US Politics

‘Betrayed': Why some far-right Trump supporters are abandoning the President

Pro-Trump protesters and The Proud Boys gathered on December 12 to back President Trump's baseless claims of voter fraud. Source: Getty

Following his concession, some of President Trump’s extreme far-right supporters, including Neo-Nazis, have jumped ship, while others have claimed he’s being manipulated by the deep state.

Some of Donald Trump’s most extreme supporters on the far-right appear to have abandoned the President after he incited, and subsequently condemned, the violent mob which stormed Capitol Hill.

The break-in of The Capitol on January 6, in which five people died, followed a rally organised by the Trump administration to dispute the election result. 

The President’s supporters, including members of several well-known extremist and white-supremacist groups, broke into The Capitol and attempted to stop the counting of the electoral college ballots that would formally confirm Joe Biden’s presidency.

A mobile phone displays the suspended status of the Twitter account of US President Donald Trump.
A mobile phone displays the suspended status of the Twitter account of US President Donald Trump.
EPA

In the aftermath of the insurrection, President Trump was banned from Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

President Trump was purged from social media sites after telling protesters “go home, we love you”. But just before his Twitter account was banned, he uploaded another video statement denouncing those involved in the “heinous attack”.

“Like all Americans, I am outraged by violence, lawlessness and mayhem,” Mr Trump said.

"The demonstrators who infiltrated the Capitol have defiled the seat of American democracy. To those who engaged in the acts of violence and destruction, you do not represent our country,” he continued.

US President Donald Trump is photographed in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC on 7 December, 2020.
US President Donald Trump is photographed in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, DC on 7 December, 2020.
Getty

The diverse reaction of Trump’s supporters 

From Neo-Nazis to The Proud Boys, Trump’s more extreme and fringe supporters have had a diverse response to the Capitol Hill insurrection. 

In messages seen by The Feed, one Australian Neo-Nazi influencer wrote on encrypted messaging service Telegram: “do not forget this great betrayal. Destroy the Republican Party.”

While a Telegram channel that appears to be affiliated with The Proud Boys - a self-proclaimed "white chauvinist" organisation founded in 2016 - accused President Trump of throwing his supporters “under the bus”.

“President Trump takes the coward’s way out and disavows his supporters who stormed Capitol Hill after he whipped them into a frenzy… We need a real leader on the right, someone who will be the Cesar we need,” one message said.

“It’s time to start a new party, The Republicans are useless,” another read.

Dr Julian Droogan is a senior lecturer in Security Studies and Criminology at Macquarie University.

He said he’s seen “a sense of disillusionment” from some of Trump’s supporters and some “searching for answers” after the events at The Capitol.

Members of the far-right group the Proud Boys gesture the 'white power' hand sign as they gather in Freedom Plaza, in Washington, DC, USA, 12 December 2020
Members of the far-right group the Proud Boys gesture the 'white power' hand sign as they gather in Freedom Plaza, in Washington, DC, USA, 12 December 2020
EPA

However, he believes most supporters are still “holding strong” and shaping and bending reality to suit their narrative or conspiracies. 

“I've seen some stating that he's being manipulated himself by other powers such as the deep state and so on,” he told The Feed.

Dr Kaz Ross is an independent researcher who analyses extremist groups and conspiracy theorists. 

She said while groups like The Proud Boys have traditionally supported Trump, individuals even further to the far-right of politics have always said that voting makes no difference.

“There are Neo-Nazi accelerationists who’ve said there’s not going to be an electoral solution to our problem,” she told The Feed.

“The question would be, after Trump’s demise will those groups get more followers? It’s really hard to know what role Trump will play in American politics.”

Inside a Deadly Siege: How a String of Failures Led to a Dark Day at the Capitol
President Trump addressing his supporters at a rally.

According to experts, the threat of far-right extremism is growing rapidly.

Last year, ASIO revealed that up to 40 per cent of its counterterrorism efforts were now directed at far-right extremist activities, an increase from 10-15 percent before 2016.

In December, an 18-year-old from NSW was charged with advocating terrorism and inciting others to violence. 

Dr Ross said the teenager had been sharing white supremacist and neo-Nazi views online and expressed support for being involved in a “mass casualty” event.

Why have the far-right and Neo-Nazis been drawn to Trump? 

Back in 2017, President Trump whipped up a media frenzy for comments he made following the ‘Unite the Right’ white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.

In the Charlottesville terror attack, 32-year-old Heather Heyer was killed while counter-protesting the rally after a man deliberately rammed his car into a crowd.

A makeshift memorial of flowers and a photo of the victim of the car attack is on display at the attack site  in Charlottesville.
A makeshift memorial of flowers and a photo of the victim of the car attack is on display at the attack site in Charlottesville.
APP

When asked about Charlottesville, President Trump said there “were very fine people, on both sides” before being pressed by a reporter and clarifying, “I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists — because they should be condemned totally.”

However, during the first presidential debate last November, President Donald Trump did not condemn white supremacists when asked to. Instead, he told The Proud Boys to "stand back and stand by."

President Trump then pivoted to talk about Antifa and the left and claimed, without evidence, that “this is not a right-wing problem, this is a left-wing problem.”

Donald Trump has finally pledged an 'orderly transition' after Congress certified Joe Biden's win.
Donald Trump has finally pledged an 'orderly transition' after Congress certified Joe Biden's win.
AAP

Dr Droogan said white supremacists and the far-right are drawn to Trump as they “see the need for a strong authoritarian, white man to be able to lead them back to the promised land.. this sort of imagined past.” 

He said Neo-Nazis have an “us and them” rhetoric that’s based on preserving white identity against the perceived threat of globalism, immigrants, LGBT groups and feminists.

“One of the biggest problems that the far-right has with the world as it is, is that they don't agree with liberal democracy as it's currently practised, because of diversity and because of multiculturalism and the left,” Dr Droogan said.

“Someone like Trump, who attacks the foundations for liberal democracy, as we understand it, is for them a real Savior.”

A right-wing demonstrator gestures toward a counter protester as members of the Proud Boys and other right-wing demonstrators rally in Portland.
A right-wing demonstrator gestures toward a counter protester as members of the Proud Boys and other right-wing demonstrators rally in Portland.
AP

Dr Ross said the influence of The Proud Boys is steadily growing in Australia.

In a joint report for the NSW government, Dr Droogan and his colleague, Dr Lise Waldek, identified a link between Australian far-right extremists and those in the US.

Dr Waldek says Trumpism has become a firelight to right-wing extremism but we shouldn’t dismiss it as a strange phenomenon.

“What it represents is.. the return of populist politics and I don't think that's going away,” she said.

“And until people start actually addressing the drivers for why 72 million people actually voted for Trump, this will remain problematic, and it will remain not only problematic for America but also for other democracies.”