If you follow American politics, you’ll know about Donald Trump’s repeated hostile remarks about immigrants and Muslims (and especially Muslim immigrants), with the most recent controversy being his statement that Muslims should be recorded into a database.
By doing this, Trump is targeting the Angry White Working-Class Man who feels that the economic downturn has been brought about by those horrible immigrants that have stolen his job. He’s talking to those people – the ones he considers ordinary ‘Middle Americans’ – who feel threatened by the increased visibility and civil rights afforded uppity feminists, LGBTQ+ people, people of colour, disabled people and everyone else who doesn’t fit into the platonic ideal of idealised humanity that right-wing politicians favour. These kinds of politicians home in on people who have already been designated as pariahs – immigrants, refugees, members of religious and ethnic minorities – and use them as a way to justify their politics. He is feeding into a recent tendency towards casting privileged white people as victims of an increasingly politically correct society, and using appeals to tradition and ‘taking their country back’ in order to bring followers into the fold.
Trump is not an isolated phenomenon
Trump’s xenophobia is not an isolated occurrence. Similar attitudes towards immigrants have been pervasive across the Western world for the past decade or so. It has been going on in Britain, Hungary, France, Italy, Spain, Australia, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands and Sweden, amongst other countries.
Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party, has been fanning the flames of resentment towards immigrants for quite some time now. He was Trump before Trump. Geert Wilders in the Netherlands has been notorious for his Islamophobia and incitement to racial hatred. He was Trump before Trump. The National Front in France has been trading on xenophobia as a way to get exposure and votes for years. Jean-Marie Le Pen, and his successor and daughter Marine Le Pen, were Trump before Trump. Australian politicians – primarily of the Liberal Party – haranguing about ‘boat people’ and exiling refugees and asylum-seekers to Papua New Guinea were Trump several years before he’d even put his hat in to join the 2016 presidential race. The same applies to the members of Jobbik, True Finns, Golden Dawn, Tricolour Flame, the Northern League, Alternative für Deutschland and every other European party that uses xenophobia and Islamophobia as a means to prey on the disgruntlement of disaffected citizens in a post-recession world.
Again: Donald Trump is not an isolated phenomenon. The American press may treat him that way, but he’s not. He is a reflection of how the parlous state of the economy, and increasing dissatisfaction with the way the world has changed after Middle Eastern conflict became more palpable to the West, has been used to incite others to engage in the politics of hate and scapegoating. ‘The economy is bad? Let’s blame the Mexicans, Pakistanis, Romanians, Bulgarians, Syrians, Moroccans, Algerians, Libyans…’
The American press has been treating the Trump phenomenon, and the scapegoating of immigrants, as an isolated issue. It’s not; it’s a toxic, international tendency.
The Hitler card is actually appropriate for once
I know some people will go ‘but we should remember Godwin’s law; don’t compare people to Hitler without justification’, but Trump and the rest of the reactionary right-wing politicians deserve the comparisons. This man thinks that Muslims should be registered and identified. He’s been known to keep a book of Hitler’s speeches by his bedside.
Trump is building his political popularity by riding on a wave of reactionary populism that’s risen over the past few years after the Great Recession, and part of that involves the harassment and scapegoating of Others, primarily Mexicans and Muslims of any race or ethnicity. This man is a fascist and his continued use of hateful rhetoric directed towards people he sees as ‘not true Americans’ needs to be countered for the neo-Hitlerian bile it is.
I am absolutely horrified that he enjoys as much popularity as he does. We would do better to learn from history and realise that Trump is no friend of the common man; in fact, he’s got the potential to become a fascist tyrant. The same applies to his European equivalents who are sowing similar hatred in their respective countries. These people are threatening the safety and existence of religious and ethnic minorities in western countries, and anyone with even a shred of decency and common sense should oppose these reactionary right-wing politicians as the hateful, pandering bigots they are.
[This post is an expansion of things I’ve said elsewhere, both publicly and privately, about this phenomenon.]