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Monday, October 24, 2016
Immigration and ‘far-right’ rhetoric
Jon N. Hall
On Sept. 22, Time magazine ran "European Politics Are Swinging to the Right" by Simon Shuster (it ran Oct. 3 in wood pulp). The article is a nice little roundup about the emergence of new political parties in Europe and their recent electoral successes. The new populism sweeping across the continent is a response to the immigration crisis and to the heavy-handedness of the E.U.'s central government, with its unelected bureaucrats in Brussels setting the rules for distant peoples. Several E.U. member states have balked at Brussels's demand to take more refugees. And then there's Brexit, which has inspired similar plebiscites in other nations, like France and the Netherlands. Shuster writes:
But the insurgency is not limited to Europe. All the rising rightist parties are aligned with Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump in what they encourage voters to fear: migrants taking your jobs, Muslims threatening your culture and security, political correctness threatening your culture and security, political correctness threatening your ability to speak your mind and, above all, entrenched elites selling you out in the service of the wealthy and well-connected.
Hear, hear! Shuster's article is worth reading if one is aware that it's not strictly reportage; there's a good deal of editorializing in it. Also, Shuster is incorrect on the central point of his article: the Euros aren't really "swinging to the right."
You see, these new parties aren't calling for the downsizing of the welfare state; that would be political suicide in Europe. Nonetheless, Shuster repeatedly refers to these emerging parties and politicians as "far-right." How is it "far-right" to want to stop an invasion or, if you prefer, to curb immigration? Shuster refers to the dearth of new job opportunities in Europe, but if some say that admitting millions of new people might exacerbate that problem, they're labeled "far-right."
How is wanting more independence, more self-determination, and more freedom a Nazi thing? And yes, Shuster ties the new parties to Nazis. After all, they're both "far-right," right? The identification (of Nazis and fascists as rightists) is a decades-old slur by one branch of the left against another branch of the left. It's the charge of the international socialists against the national socialists, and any other faction they don't approve of...like American conservatives.
Shuster's article would have been better, as well as more honest, if he had identified the new parties and movements in Europe as "nationalist" or "populist," and left it at that. But he had to trot out the "far-right" calumny. Even if Shuster isn't attempting to muddy the water with a little propaganda, the charge is cheap, lazy, and ahistorical. But the "far right" is whatever the left says it is.
Another writer who resorts to charges of "far-right" is New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. (Friedman is the Times' idea of a deep thinker.) In a column on June 7, Friedman wrote: "America needs a healthy two-party system. America needs a healthy center-right party to ensure that the Democrats remain a healthy center-left party."
Most Americans will agree with the first sentence. But what Friedman is trying to do in the second sentence is assure his readers that Democrats are "center-left." That, however, is just not true. It's the Democrats who are the true extremists; they're far from the political center. It's the Democrats who introduced eugenics, concentration camps, and other fascist niceties to America. And with the embrace of Bernie Sanders in their primaries, it should now be undeniable that Democrats are socialists.
The "center-left" in American is currently occupied by most elective Republicans, which may come as a revelatory shock to Thomas Friedman (assuming he believes what he writes). Elective Republicans aren't arguing for the dismantling of the welfare state; Americans are too dependent on it. Real conservatism for these Republicans is more of an ideal to strive for than a possibility anytime soon.
So if Republicans are going to become America's center-right party, as Friedman is urging, then they're going to need to move rightward, not leftward. Of course, if the GOP were to become a center-right party, they'd be less conservative and more libertarian. That's because American conservatism isn't rightist; it is centrist.
Hillary Clinton and her minions have tried to tar Republicans with the charge of being in cahoots with the "alt-right," a new name for old fringe groups that have found little acceptance in the halls of power. But the question serious Americans really ought to be asking is: is the "alt-right" really right-wing?
The "alt-right" is against the immigration policies of Mrs. Clinton, which are open borders and greater importation of Syrian "refugees." America may soon start to resemble Germany, which is also headed by a woman whose immigration policies are at odds with the People. Voters will need to decide if Mr. Trump's ideas of a pause in immigration and of "extreme vetting" for immigrants from countries that spawn terrorism is sound policy. But know this: both in American and Europe, the left has no compunction about using the People as guinea pigs to vindicate their ideas about multiculturalism, and to build their voter base.
To use Friedman's word, it would be quite "healthy" for American politics if half of America would swing so unimaginably far to the right that they ended up in the center. But that would require that Americans know right from left, which seems a tall order for our dug in electorate.