Trump's victory is a triumph for right-wing extremism
Not many months ago Donald trump was the joke candidate in the US presidential elections, the clown, the bogeyman outsider. However, as Michael Moore noted perceptively at the time: the pundits and political elite myopically underestimated the man and his popular appeal because they were completely out of touch with ordinary people.
Almost a century ago another man with a ridiculous moustache, a shrill voice and theatrical gestures was also mocked. On the back of mass unemployment and poverty in the country as well as widespread dissatisfaction with the mainstream parties, he rose rapidly to power. Like Trump, he also promised to make his country great again and rid it of the ‘vermin’ who were undermining the nation’s moral fibre and its economy. I’m not suggesting that Trump is the new Hitler, but there are very worrying parallels. Just look at what Trump has said during his campaign and who he is appointing to his new cabinet.
His main campaign slogan, ‘Make American great again’, and his major promises to improve the US economy by emphasising ‘straight talking’, patriotism and standing against ‘political correctness’, could have come straight out of Dr. Goebbel’s propaganda bible, in which he emphasised the need to ‘avoid abstract ideas - appeal to the emotions; constantly repeat just a few ideas, use stereotyped phrases; give only one side of the argument; continuously criticize your opponents; and pick out one “enemy” for special vilification. Sound familiar?
Trump is not a natural master of rhetoric, but he has internalised the points Goebbels makes, and is playing on the fears of those whose jobs are at risk, whose communities have been devastated by capitalist greed, by blaming immigrants and foreigners:
‘I will build a great wall – and nobody builds walls better than me … I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words’, he repeated.
‘When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems to us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bring crime. They’re rapists… And some, I assume, are good people.’
Not satisfied with a vilification of Mexicans, he turned on the Muslims, calling for a ban on Muslims entering the USA.
His racism is further underlined by his remarks about Obama, first doubting the details of his birth and then implying that he is associated with (black) thugs: ‘Our great African-American President hasn’t exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are so happily and openly destroying Baltimore, he said.’
As if that were not enough, he has views on global warming that are Medieval: ‘It’s freezing and snowing in New York – we need global warming!’, he quipped. He has also appointed a climate change denier to oversee the transition of the Environmental Protection Agency and he is planning to quit the Paris Climate Deal.
In his first interview with CBS after his election, Trump said: that he would expel or jail up to 3 million undocumented immigrants from the US who are ‘criminal’. And that future Supreme Court nominees would be ‘pro-life’ – i.e. anti-abortion, and would defend the constitutional right to bear arms.
All this should have set alarm bells ringing around the globe and invoked outrage, but instead Trump is rapidly becoming accepted by government leaders and the mainstream media. It’s not unlike the way Hitler, Franco and all the other dictators were treated in their day, with kid gloves – it’s called appeasement.
In Trump’s case the apple has clearly not fallen far from the tree. His father, Fred Trump, was once arrested at a KKK rally and was sued by the US Justice Department for refusing to rent flats to African-Americans. Donald Trump inherited his property owning father’s wealth which was lucky as he was clearly no high-flyer at school. He was expelled at the age of 13 and sent to the New York military academy.
Most past US presidents have been right-wing but we broadly knew that we were getting what it said on the packet. With Trump, for the first time, we have an unpredictable, but reactionary individual.
It is, though, not only Trump we should fear but those extreme right-wingers he is appointing to his cabinet. His chief strategist is Steve Bannon, a former Goldman Sachs investment banker who runs the right-wing Breitbart News Network website, and appears to be as misogynist as Trump.
Buzzfeed quotes Bannon as saying, ‘one of the unintended consequences of the women’s liberation movement is that ‘the women that would lead this country would be feminine, they would be pro-family, they would have husbands, they would love their children. They wouldn’t be a bunch of dykes that came from the 7 Sisters schools’.
Bannon has connections to the alt-right – a loose group of people with far right ideologies who reject even mainstream conservatism in the US and believe in white supremecy. He believes that those who believe in a progressive agenda espouse a philosophy of victimhood: ‘They’re either a victim of race. They’re victim of their sexual preference. They’re a victim of gender. All about victimhood and the United States is the great oppressor, not the great liberator,’ he says.
In the divorce court Bannon’s ex-wife Louise Piccard accused him of being an anti-semite, saying that he had made antisemitic remarks about choice of schools, not wishing to send his daughters to a local school beloved of Jewish families because ‘Jews raise their children to be whiny brats’. He has denied the accusation.
If Bannon’s actual words don’t disqualify him from holding a top position in the Trump White House, the headlines he published at should: ‘Birth control makes women unattractive and crazy’. ‘There’s no hiring bias against women in tech. They just suck at interviews’. ‘World Health Organisation report: Trannies 49x higher HIV rate’.
Then there is Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC), who has been appointed as Trump’s chief of staff. He worked to bring Wisconsin's Tea Party movement together with the mainstream Republican party organization.
Newt Gingrich is another close adviser to Trump. He was one of those influential advisers to Ronald Reagan who adopted his idea of an ‘opportunity society’ as laid out in his book, Window of Opportunity. Gingrich encouraged Republicans to ‘speak like Newt’ and put out a memo containing lists of words with negative connotations such as ‘radical’, ‘sick’ and ‘traitors’. That, too, could have come from Goebbel’s notebook. That is how fake news and lies become mainstream, particularly when magnified by the right-wing press and other media.
Boris Johnson, our modern-day version of Chamberlain, is likely to meet Gingrich when he visits the States shortly. He claimed Trump’s election should be seen as a ‘moment of opportunity’ for the UK. After complaining about the ‘whinge-o-rama’ in response to the election result, he added: ‘I think there is a lot to be positive about and it is very important not to pre-judge the president-elect or his administration’.
Theresa May also appeared to support Trump’s stance when speaking this week at the Lord Mayor’s banquet, when she adopted her tribune of the working people pose: ‘People – often those on modest to low incomes living in rich countries like our own – see their jobs being outsourced and wages undercut. They see their communities changing around them and don’t remember agreeing to that change,” … ‘When you fail to see that the liberal consensus that has held sway for decades (sic) has failed to maintain the consent of many people, you’re not the champion of liberalism but the enemy of it,’ she said. In other words, Trump’s election is the answer to years of failed liberalism.
We have to demand of our government that it has no truck with Trump and his vitriol. If he is not vehemently opposed and his dangerous rhetoric exposed, the insidious march of right-wing populism will gain traction elsewhere too.