The number of organizations classified as ‘hate groups’ by the Southern Poverty Law Center has risen in recent years, seemingly fueled by the bizarre idea that president Obama is some kind of weird Muslim, Kenyan, communist usurper of American legitimacy who must be overthrown by force before he destroys motherhood and eats all the apple pie. These people cannot seem to see the obvious, which is that Obama is the latest in standard-issue, center-right, pro-oligarchic, authoritarian, political leaders.
On the bright side, though, it looks like membership in the KKK is in steep decline.
Membership totals are hard to track, because the Klan doesn’t willingly release member lists. Over the long term, the KKK is clearly contracting, since its rolls have shrunk from millions in the 1920s to between 3,000 and 5,000 today.
Part of the reason may be that the newer generation of racists now have other options.
The KKK is also suffering from a proliferation of competitors. People who wanted to join a white supremacist movement back in the 1920s didn’t have a lot of choices. Today, there are countless options, enabling an extremist to find a group that matches his personal brand of intolerance. The more extreme groups in the burgeoning patriot movement cater to anti-Muslim, homophobic, and xenophobic sentiment, with less animosity toward African-Americans and Jews. Aryan Nations offers a heavy focus on Christian identity. Some groups preach more violence, while others offer a veneer of intellectualism. American Renaissance, for example, caters to “suit-and-tie” racists, offering pseudo-scientific papers on white supremacy. The group even holds conferences at a hotel near Dulles airport in Virginia.
Or maybe what’s destroying the KKK now is a cunning plan that was formulated at the time of its origin.