What appeared to be several thousand hardcore Trump supporters, including sizable White nationalist, militia and street-fighting contingents, gathered in Washington, D.C. on November 14 in an attempt to thrust momentum into the Trump campaign’s flailing effort to deny the results of the 2020 presidential election and impose a second term. While the initial “Million MAGA March” call to action materialized from conservative news sites and advocacy groups, including Women for America First, a wide range of far-right voices including the Daily Stormer and Stormfront, militia groups, Proud Boys leaders, alt-right media trolls, and QAnon supporters also urged followers to assemble in the Capital.
The popular maxim ‘there are no atheists in a foxhole’ illustrates the tendency for uncomfortable and long-suppressed truths to burst, in moments of danger and desperation, irresistibly into the light of day. With its open convergence of the mainstream and far-right wings of the MAGA movement, Saturday’s rally showed the Right finally resolving, in a moment of need, to embrace, rather than cloak, the truth of the Trump camp’s coordination with the White nationalist, militia, and other far-right elements in its base of support.
Unlike the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville in 2017—which was solely a far-right venture—the November 14 mobilization was co-developed by the establishment Right. Widely viewed as the culmination of a national wave of “Stop the Steal” and “Protect the Vote” rallies organized and promoted, in the wake of the November 3 election, by Tea Party-era conservative PACs and a range of mainstream Right figures, the Million MAGA March was promoted by leaders ranging from Fox News anchors, elected officials, members of the Trump administration and even Trump himself, who neglected to take the stage, but waved to supporters from his motorcade.
The Far-Right Unites
Saturday’s rally reflected a level of unity on the far-right unseen since 2017’s Unite the Right rally. Blending seamlessly within Saturday’s crowd of MAGA supporters, White nationalists from groups like the America First/groyper movement and American Guard rubbed shoulders with militia formations like the Oath Keepers and III%, street fighting groups like the Proud Boys, QAnon supporters, InfoWars conspiracists, Boogaloo Bois, and other far-right movements. While on the main stage, elected officials and establishment personalities railed against liberals and warned of a rigged election, White nationalists Jovi Val and Nick Fuentes ranted from the crowd against Jews and queer folks and warned of the great replacement, while others echoed slogans of mass shooters and held signs referencing the Nazi-era SS.
Relishing the bullhorn, Fuentes whipped the live crowds into a frenzy with Christian nationalist chants of “Christ is King!” and “King Trump!”, and antisemitic polemics against “the satanic globalist elite versus us, the people of Christ.” As militia researcher Hampton Stall put it, for far-right leaders like Fuentes typically restricted from reaching new audiences online due to social media deplatforming, mass rallies like the Million MAGA March “serve as really important networking and radicalization events and allow for the normalization of even more extreme views in physical space.”
The Right continued to celebrate a culture of violence. Proud Boys wore shirts emblazoned “Kyle” and chanted “Break out Kyle” in glorification of Kyle Rittenhouse, whose August murder of two Black Lives Matter protesters in Kenosha, Wisconsin was defended by the conservative movement. Speakers on stage signaled the permissiveness of violence against counter protesters, and President Trump railed against “ANTIFA SCUM” and “Human Radical Left garbage” in a series of unhinged late-night tweets. Reports indicate that one counterprotester was stabbed in a series of attacks that unfolded across D.C. late into the night, and was taken to the hospital with serious injuries.
The Far-Right Celebrates
Far-right leaders were invigorated by their role in the march. “Yesterday we took our rightful place amongst our countrymen,” reflected Brien James, leader of the White nationalist group the American Guard, on Sunday. “As leaders and defenders. We were universally accepted and treated as such… and it was one of the best days of my life.” Enrique Tarrio, leader of the Proud Boys, gloated that “The Proud Boys will be handing back the keys to the city to [D.C.] Mayor Bowser after completely owning DC last night…we love you America. And we won’t let you down.”
