Far right-wing militias in the Chicago suburbs

Who lives in the (Chicago) suburbs? According to WBEZ, far right-wing militia leaders:

Traditionally, extremists interested in rightwing paramilitary activities have had to make a special effort to locate and join private paramilitary groups, said Friedfeld. The effort itself was enough to deter many from even bothering. But with hundreds of unlawful militias featured on the site, MyMilitia has reduced the process to a matter of a few clicks. Moreover, the website has pioneered the concept of so-called “area code militias,” which directs users to others living nearby…

Joshua Ellis is 41-years old and lived in Naperville until recently. Bankruptcy court documents indicate he has relocated to Antioch, Illinois. Ellis works in mold remediation and water damage. He calls himself an Army veteran, although his record was just six months with the Iowa Army National Guard, which he acknowledges he left before finishing advanced individual training. He has lived in several states, has a long history of not paying taxes and has filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection at least three times…

The fact that a far right extremist social media site would be run from someone’s home in Chicago’s suburbs has been no surprise to Alexander Reid Ross, a professor at Portland State University and a fellow at the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right. Reid Ross began tracking far right street activity after police in Minneapolis killed George Floyd. He found that, in the weeks before the 2020 presidential election, the Chicago region was a hot spot…

“I ran the data, and I found out that, demographically, places where these far right incidents were taking place were actually demographically more diverse and actually had slightly higher median household income than the national average,” he said. “That narrative was true that these guys are rising up in the suburbs. They’re feeling like the world is getting more diverse and they’re losing their white power.”

That the front line of right-wing militia activity could be in the suburbs makes sense for several reasons:

  1. Suburbs are split politically with voters closer to big cities leaning Democratic and voters on the edges leaning Republican. The example of Ellis above fits this.
  2. The demographics of many American suburbs have changed in recent decades with more minority, immigrant, and poor residents.
  3. Numerous suburbs have experienced tensions over changes in recent decades. This includes controversies in local government, schools, public activities, and among neighbors.
  4. The majority of Americans live in suburbs.

At the same time, I suspect many suburbanites would be surprised by this. I remember reading a book years ago about Timothy McVeigh and the rural locations in Arkansas and elsewhere of the groups he interacted with. I can imagine the typical news report about something shocking in the suburbs: “We had no idea our neighbor was doing X. This is a quiet community with friendly neighbors. Person Z was a recluse but we did not imagine this.” How would reactions to this news compare to other negative activities? Or, could such group carry out activities in public without receiving pushback?

Similarity between US and France: right-wing voters in the suburbs

Although American and French suburbs are often different kinds of places, here is one intriguing similarity: voters in both American and French suburbs have leaned to the right in recent elections.

Her strong showing gives her National Front (FN) hope of its first seats in parliament since the late 1980s. It also casts the spotlight on a new phenomenon: the success of the far right among lower middle class suburban voters.

“In 2012, the far-right vote has crystallized in these communities far from the big-city centers,” said Nice University sociologist Gilles Ivaldi.

In the past decade, soaring real estate prices have forced the working class and lower middle class out of urban centers and into soulless suburban housing estates, inconveniently far from their jobs and often with few public services.

These people are not the poorest of the poor, but squeezed between the bourgeoisie and an immigrant class living in drab tower blocks on the edge of the big cities, they fear they have the most to lose…

A study by the left-leaning Jean Jaures Foundation shows Le Pen scored the highest vote in suburban communities located between 20 and 50 km (12 to 30 miles) from metropolitan centers. In the cities, her score averaged less than 15 percent.

Could we see a political convergence of disaffected, conservative right-wing voters from suburbs on both sides of the Atlantic?

One big difference: this article is primarily about far right-wing voters in France who have a ways to go before becoming a sizable political presence compared to Republicans.

Considering whether whites are the new minority

A CNN article takes a look at the question of whether  “whites [are] racially oppressed.” A sociologist in the story summarizes why whites may be feeling like a minority group and acting accordingly:

For many decades, white people saw themselves as individuals, not as members of a race, says Matt Wray, a sociologist at Temple University in Pennsylvania, who writes books about white studies.

“We are often offended if someone calls attention to our race as shaping how we view the world,” says Wray, author of “Not Quite White.” “We don’t like to be pigeon-holed that way. Non-white Americans are seldom afforded this luxury of seeing themselves as individuals, disconnected from any race.”

This threatened-status argument seems to be gathering steam as more sociologists (and others) look for explanations for the persistence and/or growth of right-wing movements. With the changing demographics in America (whether in kindergarten or the suburbs), this is not something that will go away.

What might happen in the long run? Another sociologist offers a prediction:

Gallagher points out that the United States has accommodated massive change before. Women were once thought too emotional to vote, interracial couples were outlawed, blacks enslaved.

He says his children won’t see race the same way that he or other generations did. They won’t see diversity as a weakness.

It’ll just be a way of life.

I would love to hear more about this: how exactly will the view of and effects of race change in the coming generations? A number of sociologists have written about the changes in the past 100 years as America moved from more overt forms of discrimination to move covert forms. I haven’t seen too many predictions about this.