Sunday, May 16, 1-3 p.m.
US: +1 669 900
Webinar ID: 814 3575 1994
- Presented by ELDER ACTION -
Morphed: How America’s Right-Wing Populism Was Transformed, Virulently, in 2020
In 2016 the master narrative of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign was that immigrants were criminals who threatened Americans’ economic security and their very safety in their homes and cities; and that only Trump, the Wall-builder, was going to protect them. It was a theme Trump would augment even in the most august occasions throughout his presidency, like introducing crime victims in the gallery during his State of the Union addresses.
But in Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign the immigrants and the Wall were gone. Instead, the master narrative was that Black Lives Matter and Antifa were coming after America’s towns and cities, threatening Americans’ safety and culture, and that the only thing that stood in their way was Trump and his supporters in the streets.
Three extraordinary movements in the year 2020 created this transformation. The first was the anti-lockdown demonstrations in opposition to Covid-19 restrictions like face-mask wearing and social distancing and shuttered businesses. The second was the movement to confront George Floyd demonstrators in the streets in the name of “protecting” businesses and public safety. Each of these two movements went to the heart of the grievances of the most extreme right-wing elements, the militias, but each as well had resonance across the Republican populist spectrum.
The third movement was the Trump campaign itself, which allowed all the factions on the populist right to coalesce around the conviction first that Trump could only lose the election through fraud; and second, after November 3rd, that the election had been stolen, a conviction that culminated in the mob takeover of the Capitol on January 6th. In this, Trumpism has placed itself squarely in the line of the naked racial suppression that has been this country’s historical bane. In addition, it means Trumpism has taken on significant and baleful features of twentieth-century fascism.
Lawrence Rosenthal founded the Berkeley Center for Right-Wing Studies at the University of California in 2009, and remains its director. He co-edited Steep: The Precipitous Rise of the Tea Party and The New Nationalism and the First World War. He is the author of Empire of Resentment: Populism’s Toxic Embrace of Nationalism which was published in 2020.
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