On Monday, July 19, 2021 in Tampa, Florida, as the Student Action Summit of Turning Point USA (TPUSA) drew to a close, a new Generation Z group called the American Populist Union (APU) held its inaugural conference just down the street. APU co-founder Vince Dao told a crowd of over 100 young conservatives at the American Populist Summit, “I’m literally 18 years old, we put this together like a month ago, and the energy in this room is insane–we don’t even have enough chairs!”
Nick Fuentes and his America First/groyper movement pulled a similar stunt in December 2019, holding their own Groyper Leadership Summit in a hotel just down the street from TPUSA’s Student Action Summit in West Palm Beach, Florida. Much like the American Populist Union, the groypers branded themselves as the authentic Generation Z conservative vanguard, championing an immigration moratorium, a virulent culture war against LGBTQ rights, and hardline ultranationalism over and against what they regarded as the corrupt, globalist conservative establishment. Fuentes’ movement has opened space on the Right for White nationalist politics to gain traction in the mainstream, and secured the endorsement of U.S. Representative Paul Gosar (AZ-4) in the process.
Now, the American Populist Union seeks to widen the margin—drawing heavily from the groyper fan base, mimicking the movement’s edgy irreverence and cultural aesthetics, and adapting their core ideas to deepen inroads into movement conservatism. Chants of ‘Nick! Nick! Nick!’ resounded through the hotel ballroom when Fuentes’ name was mentioned on stage at the American Populist Summit, while blue ‘America First’ groyper hats dotted the crowd. And much like the groyper movement, the activists in the American Populist Union ecosystem present a respectable veneer, while strategically downplaying the explicit White nationalism and antisemitism present throughout the movement.
Formally launched in May 2021, the American Populist Union describes itself as a movement of “conservatives standing for America’s workers and families, not the interests of corporations, Globalist elites, and foreign nations.” These college-age or younger leaders, followers, and movement personalities slander feminism and movements for LGBTQ rights and visibility as degenerate, argue for a moratorium on all immigration and a non-interventionist foreign policy, and view themselves as victimized by ‘anti-White hatred’ endemic across popular culture.
Drawing, like the groypers, upon the paleoconservative legacy of Pat Buchanan, APU calls on a new generation of men to counteract the neglect of a corrupted conservative establishment to save cisheteronormative American values, traditionalist Christianity, and so-called Western civilization from imminent demise.
While occasionally striking an economic populist pose against the “neoliberal establishment” and “donor elites” and drawing upon widespread frustration with the lack of economic opportunities for young Americans, the heart of the APU agenda lies in virulent culture war polemics against perceived civilizational “degeneracy” and decay. “Let me be frank: conservatives don’t have much time left,” announced Dao in the organization’s inaugural video, showing a toppled Confederate monument with ‘1619’ emblazoned on its side falling to the pavement. “Our civilization teeters on its very foundations, and the conservative movement does not have time for unserious people or unserious ideas.”
“Politics is downstream from culture and culture is downstream from politics,” APU leader Nathaniel Abbott told followers in an early July Q&A, expanding upon an Andrew Breitbart quote, and echoing the white nationalist strategy of metapolitics, as he explained APU’s bid to maneuver a new wave of Generation-Z activists at the cutting edge of conservative culture and taste-making. The group and its associated personalities lift memes from, and seek to channel the edgy irreverence of, the groyper movement, and echo the explicit misogyny of the alt-right manosphere, in order to attract what summit headliner John Doyle calls “the forgotten gamers of America.”
On his ‘Heck Off, Commie!’ show, Doyle, a 21-year-old APU celebrity with over 300,000 subscribers on YouTube, offers to save young men from societal alienation and emasculation and restore their rightful role as ‘chad’ societal guardians while he inveighs against the evils of pornography and an estrogen-infused water supply and fixates on pseudoscientific caricatures of physiognomy and IQ differences. Abbott and others call for the revivification of an epic warrior masculinity, energized by “the strength that builds nations, slays giant beasts, and defends your city from an invading army”, while unsurprisingly arguing for the subservience of women and delegitimizing trans and non-binary identities.
“People Like Us Will Take the Country Back”
While APU spokespeople such as Dao, Abbott, Red Eagle Politics, and others remain careful to distinguish the APU from the groyper movement, they depart from other conservative leaders in positioning themselves as serious interlocutors with Fuentes and his followers. At least one speaker at the American Populist Summit, 18-year-old conservative TikTok influencer Kai Schwemmer, publicly identifies as a groyper. They dialogue with and frequently retweet groyper Twitter accounts, debate the nuances of Fuentes’ political positions online, and vociferously protested his July 2021 removal from Twitter. At times, they even signal mutual support.
