It’s Not Just Us

Reactionary politics are not just a US phenomenon.

“Our Puzzling World” by SLT

Two stories that I noted in pursuing the news struck me as worth a quick note because they demonstrate the degree to which a lot of what we are seeing in US right-wing politics is not at all unique to the US.

First, if you look at this piece from the BBC fact-checking British right-winger Nigel Farage (he of pro-Brexit and general xenophobia fame) you will see a list of issues (with the same errors or obfuscations) that any MAGA type (if not and standard-issue GOP candidate) might spout: Migration, voter fraud and climate change – Farage’s claims fact-checked.

And then there’s this from Brazil (also via the BBC): Protests across Brazil over divisive abortion law.

Thousands of people in Brazil have protested against a proposed nationwide law change which would equate abortion to homicide, even in cases where a pregnancy is the result of rape.

It would mean women who terminate pregnancies after 22 weeks could be jailed for up to 20 years.

Brazil’s ruling party opposes the move but conservatives in Congress are attempting to push the bill through.

The bill still needs to pass the Chamber of Deputies to become law.

I suppose we could also add the hard rightward turn in the EU elections.

I am not going to try and go deeply into any of this at the moment but will note that just like it is difficult to convince a lot of Americans that inflation, for example, is a global phenomenon, so too it is often overlooked the degree to which this political moment of nationalist/populist/reactionary politics is also global and not just a Trump-based phenomenon.

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Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. steve says:

    I have seen lots of pieces noting it’s a global phenomenon but not so much about why it is. Every country is different so to some extent there may be some coincidence but there must be a lot fo commonalities. I think it’s mostly the cultural changes with gays coming out of the closet, POC given rights (mostly), women becoming almost equal, immigration, the internet increasing the speed of change and social media amplifying everything. These are at least mentioned by people writing on the issue.

    I also think that the near global banking crisis in the late 2000s went a long way towards making fertile ground, which is ironic since it was right wing policy that generated it but I guess that’s just how things work. I also think there has been a concerted effort by China and Russia to undercut the functionality of the West, not that we weren’t working at it ourselves.

    Steve

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  2. Bob@Youngstown says:

    Reactionary politics (or political movements) will persist as long as a significant fraction of the “governed” are pissed off. While I don’t directly blame social media, the impact that social media has on the populace (of any country) is to enable conspiracy theorists to generate more pissed off citizens, and potentially activating them to act on their grievances.
    Therein is the conundrum, often persons have justified reason for their grievance, but more often now we see that the aggrieved are ignorant or mislead to the truth of their plight.

    One such grievance is the “astounding” number of migrants that are entering the US today. But in context, the number entering the US today is only half as many (in proportion to the population) as it was in 1900-1910. When I talk to my “fellows”, and they say that we are being overrun, or being invaded. I just show then the historic numbers. the immigration rate in (for example) 1906 was 1.3%, in 2021 the immigration (including “encounters” at the Southern border) was 0.5%.

    Now tell me how the immigration in 1900-1910 ruined the country.

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  3. Gustopher says:

    @steve: I agree with most of what you suggest (and have no opinion on one or two points).

    I wonder what the media landscape in all those other countries looks like — I expect that it is the same collapse of ad revenue, decline in local coverage, and consolidation in the private news organizations. The gaps push people to get more news from social media.

    This sets the stage for misinformation to spread like wildfire. Toss in a few rage-baity right wingers who can drive a lot of clicks on social media, and you have a market for insanity — either just right wing propaganda or things like QAnon.

    (My pet theory is that QAnon fills the void when people have no real news and drama in their lives — it’s like a soap opera, but “real”)

    Anyway, that’s my wildly underinformed guess.

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  4. EddIeInCA says:

    And yet, the UK is about to obliterate the conservative party in the country. I mean if the polls are to be believed, it’s going to be a loss of historic proportions.

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  5. @EddIeInCA: Sure, and Modi did more poorly in India. The point isn’t that reactionary politics is always going to win but to note a clear global upsurge.

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  6. gVOR10 says:

    @Bob@Youngstown:

    the immigration rate in (for example) 1906 was 1.3%, in 2021 the immigration (including “encounters” at the Southern border) was 0.5%.

    And I would suspect 1.3% in 1906 is low. My understanding is the southern border was pretty open, a lot of unrecorded and unremarked crossing.

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  7. gVOR10 says:

    @steve:

    I also think that the near global banking crisis in the late 2000s went a long way towards making fertile ground, which is ironic since it was right wing policy that generated it but I guess that’s just how things work.

    That’s what I find maddening about MAGA. They have legitimate grievances about how our elites have managed things. But from Manhattan billionaire Trump through the Cruzes and Hawleys to the donors that control Republican policy, they’re voting for the very elites that did it to them. I have to give GOPs credit for a messaging/propaganda masterpiece. They redefined “elite” from the rich and powerful who run the country to associate professors and entertainers and lefty activists who have no power over anything.

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  8. Andy says:

    I’m currently in Germany visiting my brother who’s lived here for over three decades.

    The right-wing party here, AfD, is still second place in recent polls although the Christian Democrats still dominate. Similar issues to the US, especially immigration. Less than two weeks ago an Afghan immigrant killed a police officer here which was a big deal.

