Aug 11th 2009

Danger on the Right

by James J. Zogby

Dr. James J. Zogby is the President of Arab American Institute

There is a social movement stirring on the far right of American politics and it bodes ill for our future.

It is, in the classic sense, a movement, not an organization, with no coherent structure, no creed or litmus test for membership. Rather, it represents disparate currents, born of transformative developments and traumatic events that have impacted the US in recent decades.

This movement has manifested itself in several forms. There are the anti-immigrant armed militias patrolling our southern border keeping out "illegals." There are also the "tax party" demonstrators, many of whom have morphed into the angry chanting mobs that are now disrupting Congressional town meetings over health care reform. And there are the so-called "birthers", a not so small fringe on the far- right, that questions Barack Obama's birth in the US and, therefore, his right to hold the office of President.

If the individuals involved in these currents have anything in common, it is that they are angry and alienated and have identified "government" as a source of their problems and, therefore, as a target of their wrath.

Behind all of this discontent, of course, are real problems. The economic crisis in America did not just begin with the collapse of the financial sector in the fall of 2008. For years now, the US economy has undergone a steady transformation. The loss of our manufacturing base has resulted in dramatic social dislocation evidenced by the collapse of many once prosperous and stable communities. As factories closed, not only were jobs lost and economic security threatened, but people were forced to move, neighborhoods died and families were at risk.

All during the 1990's, despite gains on Wall Street, many middle class Americans were squeezed. Real incomes declined, costs of health care, education and basic commodities rose, resulting not only in a declining standard of living for many, but, for the 1st time in American history, a significant portion of the middle class began to question whether their children would be able to achieve the same economic status as their parents.

The trauma of 9/11 and Katrina presented a double jolt, shaking to an even greater degree American's sense of security and their confidence in the government's ability to perform.

Add to this a nativist/racist current, fueled by large numbers of immigrants from the south and fear of new foreigners (especially, after 9/11, Muslims) and the persistent presence of anti-black sentiment, and you have the ingredients of the lethal brew that is now coming to a boil.

All of this, however, did not erupt spontaneously, it was helped, fueled by fires set by those who sought, in ways subtle and not so subtle, to exploit the fears afoot across the land. Radical talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh and Mike Savage, Fox News and even CNN's Lou Dobbs exploited these issues-as did President George W. Bush's political advisor, Karl Rove, who used it for electoral success. Even Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign playbook tapped into these currents, as did the McCain/Palin campaign strategists.

And so here we are in the midst of a hot summer, with "birthers" fulminating about Obama's "foreignness", angry mobs breaking up town meetings, and polling numbers showing a deepening partisan divide across the nation..

All the while these events are unfolding, analysts and commentators are spending endless hours of airtime observing and pointing accusing fingers, without making an effort to understand how this came to be and where it can go. Some conservatives are surely at fault for thinking they can simply exploit this anger, turning it on and then off, at will. And some liberals, too, are at fault for dismissing the anger they see, suggesting that it is simply manufactured and artificial and, therefore, can be ignored.

I am reminded of similar developments that occurred in 1919 at the beginning of the "Red Scare." Then too, a national movement, fueled by fears of immigration, economic dislocation and war-time anti-foreign bigotry was exploited by some, ignored by others, until it got out of control, with lethal consequences.

If we are not careful and understanding, and if we do not start now, both to address this troubling anger and alienation, and to hold accountable those who are stoking the embers of discontent, we could end up in the throes of a full-fledged nativist siege that could tear apart the fabric of our nation.

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Jul 7th 2021
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Jul 1st 2021
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Jun 19th 2021
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Jun 12th 2021
EXTRACT: "China’s recently published census, showing that its population has almost stopped growing, brought warnings of severe problems for the country. “Such numbers make grim reading for the party,” reported The Economist. This “could have a disastrous impact on the country,” wrote Huang Wenzheng, a fellow at the Center for China and Globalization in Beijing, in the Financial Times. But a comment posted on China’s Weibo was more insightful. “The declining fertility rate actually reflects the progress in the thinking of Chinese people – women are no longer a fertility tool.” "
Jun 12th 2021
EXTRACT: " I remember recounting fellow leaders of the story of a Rwanda schoolboy caught up in the genocide of the 1990s and now immortalized in the Kigali Genocide Memorial museum, where, in a section devoted to children, one can find his photograph and a plaque that reads: ----- David, age 11 ...... Ambition: to be a doctor ...... Favorite sport: football ...... Favorite hobby: making people laugh ...... Death: by mutilation ...... Last words: the UN are coming to save us ----- In his idealism and innocence, David believed the international community would save him and his mother. We didn’t. "
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EXTRACT: "This period in US history could go down as the moment when America’s democratic system for electing a president – the most consequential duty of US citizens – was broken, perhaps for good."
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May 16th 2021
EXTRACTS: .... "He transformed a transitioning market economy into a stable statist project that rests on an alliance of his inner circle," ..... "He transformed Russia from a respected member of the international community into a rogue state" .... ". He energized NATO by providing it with the adversary it lacked after the end of the cold war," ..... "He befriended hopelessly corrupt, dysfunctional, and unstable dictatorships..." ..... "He forged a quasi-alliance with China, thereby enhancing Russia’s dependence on the one country that might have reason to appropriate those Russian territories inhabited by Chinese."
May 15th 2021
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May 13th 2021
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May 7th 2021
EXTRACT: " Would the United States be prepared to risk a catastrophic war with the People’s Republic of China to protect the Republic of China, better known as Taiwan? "
May 5th 2021
EXTRACT: "Human history, ancient and contemporary, is replete with instances of genocide – that is, the effort to eradicate a people, erase their history, denigrate their culture, and destroy their physical presence. Many of these atrocities have been recognized by the victims and other nations who support them. But, with the notable exception of the German acknowledgment of the Holocaust, rarely have the perpetrators of these crimes accepted responsibility and offer recompense "
May 2nd 2021
EXTRACT: "The best way to defend liberal democracy is to practice it at home and abroad with the “courage and self-confidence” that Kennan touted at the dawn of the Cold War. This is also the best way to ensure the survival of our own conception of human freedom. And survive it will."
May 1st 2021
EXTRACT: "Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Sammy Roth at the LA Times/ Boiling Point Newsletter reports that California’s main power grid was powered for several hours last Saturday by 90% renewables. For just four seconds that day, the grid, which covers 4/5s of the state, reached 94.5% generation by green energy. California is the world’s fifth largest economy. The main grid does not cover Los Angeles County. On the other hand, these figures do not include the electricity generated by the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, which is not counted as renewable but which is also very low-carbon."
Apr 23rd 2021
EXTRACT: "It is no accident that there has been an economic divergence in Central and Eastern Europe. Those countries that have joined the European Union have improved their economic governance, and GDP has begun to converge with Western Europe. Between 2014 and 2019, Hungary, Poland, and Romania grew at an annual average rate of 3.9%, 4.1%, and 4.7%, respectively. Meanwhile, Belarus and Ukraine experienced minimal growth during this period, and Russia’s economy expanded at an average annual rate of just 0.7%. Though Russia had a higher per capita GDP (in terms of purchasing power parity) than Croatia, Poland, Romania, and Turkey as recently as 2009, all of these countries have since overtaken it. Russians today are shocked to learn that they are worse off than Romanians and Turks. Among EU member states, only Bulgaria is still poorer than Russia. With its close proximity to the EU single market, Russia could have had higher growth if it had pursued sound economic policies. Instead,..... "