John Doyle organized a Stop the Steal rally alongside Fuentes in Detroit, Michigan on November 11, 2020, telling the crowd assembled on the steps of the Michigan State House that “many of you are probably a little bit surprised to see me out here. I know that the Doyleist-groyper collab was one that many wanted to see for quite some time, but the problem is that someone like Nick, unfortunately, carries a little bit of controversy to his name…ultimately,” he continued, “we are going to be successful…people like us, young men, [will] take the country back.” Months later, Doyle marched alongside Fuentes through the halls of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Dallas, Texas on July 10, 2021, to chants of “groyper! Groyper!”, “Nick! Nick!” and more. Fuentes, returning the favor, has been supportive of Doyle. “John Doyle’s pretty based, I like John Doyle,” Fuentes acknowledged on his America First show. “He’s said some things that are non-based, but he’s more based than most.”
In online chat rooms associated with APU and its leading personalities, groyper anons practice a kind of entryism, encouraging people to watch Fuentes’ videos and championing his White nationalist political positions. More commonly, however, other anons express appreciation for Fuentes and the groyper movement, while arguing that the groyper movement’s indelible association with open White nationalism and antisemitism hampers its stated goal of influencing the conservative mainstream. “True, we love Fuentes,” one anon allowed, but “you can’t always just go out and say everything Fuentes says and expect people to turn over. Sometimes a more moderate voice will start their path towards the right.” Fuentes “was good because he started the movement,” another explained, “but he has failed to evolve. Doyle has usurped him.”
Indeed, most concurred, as one put it, that “Doyle and Fuentes believe essentially the same stuff” but that, as another elaborated, “Nick fuentes is literally just more open about his beliefs than John is and that’s the problem.” One anon used Christian imagery to express the widely-held hope that Doyle would serve as a gateway towards Fuentes. “As St Paul says we don’t feed new born babies meat or hard substance but tender milk…when he matures then we give him meat.”
However, in a private Discord server for fans of Nathaniel Abbott and American Populist Union, anonymous posters openly debate the core tenets of White nationalism. “Race mixing is eh,” one chimed in; “there will be no races left.” Another countered that “I think [race mixing] should be allowed,” while another agreed that “there is only the human race; your skin color is your ethnicity.” One anon argued for White nationalist ‘race realism’, explaining that just as “animals have different sub species that all have different traits”, human racial differences are “deeper than skin”, manifesting in “skull structure, physical abilities, brain structure” and differences in IQ.
While some in APU-aligned chats toe the line approaching outright antisemitism–with one anon claiming, for example, that “Jews are sus[picious], but we gotta have a better basis of our arguments then [sic] just blaming the Jews”, or, tellingly, that “we need a fascist country that doesn’t hate Jews”–others were not so careful. In private Discord servers associated with Abbott and Doyle, anons share memes and videos outlining conspiracies of Jewish world domination and perfidy, denounce “Jewish power” and “vile k*kery”, claim Jews are “of their Father the Devil”, and argue the “conservative movement has been hijacked by Jews”, the “melting pot was made by Jews”, “Jews set up central banking schemes”, and “if it’s mainstream, it’s controlled by Jews”.
Others engage in outright Holocaust denial. “Sure the holocaust happened but no way it was 6 mil,” one proclaimed in Abbott’s server, while another user named ‘CantFoilTheDoyle’ inquired “are we allowed to talk in this server about how the Nazis originally intended to use Zyklon B to sanitize the Jews, not to kill them?” On July 15, one anon announced in Doyle’s server that he “just got done explaining to my family how Hitler was based and the Jews are turning all the frogs gay,” while a day later, another commented that “Yeah I know the Germans in WW2 were bad…6 million Jews…whatever. They sure knew how to make an army song.”
Many agreed with the core White nationalist thesis, as one anon put it, that “America is a nation founded by white people with the ideas of western (white) civilization, and if it does not retain its white demographic core it will no longer be America.” Others concurred, insisting that “we need to try to stop total ethnic [white] displacement because it’s a slope so slippery it will lead to alot of damage.” Meanwhile, in a chat room connected to Vince Dao’s Telegram account, anons affirmed that “we need white solidarity” and that “white rage is real. It’s a rage against injustice. And soon it’ll awaken, I just hope it’s not too late.”
Ironically enough, Fuentes himself had once attempted to distance his groyper brand, with its focus on ‘optics’ and mainstream acceptability, from the toxic image of the alt-right. “The Alt Right was very good at getting attention and raising brand recognition,” wrote White nationalist Travis LeBlanc in a January 2020 article entitled ‘Nick Fuentes & Our Xenus’ on the movement website Counter-Currents, “but not so effective [at] getting the ideas to a mass audience.” Fuentes, in contrast, by modulating his White nationalist message in a register of American patriotism and Christian nationalism, offered “normie friendly entry-level content…he communicated the ideas in a way that was understandable to people of average intelligence and not trying to show off how much Evola he’s read.”