    Was also in Iceland recently and they’ve just passed by a wide margin a controversial immigration bill with more restrictions.

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  9. JohnSF says:

    @EddIeInCA:
    “…UK is about to obliterate the conservative party…”
    The Conservative catastrophe is, rather amusingly, going to be the more severe the better Reform do, due to relative vote margins in the various constituencies, in a first-past-the-post vote with multiple parties.
    And Reform is still only going to win probably one seat, perhaps three at best.

    A lot of people warned the Tories that haring after the “resentful Right” was a fools errand. They wouldn’t heed, now they’ll pay the price.

    In some ways it will be shame if the party that has, in some ways, an often honourable history, the party of Peel, Disraeli, Balfour, Churchill, Macmillan, Heath, Heseltine, Major etc, ends up grubbing in the nativist ditch beside Farage.

    But only they can save themselves from that fate, and a large section of the party seems to want to double-down on dimwittery.

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  10. @gVOR10: In 1906 the southern border was open for all practical purposes.

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  11. Joe says:

    @Bob@Youngstown:

    Now tell me how the immigration in 1900-1910 ruined the country.

    The Irish.

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  12. CSK says:

    @Joe:

    I assume you’re joking.

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  13. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @Joe:
    In case you weren’t kidding, the majority of the Irish immigration occurred before 1900.
    Most of the 1900-1910 (the height of immigration) were Europeans, including my grandparents.
    So tell me how they ruined the country.

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  14. JohnSF says:

    @Bob@Youngstown:
    Even more Irish migrated to Britain.
    It’s never recovered.
    (Joke, ICYWW. My Donegal great-grandpa, and various others in the family tree, being such.)

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  15. DrDaveT says:

    @Andy:

    Was also in Iceland recently and they’ve just passed by a wide margin a controversial immigration bill with more restrictions.

    Iceland has a legitimate concern over being overrun. There are less than half a million Icelanders, and literal millions of tourists each year who fall in love with the place and want to emigrate.

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  16. Lounsbury says:

    @EddIeInCA: The UK vote will be an anti-incumbant vote, which given the accumulated negatives of the UK Conservatives – it was only the Lefty Left of Corbyn and the general autistic politics of the Corbyn Left that saved them last round really – is entirely expected.

    That the froggish snake Farage may surpass Conservatives in votes is not something to celebrate.

    Broader global reaction is not difficult to analyse, at least from a Euro-mediterranean seat.
    (1) Inflation & Related disruption: A broad phenomena after 2019 and as I keep noting, in reaction to commentariat of a comparatively economically comfortable professional class Left socio-economic background, everywhere populations notably but not uniquely working class absolutely hate inflationary spikes* and react punishing the party or parties in power at the time of the spike. And tend to favour Populist reactions (presently structured rightwards) as ‘solutions’ given most people have poor to non-existent grasp of economics.

    Equally the emerging perception of imposed up-front costs of Green Transition. The collapse relative to 2019 high mark of Greens reflects backlash against Green policies pushed that started to hit directly consumer level pocketbooks. The German case, the wider EU farmers reaction. Comfortable professional/knowledge worker classes blindness to this potential reaction contributed to it, bought in as they are to “must” declaratives and manipulation of words as mode of production without a hands-on sense of physical transition constraints or investment needs. While USA may be different with its peculiar climate denialism, the greatest risk to green transition is this last leading to Yellow Vest reaction and stoppage.

    Social Change: regardless of the economic benefit of immigration, which is econometrically a truth, nowhere does rapid social change driven by incoming outsiders go down well with humans, we remain en grosso modo, upscaled and overclocked apes. The reaction against ongoing immigration and social change from that will continue. One sees forms of this other side of Med, as the Tunisian backlash against sub-Saharan migrants.

    Finger-wagging and social class snobbery dressed up in political clothes (MAGA, Repuglicans, etc) is not going to be a succesful response to such pressures, which given climate pressures will not recede.

    [*: the associated pattern may not make sense to a purely maths loss analysis, but given behavioural science has found a structured cognitive biais to Loss Aversion which overweights perceived loss in unconscious cognitive processing, this makes logical sense to expect, that immediate losses perceived are much more intensely felt. Evolutionarily I should think such cognitive biais is quite the reasonable risk mitiation heuristic.
    Regardless, the inflation denialism (evolved to inflaiton poopooing) from the Left was and remains politically idiotic and autistic, part of a pattern of the new professional/white collar class Left fraction)

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  17. Lounsbury says:

    And I see from this late Sunday am read this NYT summary which is useful in conveying a reading that is on this side of Atlantic certainly and not merely an american journalist

    In many places, the nationalist agendas of far-right parties have been augmented by populist appeals to economically strained citizens. The right surged among voters by targeting the Greens specifically, painting them as unfit to protect poorer working people in rapidly changing societies.

    For many voters, Green parties failed to show that their proposals were not just expensive, anti-growth policies that would hurt the poorest the most. And some view them as elitist urbanites who brush aside the costs of the transition to a less climate-harming way of life.

    In French we refer to the last, the ‘elitist urbanites’ as “bohemian bourgeousie Left” – to BoBo left, a longer phenomena than in the USA.

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