Donald Trump’s election as President of the United States has polarized global opinion to an unprecedented extent. Protests have erupted across the United States. Elsewhere in the world, many are calling his win a “punch in the face”.
But not everybody is in mourning. In France, far right leaders like Marine Le Pen are calling this the dawn of a new world order. “Their world is collapsing,” she said, “Ours is being built.” Britain’s Nigel Farage talked of handing over the baton to Trump, and even back in India, many have celebrated Donald Trump’s campaign for months. Earlier this year, a group called the Hindu Sena celebrated Trump’s birthday by calling him their “messiah against Islamic terror.”
Over the past year and a half, Donald Trump has made comments that have repulsed millions of people. But let’s face it— not all of Trump’s supporters across the globe are guilty of having bought into his rhetoric. Trump’s voters included several individuals from the very communities he targeted.
Take Asra Nomani, a Muslim woman immigrant who’s worked for the Wall Street Journal and wrote for the Washington Post recently about why she voted for Trump. “I most certainly reject the trifecta of ‘hatred/division/ignorance’,” Nomani wrote. Yet, Nomani says that Hillary Clinton’s “tap dance” around the role of Islam in global terrorism, and the scandals surrounding her dealings with monarchs in the Arab world, convinced her to go the other way. Another Trump voter, Benjamin Sweetwood, talks of how the one-sided liberal narrative in Columbia University drove him to use his vote almost as a tool of protest. “The left is a bunch of bullies,” Sweetwood wrote.
Nomani and Sweetwood are among millions of people across America who saw a Trump presidency as a way of expressing indignation against what they saw to be the tyranny of left liberalism. And it’s the same sort of phenomenon which made Brexit a reality, causes social media campaigns against the academia in India, and is fuelling the rise of a far-right movement across Europe. In all fairness, all of these political movements do paint a rather accurate picture of modern-day left liberalism. Across the world today, left liberalism has come to symbolize snobbery, elitism, smugness and arrogance. Liberals have cornered the academia, and propagate a sanctimonious narrative, unwilling to consider dissenting voices. That is why the far-right has emerged—a Frankenstein monster to take them on.
Yet, far-right movements threaten the very people who silently support them in their backlash against liberalism. Right wing thought was once the cradle of principles such as freedom of choice, individualism and personal liberty, and has long championed a common sense brand of economics that created prosperity across the West for generations. But all of that is fast evaporating. Right wing politics today is increasingly a hodgepodge of fear and paranoia, often built on lies—”Muslims are killing us, the Hindu civilization is under threat, the nation is being attacked.” Policy principles have been lost in the background and the cause is seemingly gone. The right wing narrative, which once brought an end to tyranny across the West and served as a useful check against socialist excesses in the East, has now been usurped by demagogues who have nothing to offer except a dark picture of the world, full of existential threats and fear of the other.
Extremist tendencies in any ideology are often more appealing and difficult to rein in, because they sell problems, and problems are relatable. That is how Islamism radicalized many parts of the Muslim world following the end of the caliphate—by painting a picture of doom and gloom which resulted in mindless violence and modern-day terrorism, all built on an imaginary enemy and a web of lies. That is how Europe entered World War II, with leaders pandering to the fear of the foreign and turning people against each other.
Right wing politics today seems to suffer from a vacuum, and it’s being filled by movements which owe no allegiance to its most sacred ideological principles. That is not just bad news for the right-wing; it’s also bad news for democratic discourse. It’s time that the global right stood up and took back what’s rightfully theirs.
(c) 2016, The Huffington Post