It may be that, unlike what Europe saw in the 1930s, resistance to a long drift to the right is swelling.
In a remarkable confluence of events, the right-wing national leaders of the United States, the United Kingdom and Israel find themselves, at least for a brief historical moment, besieged by criticism and stark political dangers. In the US, President Donald Trump is facing a more serious impeachment threat than ever before, slowly but steadily sinking in the polls and seeing even his notoriously hardheaded Republican support weaken.
In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is struggling to push his country out of Europe despite mounting opposition and parliamentary roadblocks. And in Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu just failed to form a new government, giving his nemesis a chance of his own, even as the likelihood that he will face criminal charges grows.
These men, nationalist rebels against the postwar liberal democratic consensus, have become heroes for the far-right anti-globalist movement that has grown so dramatically in recent years. But now they are in trouble. Are we finally seeing real cracks in the global far right?
To be sure, the ethno-nationalist movement, or, if you prefer, the populist right-wing movement, hardly seems to have slowed. In countries like Hungary, Poland, Greece, Russia and any number of other places, authoritarian and illiberal regimes and leaders have been on the march for years now. Public opinion in many of these nations has swung increasingly against the postwar liberal consensus.
But it seems undeniable that some real pushback has materialized, especially in recent months. That may be a sign that civil society in these countries is more resilient than it has appeared in recent years — that the forces opposing right-wing nationalism are gaining, if not a lot, at least some new strength.
In the US, every day brings new revelations that seem to ensure that Trump will be impeached, even if the odds of him being convicted and removed from office still seem fairly low. In Great Britain, even though Johnson is still lionized by the pro-Brexit right, the prime minister still faces a steep uphill battle to getting a deal with the European Union that will satisfy his many critics — provided that his party wins the general election scheduled for December 12. In Israel, if Netanyhu’s political rival, Benny Gantz, has promised not to form a coalition with Likud if Netanyahu remains prime minister after being indicted. Prosecutors are moving toward indicting Netanyahu on corruption charges.
In none of these countries has the left shown itself to be stronger than the political right represented by their top leaders. But the three men are each facing potential career-ending catastrophes and a weakening of their political parties. At the same time, the radical right, which to a large extent supports these leaders in each of these countries, is facing new troubles.
In the US, particularly, there is a new awareness of white-supremacist violence, which law enforcement officials now agree is the principal terrorist threat. In all of them, online companies like Google are increasingly “de-platforming” radical-right groups — removing their content from the internet. And, as an anecdotal matter, resistance by civil society groups to the rise of the radical right seems to be on the upswing.
We are nowhere near a real tipping point that would signal a reversal of the rise of the extreme right in recent decades. The causes of the crisis — a rapidly changing world, financial inequities, racial conflicts and rising immigration, among others — have not lessened at all. But in the end it may be that, unlike what Europe saw in the 1930s, resistance to a long drift to the right is swelling. We can only hope that these signs are real.
© Mark Potok. Views expressed on this website are individual contributors and do not necessarily reflect that of the Centre for Analysis of the Radical Right (CARR). We are pleased to share previously unpublished materials with the community under creative commons license 4.0 (Attribution-NoDerivatives).
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