone. And with the rise of Donald Trump’s candidacy, it suddenly seemed to be everywhere at once.
In fact, that movement had an infrastructure — organizations, journals, conferences, money — that had been laid down years before. It was in large part funded by one person: a secretive and aging multimillionaire named William H. Regnery II, the most influential racist you’ve never heard of.
Despite inheriting immense wealth, having grown up in a prominent family in the conservative movement, he had managed to chalk up virtually no public success in his first six decades of life. He never graduated from college, and he floundered in his attempt at running the family business.
But starting in 1999 — when he convened a dozen other middle-aged white nationalists at an ornate seaside hotel nicknamed the Pink Palace — he has poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the quest to transform America and create what he calls a white “ethnostate.”
Regnery’s dream of an America separated completely by race seemed destined to end as just another of his failures.
His traceable donations have gone chiefly to two organizations, both of which he established and led as founding president. The first was the secretive Charles Martel Society, named for a leading figure of the European Middle Ages who fought off Muslim invaders. That organization helped create the second: the innocuously named National Policy Institute, which became a nerve center of the alt-right. In 2011, Regnery hired Richard Spencer, the charismatic speaker widely credited with coining that term, to be the NPI’s president and director.