There is a lot of hand-wringing among establishment Republicans – and a fair amount of Schadenfreude among Democrats – in response to the defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor by an Ayn Rand-quoting, Bible-thumping Libertarian economics professor in the Virginia primary. Likewise, there is much nervous chin-stroking among establishment pundits over the surprisingly strong showing by rightist and xenophobic parties in the elections for the European parliament.
That the Virginia Senate candidate and many of the European parties attracted voters with an appeal against the ruling elites, the banks and Big Finance is also a failure of Progressives to provide convincing programs to attract those segments of the population facing economic hardship imposed by the various ruling “1 per cents.” That is why the movement to raise the minimum wage is so important – and why it is so damaging when Democrats show a willingness to cut Social Security benefits, a measure opposed by big majorities across the political spectrum.
Cantor, a hard-core reactionary, very cozy with Wall Street and big Republican donors – as well as a very reliable spokesperson for Israel’s Likud government in the US House – will not be missed by any of us. But we also know from history that when “popular” parties do not offer meaningful alternatives to a failed status quo, then “Rightwing Populists” will move in to fill the vacuum -- with the backing of the very corporate interests that were supposedly the targets of resentment. Koch brothers, anyone?
This kind of movement used to be called by its proper term – Fascism. Recall that the middle names of the original German Nazi Party were “Socialist” and “Workers” and that Hitler was able to secure the backing of the powerful Krupp armaments family.
And the stoking of racial/anti-immigrant/religious bigotry is always part of the Rightwing Populist formula. To imagine that Progressives can somehow unite with the new Rightwing Populists is a very dangerous game, even though there may be some tactical agreement on certain issues. Eventually, the populist mask always comes off to reveal a burning cross – or a Swastika.
The Triumph of Rightwing Populism in Virginia
Dave Brat’s victory over House Majority Leader Eric Cantor has been widely attributed to Brat’s opposition to immigration reform. But in his campaign, Brat and his Tea Party backers gave equal weight to denouncing Cantor as a tool of Wall Street, the big banks, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Business Roundtable. Brat’s campaign reflected an old strain of rightwing populism that continues to be an important part of our politics… Brat’s case against immigration reform was directed at big business as much as it was directed at the immigrants themselves. “They get cheap labor,” he said of big business, “but everyone in the 7th district gets cheap wages.”… If he is elected in November, Brat may, of course, jettison the anti–Wall Street and anti-big business side of his politics. His actual economic views appear to be close to those of the Cato Institute and Ayn Rand. More
Parties that targeted unemployment, austerity and the growing wealth gap in Europe did well, and the dramatic breakthrough of right wing racist and xenophobic parties in France, Britain, and Denmark had less to do with a neo-Nazi surge than with the inability or unwillingness of the opposition in those countries to offer a viable alternative to a half decade of economic misery. Indeed, if there was a message in the May 25 EU elections, it was that those who trumpeted austerity as the panacea for economic crisis were punished… In contrast, where there was a clear choice between economic democracy, on one hand, and “let’s blame it on the immigrants and Roma,” on the other—as in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, and most of Central and Eastern Europe—voters went left. More
The signs of disaffection are not hard to detect: across the world, ordinary citizens are coming to realize that the confident assumption that liberal democracy would deliver prosperity, security, and some kind of existential reassurance may be a mirage… If the heartland of capitalist liberal democracy can be riven by an expectations gap, there is reason to wonder whether what we call “democracy” may not be so different from other political systems after all: perhaps only our arrogance has kept us from seeing it as one type of rule among many, struggling to satisfy the high expectations of its people in a time of economic stultification and stratification. More
Not only do the rich have a system built for them, but they have their own market geared just for them. The rest of the population, on the other hand, must contend with the growing income inequality and hope our interests correlate with the interest of the rich. This uncovers a system built on the premise of inequality not only in the economic sense, but also in the political sense. It has been raised incessantly how there are issues that require attention, but it is a legitimate point. What is the point of a country that states it is for democracy when it the market and governmental elites focus on an exclusive group of people? The corporate media structure may be focusing on the upcoming elections as an indicator of where the country is heading, but a report by Bank of American Merrill Lynch on Thomas Piketty’s new book and central theme may already show what direction the country will be heading. More