It's hard to conduct accurate surveys of racists, who tend to exaggerate their strength and importance. But it's fair to say that in the Age of Obama, there's growing concern. This spring, the Southern Poverty Law Center released its annual "Year in Hate" report, which outlines that in 2008 the number of hate groups rose to 926, up 4 percent from 2007, and 54 percent since 2000. (The SPLC doesn't measure the number of members in the groups.) An April Homeland Security intelligence report states that "the economic downturn and the election of the first African-American president present unique drivers for right-wing radicalization and recruitment." Home foreclosures, unemployment and an inability to obtain credit "could create a fertile recruiting environment," the briefing adds, and extremist groups are aiming to "broaden their scope and appeal through propaganda." The haters are doing their best, in other words, to move out from the fringe and toward the mainstream—and they're boasting some success.
Indoctrination often starts on the Internet. Some crazies posting on MySpace, for instance, have called for armed revolution; at least one has referred to Barack Obama as "a dead man." But many leaders of white-supremacist groups and Web forums are toning down their rhetoric. The aim is to attract the kind of person Robb describes as "the guy down the road who until now had his plasma TV and car in the garage, but just lost his job and won't find a new one because some illegal already has it."