When I say we may have passed peak trumper, of course I know that it’s still early days for the Trump administration and he may get a second term. At the risk of being overpessimistic, it’s tough to beat incumbent presidents: maybe not as tough as beating incumbent congressmen, but still tough. Likewise the other big extreme right electoral win last year, Britain’s brexit, hasn’t even taken place yet (though the effects showing up so far are pretty much as the excoriated “experts” predicted).
So sure, in policy terms, the worst of the extreme right, alt-right, authoritarian right, nativist right or, to use the euphemism, “populist” right, is yet to happen. The corruption and vandalizing of our democratic institutions is just getting going. Yet, in electoral terms, it seems like the worst has passed. Trump won the GOP nomination and a big minority of the vote riding the same electoral wave that passed brexit, and before that put conservative conspiracy theorists in charge in Poland, and outright proto-fascists in charge of Hungary. Now it appears the fever broke even before it got to France, where a nativist FOP (Friend of Putin) ran a campaign indistinguishable from Trump except in the country she was going to make white, err, great, again.
Back in December, after Austrians got a load of brexit and Trump, in a rerun of May election where a pro-EU independent former Green barely nipped a candidate for a party started by former Nazis, they gave the pro-EU former Green a clear victory.
The result dealt a blow to populists who had hoped anti-establishment anger had grown enough since the Brexit referendum and Trump’s triumph to sweep Hofer into office. The closely watched vote also came before elections in France, Germany and the Netherlands next year.
Yeah, “populists”. Speaking of the Netherlands, islamophobe star Geert Wilders didn’t get to be the Dutch PM as widely and reasonably feared. To be sure, other parties mimicked some positions, raising the question of whether the reasonable right merely co-opted some of Wilders’ positions, and maybe the wave hadn’t really broken. That question would have to be answered by subsequent elections in France and Germany. Since we know the happy result in France, let’s look at Germany. Their national elections aren’t until September 24, but after doing well in state elections last year, the Trump-like AfD is getting trounced by Chancellor Merkel’s CDU. The AfD, expecting to ride the wave, is getting into state legislatures, but that takes just a few percent of the vote. The left wing parties are struggling, but at least the beneficiary is the sane conservatives, though they might not be all that conservative by American standards.
Sure, it could be a bump, and maybe it’s going to be onward and upward for the “populist” nativist parties. Pending further wins by the authoritarians of the western world however, it looks like the wave hit the rocks on shore. There are still going to be fights to preserve our institutions, our functional governments, even our basic rights, but I find myself looking forward to election results rather than dreading them, and it sure feels like election nights have been source of dread for a long time.
One last thought, though probably a big one. Why is the extreme right across western democracies so determined to break up the West? I get why Putin wants to break up the West: he thinks Russia will thereby become more powerful. But why are conservatives seemingly all across the West so anxious to collude with him in achieving that? Actually, now that I ask, I think I answered that already: the discomfort of change.