A jubilant Nick Fuentes proclaimed on Twitter, “We made history yesterday!…I will see you again in the coming weeks in a state capital near you, this was just the beginning.” Looking ahead, Fuentes, who held a small “Stop the Steal” rally in Lansing, Michigan days before Saturday’s rally in D.C., hopes to build further momentum, in this period of uncertainty and crisis, for his White nationalist America First/groyper movement to pull establishment conservatism further to the Right.
Other White nationalists, many of whom, unlike Fuentes, have seen their influence shrink in the years since 2017’s Unite the Right rally, look to the young leader for inspiration. “Fuentes is a prodigy and a gift from God,” Daily Stormer editor Andrew Anglin expressed in a Sunday post celebrating D.C.’s rally, continuing “whatever happens in the future, we are facing an extended street movement, and it’s clear that in our first outing after the attempt to steal the election, we’ve proved our ability to handle this. Next, we need to start looking at the capitals of the states where this theft has happened.”
The Million MAGA March served as a crucial signpost for the future of the Right beyond the Trump presidency. For far-right organizations and leaders which blossomed under the MAGA movement, including Trump himself, the rally was an opportunity to affirm their continued relevance, build their brand, win new adherents, and prepare to pivot in the face of a fast-approaching Biden presidency. By adopting a unified front on the streets of D.C., the Right nailed down the corners of a big tent, designed with ample room for the militant far-right, Trump’s MAGA fan club, anti-government militias, anti-abortion and Christian nationalist factions, GOP kingmakers, QAnon conspiracists, and more to thrive.
In weeks to come, we may see attempts by the far-right to replicate Saturday’s show of unity and violence in cities across the country, especially targeting state capitals in places where the Trump campaign continues to cynically challenge election results.
U.S. far-right movements have long seen themselves as an oppositional force, waging insurgent war against a tyrannical, demonic ‘elite’ and its all-powerful ‘system’ of control. While the Trump presidency galvanized the insurgent far-right, it also exacerbated conflict and division among its varying tendencies, split between support for, ambivalence toward, and opposition to a Trump administration which sometimes failed, in the eyes of many activists, to fully live up to its ‘America First’ promises. As the Trump presidency dragged on, factions of White nationalists, militias, Boogaloo Boys, and other tendencies often clashed around conflicting visions of societal transformation, differing relationships to police and the state, and other differences of ideology and strategy.
Now, with Biden packing for the White House, an urgent unity of purpose could bind them together and lead to increasing militancy of all factions of the Right. The White nationalists that remain loyal to President Trump— from the America First/groyper movement to organizations like American Guard, platforms like VDare and the Daily Stormer, and others—will likely attempt to tighten ranks with militia and racist Right formations, and in a battle for relevance, seek further inroads of influence into institutional and establishment conservative spaces. Mainstream conservatism, meanwhile, will likely lurch further Rightward, driven by a simmering stew of victimization, conspiracism, and certainty that the election was stolen. Whatever role Trump ends up playing in this conservative opposition movement, and however much that opposition tends toward insurrection, the terror-driven accelerationist wing of the White nationalist movemen—which, long disillusioned with President Trump, largely regarded the Million MAGA March with a yawn—will likely swell in number and adopt increased militancy, eager to strike against minority communities, government institutions and officials, and other symbols of a system they view as more oppressive and irredeemable than ever.
The defeat of Donald Trump is a significant victory for the possibility of substantive democracy. It is, however, important to understand it as a temporary check on the use of executive power in growing authoritarianism and call-and-response collaboration with racist and ethnic nationalists. It opens the possibility for building a more just and sustainable society. The far right, however, is not going anywhere. As they pivot into opposition, we see the shape of a new coalition of factions starting to form. It is programatically centered on exploiting the fears and resentments called further into the open by Trump’s 2016 campaign and subsequent years in office, shaped by the conspiracist mentality that has flourished under Trump, and oriented toward the White nationalist ideas that are the foundation of both.