US Supreme Court changes threaten to immortalize far-right intolerance
Trump wants to pitch himself to conservative Middle America as the strongman who stands up to liberal elites.
When democratic nations take sudden lurches to the right, we assume that such aberrations will quickly correct themselves. But, when radical fringes capture the administration, their invariable priority is remaking it in their own image. In Italy, Austria and Hungary, ascendant right-wingers consolidated
The problem with populists is they are popular. Publics may feel queasy about their roughshod approach and coarse language, yet immigration is a flashpoint issue. Americans don’t like seeing kids in cages, but many blindly support a president who appears tough on immigration. Trump weaponizes immigration by stigmatizing all refugees as criminals, rapists and terrorists. This isn’t about responsible measures to safeguard borders; this is a power-grab by racist demagogues through inciting their supporters against other faiths and ethnicities.
Despite appearances to the contrary, this president knows what he is doing. By forcing divisive issues of immigration and identity to the top of the agenda, he energizes both his own base and radical liberals; triggering a cultural war through which Trump can pitch himself to conservative Middle America as the strongman who stands up to liberal elites who would flood the country with immigrants, criminals and “radical Islamic extremists.”
Democrats are falling into his trap by fighting the mid-term elections on a polarizing agenda defined by Trump. As Bannon said: “When they talk about identity politics, they’re playing into our hands.” Trump is loathed by progressive America, yet his Republican support has swelled to about 90 percent, which will be boosted through reforging the Supreme Court on conservative principles.
Western democracy is being trampled underfoot by hyper-democracy, as traditional determinants of public opinion like the mainstream media are outflanked by an out-of-control cyber-media landscape where virtual mobs are mobilized by Russian troll farms. Trump the reality TV star boorishly revels in his ignorance of global politics, yet he knows how to stampede his supporters against the “fake” media and an illusory “deep state” on his path toward authoritarianism.
The rise of the alt-right and fascism in America and Europe is no blip. Even if Trump is voted out in 2020, the divisive legacy of his presidency and like-minded European ideologies could be with us for decades — especially in Eastern Europe and developing nations, where democracy has the shallowest of roots. Through Trump’s delegitimization of the media, his co-option of the Supreme Court, installation of radical cronies in key institutions, and cyber-demagoguery; America and multiple European nations are plunging toward an authoritarian dark age.
This is how democracy dies. Demonization of Muslims, children in cages, and murderous fascist mobs aren’t incidental aberrations — they are a foretaste of our future if the civilized world does nothing and allows evil to triumph. The problem with Trump and his European wannabes is that every provocation against liberals and the “fake news” strengthens them further within an already impregnable support base.
This dynamic will only change when not just progressive fringes but the center-ground of Western and global public opinion takes a stand, consigning these preachers of hatred back to the far-flung and despised marginal swamps where they belong.
• Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed numerous heads of state.