Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke believes he and GOP nominee Donald Trump are promoting a similar white nationalist message.
The former KKK grand wizard is one of many white supremacist figures who have expressed enthusiasm for the business mogul’s potential presidency.
Duke is currently making a long shot bid for an open U.S. Senate seat in Louisiana. The former KKK leader believes the current climate in U.S. politics makes his worldview more mainstream and has attributed this to Trump.
“I love it,” Duke told the Los Angeles Times on Sept. 29. “The fact that Donald Trump’s doing so well, it proves that I’m winning. I am winning.”
Duke is no longer affiliated with the KKK but has continued promoting a message of white supremacy. He is the founder of the National Association for the Advancement of White People and frequently engages in rants against Jews and racial minorities on his radio show.
The former KKK leader believes that Trump is successfully spreading his ideology across the U.S. with coded rhetoric.
“He’s talking about it in a visceral way,” Duke said. “Donald Trump is talking implicitly. I’m talking explicitly.”
Duke became a vocal supporter of Trump during the GOP primary race. He told his radio show listeners to vote for the business mogul instead of Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida or Republican. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, who have Cuban heritage.
“Voting for these people, voting against Donald Trump at this point is really treason to your heritage,” Duke said on Feb. 25, according to The Washington Post.
On Feb. 28, Trump declined to disavow Duke’s endorsement, citing that he did not even know who the former KKK leader was.
“Well, just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke, OK?” Trump told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists… You wouldn’t want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about.”
Trump has since publicly disavowed Duke. While the GOP nominee asserts that he does not know about white supremacists, they attest to being big fans of his campaign.
“Trump had me at ‘build a wall,’” said Andrew Anglin, the editor of Neo-Nazi website Daily Stormer. “Virtually every alt-right Nazi I know is volunteering for the Trump campaign.”
Richard Spencer, the president of the white nationalist think tank National Policy Institute, believes that there is an “emotional connection between the alt-right and his campaign.
“I think [Trump] does recognize that he has this alt-right army behind him… I think he also realizes if he backs down, if he stops being combative, he is in danger of losing that,” Spencer added.
In October 2015, Matthew Heimbach of the Traditionalist Youth Network asserted that the newly emboldened white supremacist movement would continue beyond Trump, whether he wins the White House or not, The New York Times reports.
“The march to victory will not be won by Donald Trump in 2016, but this could be the steppingstone we need to then radicalize millions of White working and middle class families to the call to truly begin a struggle for Faith, family and folk,” Heimbach wrote.
Duke is pleased the white supremacist movement he had previously led has been reinvigorated but does not want all the credit to go to Trump.
“Trump happened because of us, not the other way around,” Duke concluded.