The victory of the Republican candidate Donald Trump in the USA Presidential Elections has put the political pundits in quandary. Media had branded him a demagogue, a xenophobe and a misogynist. Despite his anti immigration rhetoric, his anti Muslim utterances linking them to terrorism, his threat to write off many trade agreements and scrap Universal Healthcare and Minimum wages and racial discrimination charges that made Blacks & minorities feel nervous, the US people were not averse to reposing their faith in him.
Trump’s coronation is not an isolated case but is closely interconnected with global political trends. The democratic liberal secular space is shrinking and right wing nationalist discourse is fast filling up the vacuum. Defying all odds, BJP gained power in India fuelled by the Modi charisma in 2014. Britain opted to exit from the Euro zone after a national referendum. The leader of the UK Independent Party Farage applauded the courage of the British people to embrace their freedom and calling upon the rest of Europe to launch a Peoples Spring. France is witnessing the surge of Pen phenomenon and the French National Party which talks against immigration, jobs for outsiders and whips up anti foreigner feelings. It’s time to introspect the reasons for the transformation in the contours of global ideological polity.
After the end of the Second World War, the policy makers veered towards publicly owned industries and welfare state model in most of the democratic countries. Democratic socialism, liberalism and secularism became buzzwords. Parties supporting the cause of workers and middle classes captured power and became ardent advocates for the rights of the poor. Trade unions acquired immense clout.
But all that may be set for change. Neo liberal economic forces & globalization resulted in reduction of state role in the realm of economic activities. The state came to be seen to be increasingly associated with the exclusive promotion of interests of multinationals & globalised capital. The state is no longer looked upon as a benevolent entity that cared for the interests of the downtrodden and tried to balance the concerns of all classes.
The economic crisis of 2008 was the outcome of the democratically elected US Government’s decision to bail out the banking companies from collapse by pumping in public funds. The political class began to be distrusted. The chasm increased between the rich and poor. Austerity measures like cut in pensions & other social security schemes in Europe led to unprecedented protests on the streets. Unemployment figures shot up, middle class lost homes & educational loans and desperation became the norm. Wall Street movement unfolded in USA. A significant section of the world population got cut off from the benefits of globalization; their disenchantment with the political & economic systems increased. Outsourcing resulted in loss of jobs for the locals and hostility towards the foreigners multiplied. This led to calls for protectionist measure that was the very anti thesis of neo liberal global force. Ultra nationalism developed to counter homogenizing globalization. Modi talks of India First and Trump talks of reviving the supremacy of USA on the world stage.
The marginalization of the poor working classes in the global order made them insecure and made them fall on identity and cultural issues. Culture became the safe haven of the alienated and the anonymous. The language of culture has become exceedingly important as the means through which to make sense of society & social relations. Those regarded as culturally different were seen to be as threats and inimical to national interests. Politics failed to redress social dislocation.
More people are looking towards their roots, identity and cultural exclusivity to make sense in a rapidly globalizing world that has reduced them to frustrated desperate creatures. Nationalist feelings at times bordering on jingoism/xenophobia are whipped up to counter the homogenizing impact of globalization. Ultra nationalism needs an enemy within and no wonder, minority communities are feeling the heat world over with the dramatic revival of Right wing politics. The conditions of Blacks & Hispanics are no different in USA.
Religious fundamentalism & terrorist attacks have further vitiated the atmosphere. The failure of liberal secular democracy to develop a proper response mechanism to the challenges posed by the orthodox clergy & conservative sections of society has eroded its credibility. Many European nations like Belgium & France have seen attacks by Muslim terrorists; there has been call for adherence to Sharia laws in places where immigrant Muslim population has a sizable population in Europe making a mockery of the western tradition of constitution and rule of law. In USA, after 9/11 Islamic terror attack, Muslims and minorities are being looked at with suspicion. The elite liberal class is cut off from the ground realities and is more bookish than practical.
The left in India has withered because it is too academic to survive in the hurly and burly of politics. The liberal secular notions are under siege now with secularism being equated to minority appeasement and Hinduism bashing while turning a blind eye to other religions. Socialism models have collapsed and even if they are surviving, they have lost credibility. Social media has intensified the social fault lines and brought the views of the subaltern classes to the fore. Beef & cow controversy, Skirmishes over religious conversion and Uniform Civil Code controversy are providing fertile ground for the growth of Hindu Right in India.
Elite media and left leaning secular elites in India & elsewhere have adopted an ostrich like approach to majoritarianism & the impulses of the masses. Even the media in USA got it horribly wronging in predicting a Hillary Clinton win. In western countries, there have been racial attacks on Asian & African students as they are considered as usurpers of opportunities by the local youths. With the growing social diversification of western Europe & USA, inter racial hostility is brewing. The masses are harboring distrust and hostility towards the elites & the rich. For many, Trump vote is the vindication of mass anger against the elites. It’s the manifestation not only of globalization anxieties but also of white nationalism.
All these cumulative factors have led to growth in Right Wing Nationalist politics not only in USA and India but even in other countries like France, Belgium, UK and others. Japan and Russia have also seen the emergence of nationalist leaders like Putin and Abe. The Trump win has ensured the return of Right in the world’s oldest democracy. We are already seeing Right in the world’s largest democracy.