Trump­ism is in­grained in white Amer­ica

The Pak Banker - - OPINION - Cas Mudde

The au­thor Tom Wolfe once wrote: "The dark night of fas­cism is al­ways de­scend­ing in the United States and yet lands only in Europe." He was re­flect­ing a con­sen­sus, shared by pub­lic and schol­ars alike, that far right pol­i­tics is a Euro­pean phe­nom­e­non, at odds with "Amer­i­can val­ues". It is a con­vic­tion so deeply held that it has left the US blind to re­al­ity.

Any ex­am­ple of far- right pol­i­tics is ex­plained away as ex­cep­tional, not rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the "real" Amer­ica, from "lone wolf" ter­ror­ists such as the Ok­la­homa City bomber Ti­mothy McVeigh to the rise of Trump­ism. Rather than ad­dress the struc­tural con­di­tions that have made anti- gov­ern­ment mili­tias a per­ma­nent pres­ence in the US, but not in any other ad­vanced democ­racy, or which have fu­elled pre­vi­ous pop­ulist rad­i­cal right move­ments such as the Tea Party, ex­pla­na­tions fo­cus on in­di­vid­u­als such as Don­ald Trump or their Rasputin fig­ures such as Steve Ban­non.

This "ex­ter­nal­i­sa­tion" of the far right was at its height dur­ing the 2016 pres­i­den­tial cam­paign, in which Trump was por­trayed as a po­lit­i­cal anom­aly who had hi­jacked the Re­pub­li­can party. Con­ser­va­tives and main­stream Repub­li­cans ar­gued that he didn't re­ally rep­re­sent what was at heart a mod­er­ate con­ser­va­tive party. They found much sup- port among lib­er­als, most no­tably Hil­lary Clin­ton, who fo­cused much of her cam­paign on "mod­er­ate Repub­li­cans".

How­ever, for years sur­veys have shown that strong au­thor­i­tar­ian, na­tivist and pop­ulist po­si­tions com­mand plu­rali- ties, if not ma­jori­ties, among Re­pub­li­can sup­port­ers. Po­si­tions on crime, im­mi­gra­tion and Is­lam have hard­ened rather than weak­ened, while con­spir­acy the­o­ries that were at the fringes of the mili­tia move­ment in the 1990s are now wide­spread.

The shift has been en­cour­aged by gen­er­a­tions of Re­pub­li­can politi­cians: re­mem­ber Ron­ald Rea­gan's use of the term "wel­fare queens", and Newt Gin­grich call­ing sharia law "a mor­tal threat to the sur­vival of free­dom in Amer­ica"?

What the in­creas­ingly for­got­ten rise of the Tea Party in­di­cated sev­eral years be­fore was sim­ply con­firmed by the rise of Trump: the Re­pub­li­can es­tab­lish­ment had rad­i­calised its base to such an ex­tent that it was no longer rep­re­sen­ta­tive of its views. Trump didn't hi­jack the Re­pub­li­can party, he pro­vided the base with a real rep­re­sen­ta­tive again. But just as the Koch broth­ers didn't con­trol the Tea Party, Trump doesn't con­trol "Trump­ism". He is merely the cur­rent voice of the rad­i­calised base.

While the rise of Trump and Trump­ism is in part fu­elled by sim­i­lar fac­tors as the rise of far- right par­ties in Europe, in­clud­ing glob­al­i­sa­tion and mass im­mi­gra­tion, it has long roots within Amer­i­can his­tory.

From the Know Noth­ings in the mid19th cen­tury to Trump to­day, the US has seen far- right chal­lenges in the form of the sec­ond com­ing of the Ku Klux Klan, which claimed the sup­port of al­most 15% of the pop­u­la­tion in the 1920s, the anti- de­seg­re­ga­tion cam­paign of Alabama gov­er­nor Ge­orge Wal­lace, who won 13.5% of na­tional votes and five ( south­ern) states as a third- party can­di­date in the 1968 pres­i­den­tial elec­tions, to the Tea Party just a few years ago, in many ways lay­ing the foun­da­tions for Trump's pres­i­dency. The spread of the far right into ar­eas not im­me­di­ately iden­ti­fied with it is not lim­ited to Trump­ism. It has been on full dis­play since the deadly demon­stra­tion in Char­lottesville. Over the past months we have been ob­sess­ing over the threat of the so- called alt- right, while ig­nor­ing much more dan­ger­ous anti- gov­ern­ment move­ments such as "sov­er­eign cit­i­zens", who are con­sid­ered the num­ber one do­mes­tic threat by law en­force­ment agents. It is easy to de­nounce the alt- right, as Demo­cratic - and Re­pub­li­can - lead­ers did af­ter Char­lottesville. But while call­ing the far right "un- Amer­i­can" might make for good pol­i­tics, it ex­presses a bla­tant and dan­ger­ous lack of his­tor­i­cal un­der­stand­ing. Pop­ulist rad­i­cal right ideas such as Trump­ism have al­ways been wide­spread within white Amer­i­can so­ci­ety.

Just as the Re­pub­li­can es­tab­lish­ment couldn't con­trol Trump, Trump can't con­trol Trump­ism. It has been here be­fore him and it will be here af­ter him, be­cause it is part of Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal cul­ture and his­tory. The sooner we all re­alise this, the quicker we can de­velop an ef­fec­tive strat­egy to over­come it.

That rate is be­ing re­duced to 21 per-

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