I suspect that there are moments when most of us wrestle to make sense of our world today. There are so many things going on from climate change to the collapse of biodiversity and ecological ruin to the failure of our political systems and institutions. WTF? Exactly.
Renowned American public intellectual and McMaster prof Henry Giroux offers some timely insights.
The signposts are clear. Across the globe, politicians spew out inordinate incitements of hatred and bigotry, while legitimating and often overtly supporting racism. Liberals cling to notions of freedom and liberty that ignore the power of capital to turn such terms into their opposite. The mainstream media measure the task of pursuing the truth against how their bottom line is affected.
What has emerged out of this abyss of rising authoritarian power and its politics of depoliticization is the depredations of an updated version of fascist politics and the normalization of a rising tide of cruel and habituated ignorance. Habit normalized in a politics that destroys notions of informed agency and self-determination now merges ignorance and hatred. One result is the growing support for right-wing populism, which views individuals and populations displaced by global forces and deprived of the most basic means of existence — including food, shelter and pure water — with disdain and hatred.
...Right-wing populism offers a pseudo-democratic notion of politics in which matters of informed judgment, critical agency and collective action disappear into the symbol of the leader. In this discourse, politics becomes personalized in the image of the larger-than-life demagogue, removed from the alleged ignorance of the masses or “herd.” ...Right-wing populism destroys everything that makes a genuine democratic politics possible.
...right-wing populism builds upon and accentuates a long tradition of anti-democratic, neoliberal and racist tendencies that have been smoldering in the United States for decades. It eliminates critical thinking, undermines acts of civic courage, dismantles genuine collective action rooted in mass movements, suppresses democratic forms of opposition and crushes opponents. Its stark Hobbesian division between friends and enemies, unquestioning loyalty and democratic participation contains a propensity for violence rooted in its unforgiving politics of exclusion. The latter is especially troubling at a time in which violence has increasingly emerged and is accepted as a defining feature and organizing principle of politics, if not society itself. In this instance, the friend/enemy binary becomes all the more dangerous in a context where history is being erased and ignorance colludes with power to give rise to widening networks of oppression.
Trump makes this divisive feature central to his mode of governance. Putting forward coded assertions of white supremacy, Trump acts on a regressive notion of unity that relies on exclusion and a politics of disposability. According to Trump, “The only thing that matters is the unification of the people — because the other people don’t mean anything.” In Trump’s discourse, the call for unity has as its foundation the implication that all opposition is not only illegitimate but constitutes the terrain of the enemy. His notion of “the people” is reduced to a category that mimics the will of the leader whose image of the U.S. is as racist as it is anti-democratic in this deeply authoritarian discourse. The right-wing populist claim to exclusive power, representation and governance in the hands of the leader is not without its critical moments. For instance, right-wing populist leaders go out of their way to criticize globalization and the elite, but in doing so, they claim that only they can “represent the people” while putting policies into play that expand the power of the financial elite and their neoliberal imperatives, such as regressive tax cuts and the hollowing out of the welfare state.Who will protect Canadians from this populist contagion? Will it be Justin Trudeau? No, not hardly. You'll have to look for a leader who understands the urgent need for democratic restoration, progressive democracy, while there may still be time. That, like it or not, begins with electoral reform something Trudeau promised and then jettisoned shortly after taking power.
We felt the scourge of our skewed electoral politics during the torment of the Harper years. We elected Trudeau in good measure on his promise to see that would never happen again. No more false majorities that so readily transform into autocracies. No, in future all voices would be heard, all would be represented. Only Junior never had the guts, the courage, the decency to fulfill his promise. And, in reneging on that solemn promise, Trudeau ensured we would still be vulnerable to the next rightwing populist who came along.