United States presidential elections have always fascinated us. The 2016 edition is no exception.
For a good part of the current election season, most Canadians were enthralled by the unprecedented rise of the Bernie Sanders-led social democratic movement within the Democratic Party. Hillary Clinton also loomed large in our collective consciousness. A majority of Canadians would vote her the next US president if they could.
But our fascination with the current election is tied to the fact that, thanks to front-running Republican candidate, Donald Trump, the contest is now strongly reminiscent of the Theatre of the Absurd. The threat by Americans worried about the likelihood of Trump capturing the White House in November to flee to Canada adds to the absurdity.
Trump’s ability and willingness to stir up racial animus is unparalleled. His racist rhetoric has dominated the campaign.
The real estate billionaire once accused Mexican immigrants of “bringing drugs, and bringing crime, and their rapists” to the US. He has proposed to impose a blanket ban on Muslims entering the US. He has advocated the killing of families of terrorists.
A former employee was quoted as saying Trump said this of his black employees: “I’ve got black accountants at Trump Castle and at Trump Plaza. Black guys counting my money! I hate it.”
Last month, Trump urged his supporters to attack protesters at his rallies, and pledged to pay the attackers’ legal fees. Trump supporters have called on black protesters to “go back to Africa.” This video shows a Trump supporter telling protesters to “go to fucking Auschwitz.”
Earlier this week, Clinton accused Trump of “inciting mob violence.” I don’t know whether she’s read the latest annual census (pdf) from the prominent civil rights group Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which links Trump to the recent rise of hate and other extremist groups in the US.
Labelling 2015 “a year awash in deadly extremist violence and hateful rhetoric from mainstream political figures,” the report found that the number of hate groups increased from 784 in 2014 to 892 in 2015. Senior SPLC fellow Mark Potok’s installment in the report, entitled, The Year in Hate and Extremism, found a co-relation between the rise of white supremacist groups and hateful rhetoric by mainstream political figures.
Which leads me to the question: What’s our stake in Americans’ ongoing struggle against the politics that birthed Donald Trump?
Earlier this week, Anonymous declared “total war” against Trump. The hacktivist group promised a series of cyberattacks aimed at dismantling his high-flying campaign. Anonymous called on freedom fighters around the world to take up arms and participate in the push-back.
“This is a call to arms… We need you to shut down his websites, research and expose what he doesn’t want the public to know,” says a person wearing Anonymous’ trademark Guy Fawkes mask in a video posted on YouTube. “We need you to dismantle his campaign and sabotage his brand.”
But where exactly is Donald Trump situated withing the Republican Party establishment?
“You say what your current audience wants to hear,” the speaker in the Anonymous video says, without providing more insight into the nature of Trump’s “current audience.” It’s as though even Anonymous is also struggling to understand Trump’s meteoric rise, which began well before America’s “experiment” with its first black president concluded.
— Slate (@Slate) March 16, 2016
“For some on the left, Trump is the result of decades of divisive politics—the inevitable outcome of a Republican political strategy that stoked white racial resentment to win elections,” writes Slate chief political correspondent, Jamelle Bouie. “The Republican Party does have a tradition of harnessing white racial resentment to win elections, from the infamous “welfare queen” rhetoric of Ronald Reagan to Newt Gingrich labeling Barack Obama the “food stamp president” during the 2012 presidential election.”
Bouie notes that Trump’s strongest support is “in states and counties with the greatest amounts of racial polarization. Among white voters, higher levels of racial resentment have been shown to be associated with greater support for Trump.” He adds: “White voters hope Trump will restore the racial hierarchy upended by Barack Obama.”
Writing in the New Republic, Jeet Heer invites us to view Trump this way:
Far from being a “cancer” on Republicanism, or some jihadi-style radicalizer, he’s the natural evolutionary product of Republican platforms and strategies that stretch back to the very origins of modern conservatism in the 1950s and 1960s.
Polling in South Carolina, which holds its Republican primary on Saturday, reveals the single most salient difference between Trump’s supporters and those of his rivals: They are much more likely to endorse white ethnic nationalism and to express nostalgia for traditional Southern racism. In light of this polling, Trump’s campaign can best be understood not as an outlier but as the latest manifestation of the Southern Strategy, which the Republican Party has deployed for a half-century to shore up its support in the old Confederate states by appeals to racial resentment and white solidarity.
The speaker in the Anonymous video also addresses Trump: “Your consistent and hateful campaign has not only shocked the United States of America, you’ve shocked the entire planet with your appalling actions and ideals.”
The Economist Intelligence Unit puts a Trump presidency in its top 10 global risks facing the world. In a analysis released Wednesday, the highly-respected firm said a Trump’s hostility towards free trade, Mexico and China “could escalate rapidly into a trade war”.
His “exceptionally right-wing stance on the Middle East and jiadhi terrorism” or “militaristic tendencies towards the Middle East (and ban on all Muslim travel to the US) would be a potent recruitment tool for jihadi groups, increasing their threat both within the region and beyond.” A Trump presidency also poses risks “especially in the event of a terrorist attack on US soil or a sudden economic downturn.”
In other words, Trump is a geopolitical risk to the US, Canada and the world.
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