Richard B. Spencer, a leader of the far right, addressing a conference on Saturday in Washington. Credit Al Drago/The New York Times

WASHINGTON — For years, they have lurked in the web’s dark corners, masking themselves with cartoon images and writing screeds about the demise of white culture under ominous pseudonyms. But on Saturday, in the wake of Donald J. Trump’s surprising election victory, hundreds of his extremist supporters converged on the capital to herald a moment of political ascendance that many had thought to be far away.

In the bowels of the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, three blocks from the White House, members of the so-called alt-right movement gathered for what they had supposed would be an autopsy to plot their grim future under a Clinton administration. Instead, they celebrated the unexpected march of their white nationalist ideas toward the mainstream, portraying Mr. Trump’s win as validation that the tide had turned in their fight to preserve white culture.

“It’s been an awakening,” Richard B. Spencer, who is credited with coining the term alt-right, said at the gathering on Saturday. “This is what a successful movement looks like.”

The movement has been critical of politicians of all stripes for promoting diversity, immigration and perceived political correctness. Its critics call it a rebranded version of the Ku Klux Klan, promoting anti-Semitism, violence and suppression of minorities.

Intellectual leaders of the movement argue that they are merely trying to realize their desire for a white “ethno-state” where they can be left alone. Mr. Trump, with his divisive language about immigrants and Muslims, has given them hope that these dreams can come true.

“I never thought we would get to this point, any point close to mainstream acceptance or political influence,” said Matt Forney, 28, of Chicago. “The culture is moving more in my direction.”

Emboldened by Mr. Trump’s takeover of the Republican Party, Mr. Forney said he expected people openly associated with the white nationalist movement to run as candidates in the 2018 midterm elections. The rise of populism and the decline of political correctness, he said, present a rare opportunity.

Robert Taylor, 29, described the conference as a “victory party.”

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