Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The New Right in America

There has been a tremendous amount of media attention on the American Republican contest, and more specifically on the candidacy of Donald Trump. Trump has received a great deal of scrutiny from international press for his promise to forbid Muslim immigration and suggestion that Muslims should be identified. Some have questioned whether or not Trump is a fascist which has caused me to ponder the place of the New Right in America.

The New Right is a term that is used to describe the growth of far-right wing political parties in Europe. Disturbingly many of these parties have been making advancements in elections in recent years. Some examples include the Front Nationale in France, the British National Party in the UK, or Golden Dawn in Greece. Some common features are hyper-nationalism, emphasis of historical grievances, promise of the restoration of greatness, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim.

The New Right movement has been largely seen in European countries and not the so-called immigrant nations of the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. It has been assumed that this was because these countries had a more flexible sense of national identity and more tolerant. I think this view whitewashes the racist history of these respective countries, but it is likely a decent overall explanation. However, there is no reason to assume that this level of tolerance need to continue perpetually. Faced with a declining economic situation, ongoing international conflicts in the Middle East (ISIS), perceived threat of domestic terrorism, and the Syrian refugee crisis it is unsurprising that there has been a growth of more radical ideologies and acceptance of reactionary positions.

It is definitely possible to frame Donald Trump within other American traditions, such as Nativism or the Know Nothing Party. However I think his candidacy might be better framed within the New/Far Right. Of course the disturbing thing isn't that Trump is a candidate, but that he is a popular candidate. National polls have him at 41%. This would be a resounding defeat, but given his well documented extremism it is jarring.

As Trump's extreme positions gain popularity it compels other candidates to move further to the right and legitimizes these ideas. Unlike in Europe the New Right in America will not spawn a new political party but a faction with the Republican Party. The question is how much sway these types of candidates and this faction will hold when ballots begin to be cast in February in the Iowa Caucuses.

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