I continue to have some hold out acquaintances who are Trump supporters even though they don't fit the typical profile of the Trump supporters, namely poorly educated, no college education and blue collar workers. I've continued to try to subtly tell them that they really need to think about the company they are keeping within Trump's base of support: racist, nativist, and xenophobic. Oh, and did I mention more than a dash of fascism? The Associated Press has a major piece that looks at how the KKK is not only excited about Trump's candidacy but also enthused about riding the Trump wave to rebuild itself to where it once was in the bad old days following the end of Reconstruction. Here are a few brief excerpts:
Born in the ashes of the smoldering South after the Civil War, the Ku Klux Klan died and was reborn before losing the fight against civil rights in the 1960s. Membership dwindled, a unified group fractured, and one-time members went to prison for a string of murderous attacks against blacks. Many assumed the group was dead, a white-robed ghost of hate and violence.
Yet today, the KKK is still alive and dreams of restoring itself to what it once was: an invisible white supremacist empire spreading its tentacles throughout society. As it marks 150 years of existence, the Klan is trying to reshape itself for a new era.
In a series of interviews with The Associated Press, Klan leaders said they feel that U.S. politics are going their way, as a nationalist, us-against-them mentality deepens across the nation. Stopping or limiting immigration — a desire of the Klan dating back to the 1920s — is more of a cause than ever. And leaders say membership has gone up at the twilight of President Barack Obama's second term in office, though few would provide numbers.
Joining the Klan is as easy as filling out an online form — provided you're white and Christian. Members can visit an online store to buy one of the Klan's trademark white cotton robes for $145, though many splurge on the $165 satin version.
Formed just months after the end of the Civil War by six former Confederate officers in Pulaski, Tennessee, the Klan originally seemed more like a college fraternity with ceremonial robes and odd titles for its officers. But soon, freed blacks were being terrorized, and the Klan was blamed. Hundreds of people were assaulted or killed within the span of a few years as whites tried to regain control of the defeated Confederacy. Congress effectively outlawed the Klan in 1871, leading to martial law in some places and thousands of arrests, and the group died.
The Klan seemed relegated to history until World War I, when it was resurrected. It grew as waves of immigrants arrived aboard ships from Europe and elsewhere, and grew more as the NAACP challenged Jim Crow laws in the South in the 1920s. Millions joined, including community leaders like bankers and lawyers.
The current hot-button issue for Klan members — fighting immigration and closing U.S. borders — is one of the most talked-about topics in the presidential election. Klan leaders say Donald Trump's immigration position and his ascendancy in the GOP are signs things are going their way.
"You know, we began 40 years ago saying we need to build a wall," Arkansas-based Klan leader Thomas Robb said.
Years ago, the group Robb heads near Harrison, Arkansas, changed its name from the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan to the Knights Party USA, mainly to get away from the stigma associated with the Klan name. It now presents itself as more of a political or Christian entity.
In April, Klan members and other white supremacists held two rallies on the same warm Saturday in Georgia. As the sun set, about 60 robed Klan members and others holding flaming torches gathered in a huge circle in a field in northwest Georgia to set a cross and Nazi swastika afire. "White power!" they chanted in unison. "Death to the ungodly! Death to our enemies!"