These are strange times we’re living in – there’s no disputing that. No matter what your political perspective, religious preference, sexual orientation or whatever else might define you, I think we can all agree that the world appears to be slipping into a state of change. Populism and nationalism have surged to the forefront of our zeitgeist – in America and around the world, these ideals have commandeered one government after the next.
And the populist thrust, that put Donald Trump in the Oval Office certainly didn’t start in America: for the better part of the two decades Vladimir Putin has been driving Russia on a populist platform deeper and deeper into nationalist territory. He has worked hard to spread this form of government around the world, supporting other world leaders who following his political footsteps (America saw this in the 2016 election of Donald Trump, wherein Russian intelligence hacked our government in an effort to prop up a far-right populist candidate).
Across the Pacific Ocean, the Philippines elected a crude gunslinging loud-mouth who promised to murder any and every drug dealer in the country with vigilate justice – Rodrigo Duterte. The new President of the Philippines has publicly encouraged his people to murder drug dealers in the street, leading to an unprecedented era of violence and evidence-free vigilatism. People are being murdered, and those holding the smoking guns only need to claim the victim was a drug dealer.
Earlier in 2016 Britain, a notoriously moderate government and culture, voted to leave the European Union. They were convinced by extremely conservative politicians, like Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, to ignore all expert advice and economic predictions and vote for “Brexit”. This drastic leap to the right by Britain, set a precedent which the US was quick to follow.
And now Donald Trump is our president. America made the same choice that Britain did – we took a bizarre step to the right electing a man who’s vowed to close our borders to Muslims, build an impossibly expensive wall on our border with Mexico, cut every social program/benefit offered in this country to boost military spending, and who called the EPA’s mission to protect the environment, “disgraceful”.
This is not the end, either. Throughout Europe the refugee crisis has fueled this same populist wave. In France the leader of the far-right Nationalist Front, Marine Le Pen threatens to take the presidency. Throughout Le Pen’s campaign she has pushed an anti-immigrant, racist agenda (much like Trump’s). In Germany, Prime Minister Angela Merkel seeks reelection in the face if a serious anti-immigration, populist surge. If she loses to a populist candidate, Germany could be facing an epoch of far-right ideals unlike they’ve seen since Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich.
What does all of this mean? Well, the best way to prepare for the future is to understand the past: the last time our globalized world underwent a drastic rightwards shift, it led to the nastiest, bloodiest conflict the world has ever seen: World War II. And those fascist movements of Italy and Germany have a lot in common with the populist movements of today: the politicians appealed to the “common people”, there was a surge of anti-immigration policies and racist sentiments, borders started closing to certain minority and ethnic groups, charismatic and brash leaders seized power, the media lost validity…
Despite al of this, there is hope (if only a little). In the Netherlands, far-right populist candidate Geert Wilders, who had been at the forefront political polls, lost the election. Left-leaning voters came out in force, and shut down the populist candidates candidacy. Reportedly, many Dutch people made their choice after having watched what happened to America since we elected Donald Trump. They learned from America’s great mistake, and voted populism out. And maybe, just maybe France and Germany will follow suit. If anything good comes from the Donald Trump Presidency, it’s the possibility that his failure might discourage populist movements everywhere.
– Juan Wilder
Editor in Chief, Greenville Gazette