In a March 2021 private, members-only video, Doyle revealed how his movement positions itself differently from the alt-right, while acknowledging a deeper affinity. “I considered myself alt-right in 2016,” he explained, “because I thought that that meant that I didn’t like George Bush.” While the limitations of the alt-right, he continued, were that it was “post-American,” “atheist” and “degenerate,” he acknowledged that “they really basically just care about, like, being white. Which is like, based, cool- being white is kind of epic!…so when people use the term ‘alt-right’ as a pejorative…they’re just trying to demonize you for having politics that exist outside of the approved paradigm.”
“You Gotta Play the Game That You Are In”
Indeed, with Fuentes’ groyper brand now synonymous with White nationalism, APU leaders are recapitulating the groyper mainstreaming strategy for a new era. “Being epic and based and redpilled on social media is cool,” Abbott told his followers on Instagram in early 2021, “until it gets you deplatformed. And since we’re living through a precarious time of social media and big tech censorship, I would recommend for the time being that everyone keep the optics in check.” Abbott repeated this message July 9, as news circulated that Twitter banned Fuentes from the platform: “Until we can successfully combat big tech censorship, maintaining proper optics is of the utmost importance…you gotta play the game that you are in.”
At the same time, however, APU leaders have proved willing to voice the core White nationalist opposition to the perceived demographic replacement of Whites by non-Whites in the US. “They tell white people they’re crazy and racist for worrying about demographic change,” Dao tweeted on July 12, circulating purported video of violence against White South Africans, “but the writing is on the wall. You have a culture that is already trying to discriminate and hate white people, what happens when white people become the actual minority in America?”
Mirroring the tactics of non-Whites in the groyper movement, Dao, who is Vietnamese, strategically utilizes the language of identity politics to provide cover for his flirtations with White nationalism. In April, when an anon on Dao’s Telegram chat stated that “as a Hispanic, the left and the globalist[s] want white genocide in this country and in Europe,” Dao responded, “as an Asian, I concur.” American Populist Union, for its part, strategically frames the still-controversial topic of demographics as a universal, color-blind concern, tweeting that “demographic change is transforming America in irreversible ways” and “Americans of all colors have a right to be concerned about its effects.”
Behind closed doors, meanwhile, Doyle has embraced master race ideology with an ironic tinge characteristic of the groyper subculture. “I myself could not advocate for any form of Aryan master race,” he explained in a January 2021 members-only video, “for two reasons- one, deplatforming, and two, I myself am not Aryan- I am a Chad Anglo. So I would extend an olive branch to my Aryan and my Med[diterranean] brothers by just simply saying- why not have the Euro-Han master race? Which we’re probably gonna have to jump on board with pretty quickly so that our kids aren’t genocided by the Chinese once they conquer us.”
Doyle draws from White nationalist motifs of the “historic American nation” when explaining to followers, as he put it at the APU summit, that “the enemies of America are militant, anti-white communists.” In a November 2020 members-only video, he explained that “because the country is historically white, all the people that have the deepest roots in the country are by definition going to be white…the reason the narrative is so pushed against white people, is because we have the biggest incentive to preserve America.”
In a July 2020 video entitled “Why the Left Hates White People”, recorded at the height of that summer’s Black Lives Matter uprising, Doyle put the political stakes in graphic terms. “My bloodline has been within a 250 mile radius of where I am now since 1659, and it’s like yea, over my dead body. That’s what the strategy is behind white hatred…the least privileged group of people in this country are straight, white, Christian conservative men. Me and you, big guy! The forgotten gamers of America!”
“Occupy a Power Structure, or Die”
While the APU is small and nascent, it has already caught the attention of leaders on the right flank of conservatism. Florida State Representative Anthony Sabatini (R-FL32) and far-right congressional hopeful Joe Kent from Washington State delivered pre-recorded salutations at the American Populist Summit–with Sabatini telling the crowd that “most of the Republicans we have are complete and total cowards and need to be primaried and thrown out of office immediately. Most of them need to be deported, to be quite honest with you”–while Representative Paul Gosar has celebrated the movement on social media. APU leaders are heavily networked with prominent far-right conservative activists including Elijah Schaffer, Darren Beattie, and Gavin Wax, as well as similar recently-formed national-populist pressure groups like Republicans for National Renewal and the Bull Moose Project that, much like APU, seek to pull the post-Trump GOP towards a more hardline America First, populist nationalism.
The rise of the APU, and its heavy groyper influence, underlines the continued influence of White nationalism especially upon the youth wing of a conservative movement in transition. Regardless of its ultimate success, their efforts show that a new generation of hard-right conservative youth leaders is learning in real time to carefully utilize, or at least consider, ideological and aesthetic instruments from the White nationalist toolkit, as they position themselves at the vanguard of the nationalist Right and jostle to shape the uncertain future of post-Trump conservatism. “We essentially have two options,” Doyle told his followers in June 2021, “occupy a power structure, or die…we need to have our own long march through the institutions. We need tens of thousands of disciplined, hyper-focused, patient, highly-motivated, individuals…roll up your sleeves, get to work.”