Just days before the end of Trump’s presidency and on the holiday celebrating the life of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr, the Trump administration released the 1776 Commission, a document compiled by 18 conservative thinkers and activists that argues Americans are being indoctrinated by left-wing extremism and misinformation about the nation’s founding. In other words, not enough American exceptionalism, too much identity politics. It managed to compare progressivism to fascism, criticize the civil rights movement while whitewashing King’s revolutionary legacy, and bemoan critiques against the nation’s slave-owning founding fathers in one odious 41-page document, one that the Trump administration is using as a call to promote “patriotic education” across the nation.
In a briefing, the White House described the 1776 Commission—an obvious response to the New York Times’ unnecessarily controversial 1619 Project—as a “rebuttal of reckless ‘re-education’ attempts that seek to reframe American history around the idea that the United States is not an exceptional country but an evil one.”
This was Stephen Miller’s last hurrah.
Ask the average American to identify Miller, and they’d likely draw a blank. That’s not entirely surprising: The 35-year-old senior policy advisor for President Trump wasn’t one for the spotlight, preferring to work behind the scenes and only granting the occasional interview during his tenure. But his white nationalist politics have made for some of the most consequential fascets of the Trump presidency and its detrimental legacy.
Trump had the nativist spirit that comes with being a rich white man of a certain age, but he lacked the intellectualism to defend it. Enter Miller, the chief architect behind the “Muslim” travel ban and the devastating family separation policy at the U.S.-Mexico border in 2018, which left thousands of migrant children separated from their guardians as a means of deterring asylum and undocumented border crossings with fear and emotional torture. Hundreds of the children have yet to be reunited with their parents. Miller is also responsible for the extreme reduction in refugees accepted into the United States and promoted bogus claims of widespread election fraud.
None of this is surprising from a man who reportedly kicks off every immigration policy meeting with a rant about “immigrant criminals.” This specter of evil immigrants from south of the border began when he was a teen and is well documented in recollections from his former classmates and friends: Miller, a white Jewish boy from Santa Monica, California, so detached from his own family’s legacy of persecution that he happily harassed Latinx students without a sliver of self-awareness and took the role of right-wing edgelord all the way to the Oval Office.
In 2019, leaked emails between Miller and a former Breitbart editor were made public. They confirmed that Miller wasn’t simply flirting with white nationalism as a grift; he believed in it fully. He referenced obscure novels about white genocide that are favorites among neo-Nazis, lauded the racist and xenophobic immigration platform of President Calvin Coolidge, and referred to the white nationalist website American Renaissance as “AmRen,” a nickname usually used by regular visitors.
This is Miller’s legacy, the neverending pursuit of a whiter America. In some ways, his dream came true: Along with a reduction of refugees, legal immigration to the United States has dropped off significantly. But his child separation policy did little to deter migrants from crossing the border, and the Biden administration plans to reverse some of his most impactful policy proposals.
The leaked emails, in concert with his general unpleasantness, should be enough to make him unemployable to any person or organization that values their reputation. But this is America, where being a racist can be a lucrative career. Maybe Miller will continue to work behind the scenes at some right-wing think tank, or he’ll aid another budding fascist’s agenda. Regardless, Miller has not been disgraced. Unfortunately, despite the damage he’s caused, he and his equally fascist wife will be just fine.