Saturday, July 16, 2016

Would You Fund Trump or Sanders: Can Democracy Accept the Far Right or Left?

Trump and the Far Right

There has been much ado about Donald Trump's one-liners, painting him as a racist, xenophobe, and misogynist, which online activists have targeted specifically as a reason for companies and individuals to withdraw support for him.  Read this article about tech giants removing support of the RNC for more info.

All of this sounds strangely familiar to the far right's run on the Austrian presidency.  If you're not familiar with European politics, most of the time the president is nothing more than a figurehead as the Prime Minister is often the political leader.  I had done a recent survey of the last presidential election in Austria as it was an outlier in my European election statistics.  Basically, what I found was that the Austrian people didn't really care about the position of president.  Less than 40% of the populace voted in the previous election, and even though the incumbent was a little out of whack with a large part of the Austrian populace, he still managed to secure more than 90% of the popular vote.  So to recap - Austrian president = no real power = nobody really cares about who it is...

At least that was until the far right got involved.

Speed forward to this election, where the far right won the presidential election in a landslide during the first round.  It made news everywhere, and backlash mounted like crazy.  The second round of elections, guess what.  The far right just barely lost, and recently they've even concluded that the results were fraudulent, probably because their were some extra votes added to make sure the far right didn't "take power."

This is the biggest problem with current trends in democratic politics.  Since the early 1900's the far right and far left haven't been trusted with power.  And who can really blame people for being downright distrustful of their politics.  Trump, for example, has a turbulent past with his treatment of women, he's openly anti-Muslim, and wants to shut down illegal immigration.  The CEO of HP was reported as saying that his politics were reminiscent of Hitler.  But does he really warrant that definition?  Do far right and left parties today echo the past?  Can democracy do more than just tolerate the far right and left?  Can they actually accept them as viable components of democracy?

The most recent Brexit vote illustrated the disparate nature of rightest views combined with the rest of democracy.  The vote was extremely close, and those who lost out, lost big in their desires.  Personally, I think this is why most people are terrified of the far right and left because their ideals are so different.  In the US, I think a lot of this comes down to how the public forum has created an extremely large divide between the left and right in general since the 90's.  Partisan politics has become the name of the game, with no side willing to concede a loss to the other, the two sides have not grown together as issues have progressed, but instead become more and more divided.  Take the issue of gay-marriage for example.  The issue came to a standstill in the public forum, no side was willing to concede or to compromise, so the supreme court issued an order that forced around half of the population in the US to go along with, even though they had not been at all convinced of the merits of the ruling.

The recent election is showing us how the divide has deepened even further and populist movements on the far ends of the spectrum have gained momentum from a very dissatisfied population, not only from moral issues but also on matters of economics.

All this brings us full circle to reminiscing if Trump is the next Hitler.

Well first of all, let's say he isn't.  If he isn't, then companies removing support from him is decidedly undemocratic, especially in a campaign that is already severely underfinanced compared to Clinton's campaign.  Although Trump has already shown us what he can do on a budget campaign, so maybe this isn't exactly the greatest fear for Trump supporters.  What is more troubling, however, is the idea that if he isn't the next Hitler, if he is just another presidential candidate, who will assume power and do the best to help move the country in the direction his constituents want it to go (using legal and constitutional means, of course), then what does that say about tolerance and acceptance of beliefs in the US system if companies and individuals can be shamed into refusing to support a candidate just because they're afraid others will then construe them as a bad company?  A lot has been said about Sanders' offering leftists a safe place for their beliefs, but the same can be said of Trump.  The difference, however, is that oftentimes rightist ideals are taboo in the public forum, whereas leftist ideals can be spoken but are then quickly attacked.  The end result is that those with rightist ideals are left unconvinced and those with leftist ideals leave hurt.


Now, on the other hand, let's say that Trump is the next Hitler or Mussolini or Stalin, and keeping in mind that the American political system is much stronger than the weak democracy in post-depression Germany or Italy, or the bankrupt and unprepared Tsarist regime of WWI Russia.  Trump would come to power offering to create tons of jobs, which he would then create through a modernizing of the military industry, with the focus on regaining past glory, probably through creation of a threat to the US.  Then upon starting a war, he would seize control of the government, probably push the Monroe Doctrine to new heights and march armies further into the Americas, banish the senate, house, and other checks to his authority, create a secret police force that would include citizen spies, and root out all forms of discontent and challenges to his authority, and would proceed to do all things required to create the US in his image.

Is all that possible?  Well, there's China (Watch the video of Trump saying China).  There's also the drug trade and poor policing in Central and South America.  What better way to stop it then to invade?  No better way to start citizens turning on each other than by giving them a threat in their midst: I give you the Trump phantom menace of Muslims.

But seriously it's 2016, are people really that stupid?  Does the president even have that much power?

Personally, I say no, I think these are all just smoke screens left to muddle the waters.  Trump isn't the next Hitler, and even if he were, we've already seen the power of small groups in stopping him from taking power like the authoritarians of old.  The bigger problem is that when he voices views that resonate with many but not with us, we discount them as being in poor taste or bad ideas.  When terrorists attack and kill 100 people, we mourn for the fallen, but when Trump voices the opinion of many that Muslims are the problem, too many discount that as a possible scenario.  The leftists need to stop saying that Muslims are peaceful and instead alleviate the underlying fear of many, that there is one extremist among them who will kill hundreds.  For too long, the focus has been on what the far right and left says, rather than on figuring out why they feel that way, which is why I say we should be happy that people are finding safe places to voice their views under Trump and Sanders.  Elephant in the room issues that have long been taboo can finally be debated and their merits weighed.  And by no means does that mean that Trump is going to suddenly start an inquisition on American citizens.  Rather it means that our democratic system is repairing itself, and we are hearing the different sides.

That's why I say to HP if you're going to meddle in politics, fund both contenders.  There should be no shame in helping a candidate who is supported by half of the nation.  If the fight for ideals is going to play out, let's make it a fair one.

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