Tag Archives: Republicans

Trump, Wilders, Le Pen – The new fascists

students_pledging_allegiance_to_the_american_flag_with_the_bellamy_salute

US students in the 40s, when this salute was still part of the Pledge of Allegience

There’s an ugly current running through Western politics, and if we’re honest with ourselves, we know what it is. Just like in Weimar Germany, from France to the US, there are people struggling with an identity crisis, scared of threats from without and within, and worrying they’re being left behind in the modern economy. And for these people, champions are rising. They are strong leaders. They say all the things, the necessary things, no one else dares to say. They will get things moving, protect the ordinary people, restore order, restore greatness, do what needs to be done. They are people like Donald Trump, Geert Wilders and Marine Le Pen. They are fascists.

There’s no clear-cut definition of fascism, and there’s no simple equivalent for Hitler or Mussolini today. However, academic Christian Caryl offers some criteria, so let’s see how Trump especially, but also the others, fit:

  • Racial purity: Wilders and Le Pen focus more on religion then race, but all of them share an obsession with an ‘other’ contaminating society and taking it over, be it “Mexican rapists and criminals”, “criminal Moroccan” or simply “Muslims”, and they will stop all immigration to get rid of this other.
  • “The state reigns supreme”: Seeing as none of them are in power, this is hard to judge, but they are certainly all extremely focused on law and order and ‘the nation’.
  • The strongman: All three, especially Trump, play on this idea of needing a strong leader, and it’s something their supporters look for.
  • Focus on the military: This is something Trump has mentioned a lot – and which is slightly less relevant in Europe – the need for a strong military and foreign policy.
  • Hatred of ‘rationalism’ and ‘decadence’: Trump almost glories in being an anti-intellectual, barely bothering to make rational arguments. All of them have attacked the current government and system for weakness, softness and elitism.
  • The Third Way: None of them are left or right, but just like the Nazi party, bring in elements of both – the rightist emphasis on law and order and the nation together with the leftist opposition to globalisation and financial elites (ironically in Trump’s case).

Now you can argue that people like Wilders and Trump are just populists, swaying from issue to issue, and that they’ll never be elected anyway. And that is certainly true, they are extremely populist. But these fascist positions are the ones on which they are running, and the ones that are making them some of the most popular politicians in the country. That can’t be ignored.

These people don’t only pose a direct threat to democracy if they are elected. Their very rhetoric poisons the atmosphere; it tells people that it is alright to voice their darkest fears and their basest hatreds. Their policies are not just free speech in a marketplace of ideas, where the good ones will win out, they are beginning to contaminate the others and sway the centre of debate. What was once extreme, now becomes acceptable.

The media plays a role in this too. Just this morning I heard an interview with Trump on ABC, where the interviewer asked “Do you regret your ban on Muslims entering the country, a policy which many have labelled un-American?” How can you ask such a question with a straight face? It’s like asking Hitler “Do you regret barring the Jews from public life, a policy which many see as anti-Semitic?’ Of course his plan is un-American, of course it’s un-democratic, and of course it’s fascist. Why isn’t that being said?

This may seem overblown, and you can argue that they will never be elected, or that their star will fade away. Fair enough, that’s hopefully and probably true. But the last time large proportions of Europe were swayed by fascism, it led to the worst conflict the world has ever seen, and the worst crime the world has ever seen – the systematic extermination of millions of Jews, Gypsies, Slavs, and many others. There are some threats that are very unlikely, but the consequences of which are so dire that they have to be faced no matter how remote they may be. Fascist rhetoric is one of those threats.

Last week Hilary Benn, in one of the best speeches I’ve seen in recent times, declared that Islamic State is fascist, and “fascists must be fought”. This is true – but sometimes the fascists are on the inside.

Why can’t Republicans talk about racism?

On Wednesday the US was hit by yet another mass shooting. Dylann Roof, who was only 21 years old, joined a prayer meeting in Emanuel Church in Charleston, before opening fire and killing nine people – all African American. The church is one of the oldest African American churches in the US, and has long been involved in the civil rights movement. The killer, driven by racism, apparently believed in segregation, had been photographed with the flags of apartheid era South Africa and Rhodesia, and shouted racist rhetoric and slurs during the shooting. The government is treating the attack as a hate crime and as domestic terrorism. There aren’t many more clear-cut example of vicious racism ending in murder. Unless though, you’re a Republican candidate for President. Let’s see what they had to say:
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A political storm and 4 million changed lives

This week President Obama showed just how powerful the presidency can be by potentially drastically changing the lives of 4 million people. After years of Congress not passing any law to deal with the 11 million illegal immigrants in the US, Obama used his power as President to pass immigration reform that ensures illegal migrants whose children were born in the US will no longer be able to be deported. The Republican Party reacted with predictable fury, saying that Obama is acting like a dictator or monarch. So what the ‘immigration problem’ in the US, and what will now change? And what does this mean for the next few years of American politics? Continue reading

Republican rout – why American politics aren’t getting any better

Last night in the US the Republican Party swept back into power in Congress. They won enough seats in the midterm elections to control both the House of Representatives and the Senate, meaning that they can now pass practically any bill they want. President Obama will either have to sign the bills or veto them, meaning it looks like the last two years of Obama’s presidency will be more of the same deadlock that has characterised American politics over the last four years. So why are American politics so deadlocked? And what do the Republicans have to do with it? Continue reading