Letters to the Editor

Trump invigorates far right abroad and his opponents at home

Monday, October 15, 2018

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Dear Editor,

Donald Trump won the 2016 American presidential election by playing to the fears of whites. Just recently the far right party in Quebec won the provincial election by scapegoating immigrants, and last Sunday the far right candidate in the presidential election in Brazil Jair Bolsonaro easily won the first round of voting. He went straight to the Trump playbook, praised military dictatorships, defended torture, and insulted women and racial minorities.

In Europe there has also been a surge of right wing popularity as far right parties score electoral successes and leftist parties go into decline.

How is this surge explained?

One view is that there is an underlying popular anger, but you have this in times of economic recession as was the case in the 1930s, and not in the current climate of economic prosperity.

A better view is that when the economy is doing well the identity politics of the far right is more credible than the social policies of the left and right wing populists have been quick to seize on this.

However, this has had the effect of narrowing the options for people on the right to a choice between conservatism and right wing populism, as opposed to the old norm between left and right.

In the US the situation is different. There has been a strong resistance to Trump, which has reinvigorated the left. Progressives see him as a bully presiding over a minority Government and they counter him at every turn by shifting debates in the Democratic party to the left, calling for single-payer health care, and supporting gay and immigration rights, criminal justice reform, and sanctuary policies.

Perhaps the biggest backlash to Trump is women activism. Because of his insults against women, 68 per cent of their political contributions go to Democratic candidates, and there are a record number of women of diverse ethnic backgrounds running for office just to stop him.

Trump's percentage favorability rating is low and has been throughout his Administration. It lags somewhere between the late 30s and early 40s.

Perhaps the big test for Trump comes in the midterm elections in November, when the benefits of a good economy will be tested against a low personal favorability rating and a reinvigorated opposition.

Victor A Dixon


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