The wave toward the extreme right hits a wall
The extreme right everywhere, which anticipated last Sunday’s French presidential election would be a historical breakthrough, was disappointed. Emmanuel Macron easily won the contest for reelection with 58.5 percent of the vote, defeating perennial challenger Marie Le Pen.
The global rise of the right turned out not to be an unstoppable wave after all. For those in the center and on the left, Le Pen’s resounding defeat raises the possibility that Trump’s election was the high-water mark in the recent rightward trend in various countries, from Brazil to Belarus, from the Philippines to Hungary. That tide now seems to be receding.
What does the French election portend for the United States? Few observers here have focused on the extent of the similarities between Le Pen and her reactionary party and Trump and the Republican Party. At the center of Trump’s and Le Pen’s rhetoric is a frank appeal to xenophobia, racism, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia. They share a strong authoritarian streak which explains their admiration for Vladimir Putin and toleration of his land grabs. Putin is one of the world’s most unsavory figures to be associated with these days when Russia is perpetrating aggression against Ukraine, featuring war crimes and sundry atrocities. Both Le Pen and Trump proclaim themselves nationalists, but haven’t hesitated do business with Russian banks and other businesses with ties to the Kremlin.
The stench of fascism hangs over Trump and Le Pen and their followers. Here is the latest example. A new MSNBC poll asked Republicans and Democrats what types of actions would represent a “major problem” for a candidate. Below are some of the results.
Antisemitic Remarks Racist Remarks Homophobic
Republicans 47% 38% 25%
Democrats 71% 80% 71%
These results were reported on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on April 27, 2022. The commentary focused on the evident truth of how appalling some of these views are. The larger points were not stressed.
(a) The Republican Party’s base is fascist, averse to accepting the ideals and norms of a multi-racial democracy or even the central value in the Declaration of Independence: “All men are created equal.”
(b) These numbers explain why a homophobic crusade has become the major talking point for the GOP in Florida and other states. Republican prejudice is strongest against LGBTQ+. This group does not have as many votes as African Americans or as much clout and cohesion of American Jews. They are the perfect target for a party of bullies.
(c) Republicans are the party of yesterday’s unapologetic bigotry; Democrats are much more sympathetic toward today’s multi-racial, tolerant America. The Republican Party is an illegitimate, anti-democratic party that, unlike Le Pen’s right-wing party in France, refuses to accept an overwhelming defeat. I am amused when I hear even eminently progressive politicians like California’s Eric Swallow assert that we need a “strong Republican Party.” What do we need it for?
(d) To continue to redistribute wealth and income toward the top?? To whip up anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, homophobia, and phobias that aren’t yet invented?? To block any initiative toward a more equal and just society?? No.
(e) We do need two parties because one-party states are formulas for tyranny. But there is more than enough ideological breadth within the Democratic Party for at least two parties, a progressive party, and a middle of the road party. Call them the Pro-Dems and the Good Old Dems. As for the Republicans, let them slowly sink into the morass of their own making, swallowed up by the rising oceans they never believed would come, or swept away by the awesome winds generated by global warming, or scattered hither and thither just ahead of the deadly firestorms.
One last lesson from the Macron win. Before the election, the French president’s job approval rating was around or below Joe Biden’s. Pollsters and pundits predicted a photo finish. In fact, Macron won the horse race by more than 17 lengths. A landslide in American terms, one that even all the dirty tricks the Republicans are conjuring up plus the inherent partisan bias of the Electoral College won’t overcome in 2024.
Way ahead of the next presidential election, the Republicans are already tearing themselves apart and discrediting themselves by lying through their teeth and inventing zany conspiracy theories. “The Italians used a satellite to steal the election.” Do the Italians even have spy satellites? What would be their motive? NASA and the NSA must have been caught napping. Unlikely.
I wish the GOP more of the same—embarrassment, shame, being called out as serial liars—and worse in the months and years to come. They deserve it. They have become what Tarantino said of the Nazis occupying France: Inglorious bastards.