The Far Right’s College CrusadeBreaking News
tags: conservatism, far right, racism, culture war, colleges and universities
Sitting in front of a roaring fire, Kimo Gandall looks and sounds like a politician from a bygone era. Wearing a three-piece suit and holding a tumbler of Elijah Craig bourbon as a soft jazz intro fades, he begins one of his “fireside chat” videos on Facebook or YouTube, taped at his parents’ home in Huntington Beach, Calif.
“I’m going to talk about the issues, how we’re going to implement them and how we’re going to change them,” says Gandall, 23, a former president of the College Republicans at the University of California at Irvine, before he delves into a detailed report on the financial situation of the College Republican National Committee.
The genteel setting sometimes includes a TV tray holding the Bible, Robert’s Rules of Order, and books such as Samuel P. Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations, which theorizes about the likelihood of future wars between the Christian West and the Muslim East.
But Gandall’s buttoned-down persona is at odds with his darker views. He believes, for instance, that the United States is headed toward a race war fueled by progressive politics and the Black Lives Matter movement. “The leftist narrative now wants you to actually kill each other because you’re of a different race,” he said during a July 2020 podcast. “A lot of the leftist, BLM rhetoric — Black Lives Matter — founded itself on wanting racial division, right, when you have whites bow down to Blacks.”
Gandall, who graduated in June with a degree in political science, is not an outlier. Instead, he has become a key figure in California campus politics, and one of many young conservatives across the nation who are leading campus Republican groups further right, ideologically.
The shift has led to a schism among campus Republicans that mirrors the divide in the national party: In a dozen states, including California, campus conservatives are splintering, in part, over whether to support the former president, Donald J. Trump, and his populist message.
But the division also results from allegations that some campus groups are allying themselves with the far right: Individuals and organizations that are, to varying degrees, “antidemocratic, antiegalitarian and white supremacist,” Cynthia Miller-Idriss, director of research at the Polarization and Extremism Research Innovation Lab, at American University, writes in her book Hate in the Homeland: The New Global Far Right (Princeton University Press, 2020). While such groups are not monolithic, Miller-Idriss explains, a common belief is that dominant groups — white people, men, Christians, Americans — face an existential threat from an increasingly diverse society. Within that framing, higher ed’s efforts to increase racial diversity and inclusion are seen as a liberal plot to erase white and Christian traditions and culture.
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