The rise of Trump has been nothing less of a unique phenomenon. Rarely in American history has a corporate billionaire ran for office, spent little on campaigning, has had zero political background, and has absolutely soared in the polls to such devastating heights. He has been called the solution to establishment Republican humdrum, and has been called the new face of fascism. I do not presume to know the truth of it, nor do I care to defend or advocate a particular position. What I do intend is to explain how this phenomena has come about, to the best of my ability, and why it is important to understand within national and international discourse. It is easy to condemn a position, it is far more difficult to comprehend the position. This is my attempt at the latter.
In the infamous tome The Dispossessed Majority by Wilmot Robertson, he outlines how and why the US has declined since its founding. To those unfamiliar, Robertson was a racialist and is esteemed among white supremacists. I do not endorse or defend his beliefs, but I am surprised to see few mention Robertson in regards to the Trump phenomena. Robertson essentially states the decline of the nation is due to the erosion of the majority and the empowerment of the liberal-minority coalition. The majority, those of European-Christian heritage, are slowly silenced and weakened by the minority. Akin to a sickness, the majority grows feeble and passive. Mind you his work is extensive and contains far more meticulous historical details than I am able to convey. Nonetheless the thesis has been repeated for decades by various right wing figures and organizations.
What has been dubbed the ‘silent majority’ has been coerced into passivity by those liberal minded and its allied minorities. I do not doubt nor deny the struggle of minorities in this nation. I do not belittle their difficulties. What I do desire to emphasize is that in the liberal-minority plight for ‘equality’ there has also been a strike against the majority norm. Whether the ‘white Christian male’ is demonized or ‘traditional social mores’ are blasted for being obsolete or oppressive. The majority have been told that their positions are inherently bigoted, unworthy of respect, unintelligent, anti-intellectual, uneducated, and from a ‘place of privilege’ thus rendering it worthless. Ironically the concept of populism which the Left once praised has now been inverted into something to be sneered at. The working class with traditional values or religion are sneered at as being ‘rednecks’ or anti-intellectual. They are pushed aside in praise of whichever minority is trending. Needless to say there is plenty of crassness in populism, it is hardly without its faults, but the Trump phenomenon is the direct result of the Left/Liberals outright alienation of the ‘silent majority’ working class.
This is certainly nothing new. This has gone on for decades, and many would conclude the conservative right has lost the ‘culture war’. Those on the Left may sneer at the idea of the ‘white silent majority’ suffering, as if such a group is immune to societal and economic hardship. The Left would be wise to acknowledge the severe distinction between those ‘white Christian men’ in places of power, and those whom are the middle class and working class living paycheck-to-paycheck. As long as minority issues are put above the issues of the everyday working class American then far right populism will continue to increase in strength.
For too long the disenfranchised have rallied behind the next establishment Republican who recites the right words, sings the right song, and looks the part aesthetically. Each time the Right has been let down, disappointed, grown sick of the decaffeinated and spineless Republicans. It is no mystery why Trump has sparked a fire that has been thirsting for direction, for leadership. Trump is independent in position, in word and action, and is not leashed nor neutered. If the right wing populous has suffered from being a ‘silent majority’, then Trump is the exact opposite of that, he speaks loudly and without fear of liberal-minority backlash. The coercive measures implimented in discourse is unable to silence Trump; a coercive tactic that has been crudely called ‘political correctness’, for lack of a better word, that which attempts to hamper free speech for the sake of allowing a particular agenda to succeed in societal discourse.
There have been accusations that Trump is the new face of fascism, and that European fascism has arrived in the US. Trump does share characteristics with far right populist parties in various European nations, but it is worth noting these are not the cartoonish Stalin or Hitler straw-men so readily thrown about. There are important nuances that are beyond the scope of this article. In the Trump phenomenon we do find a resurgence of Nationalism, far right populism, and welfare chauvinism. Rather than give a knee jerk reaction and spew accusations of xenophobia, it would be far better to ask why do these positions resonate with so many Americans?
In the international realm President Obama has been terribly weak and lacking. The US role as hegemon is being threatened by both Russia and China. Syria remains inconclusive and the President’s decisions regarding Assad has been blundering. It is not a surprise the people desire a leader with a backbone, a stern hand, one that will stand toe-to-toe and not given an inch. Neither cold shoulder relations nor compromising will do; stern negotiations and diplomacy is what is required. For a nation to be strong, its people must feel strong. A people must feel secure in their leader and construct a confident identity that includes pride in their nation.
Populism is appealing to the general Will of the people, listening and responding to their sentiments. It does not take a historian or theorist to know populism can quickly regress to the lowest common denominator; the angry mob, the infamous crowd, a xenophobic hysteria. This possibility should not disqualify populism altogether. As mentioned above, decades of increasingly alienating the ‘average working joe’ has only furthered resentment and anger. Again it is not surprising that Trump has garnered massive support, and it is telling that a large bulk of the American population truly feel disenfranchised and ignored. Decades of anger and being silenced has resulted in an eruption when it was given the opportunity.
Illegal immigration and terrorist attacks are vast issues unto themselves. What is important to observe here is not the particulars, but the overall response. Again we see the same dynamic, the concerns of a minority are placed higher than the concerns of the majority. The ‘silent majority’ are immediately called racist or callous if they voice their concerns or oppose illegal immigration. It is the plight of the suffering immigrant that matters more than the citizen himself. The same can be said of Jihadists, access to firearms and blaming our own nation is quicker spouted than addressing the international threat of extremism. If one dares question the arrival of a foreign religion or expresses concern about the spread of Islamic extremism, again they are quickly chastised with coercive language like ‘Islamaphobe’. The most efficient approach and policy to either of these major issues is certainly worthy of debate. Rarely is there a clear cut solution. What should be pointed out in boldness is the very act of putting the issues of a minority (American or not) over the concerns of the average American citizen. Here is where the sheer resentment is created; the average tax paying Joe is told he is immoral and wrong for believing his concerns are as important, if not more so, than those of non-citizens. Furthermore the plights of minorities (be it American or not) are considered higher priority, regardless the issue. If one voices contrary then they are shamed and once again deemed immoral according to liberal discourse.
It is inaccurate and dramatic to refer to this as fascism. At best it is far right populism, though to call it ‘far right’ is pushing it. It does echo the Front National momentum in France, which is a nation facing a far worse immigration problem than the US is facing. The more the right populous is alienated, the more immigration occurs, and the more terrorist activities continues there will be a fierce right wing reaction. The further a pendulum swings to one side, the further momentum it will gain in swinging to the opposite side. Whether Trump wins the nomination or not, right wing populism will not cease. It has only begun. Condemnation and condescension is not communication, and only through communication will legitimate concerns be heard which may prevent potential populous radicalism.