Why the bargain the GOP and President Trump may be unraveling and more questions about Trump family business entanglements here and abroad
Last week in Austria, a candidate from the country’s far right freedom party narrowly lost his bid for president. And though he didn’t win, the fact that he came so close seemed to illustrate to many a story that’s playing out across Europe: the growing popularity of right wing parties. In the past year, candidates from nationalist, populist or neo-fascist backgrounds have performed well in Poland, Germany, France and Hungary. Some of these parties have been around for many years, but amid a migrant crisis, and in a post-recession Europe, they are finding increasing support among the electorate. We look at the rise of far right political movements.
- David Rothkopf CEO and editor, FP group, which publishes Foreign Policy Magazine; author of "National Insecurity: American Leadership in an Age of Fear (2014). Host of Foreign Policy podcast, "The Editors Roundtable."
- Holger Stark Washington bureau chief, Der Spiegel
- Robert Paxton Mellon Professor Emeritus of social science in the department of history, Columbia University; author, The Anatomy of Fascism
- Alina Polyakova Deputy director of the Eurasia Center, The Atlantic Council
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. They have different names, affiliations and platforms, but across Europe, far right political parties are growing in popularity and gaining seats in Parliaments. Here to talk about far right political movements, Alina Polyakova of The Atlantic Council and Holger Stark of Der Spiegel. Joining us from the NPR studios in New York City, Robert Paxton of Columbia University and David Rothkopf of Foreign Policy.
MS. DIANE REHMAnd throughout the hour, I'll be interested in your questions, comments. You can join us by phone at 800-433-8850. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. I'm glad to see all of you here today.
MR. HOLGER STARKGood morning.
MS. ALINA POLYAKOVAThank you for having me.
MR. DAVID ROTHKOPFGood morning.
MR. ROBERT PAXTONGood morning.
REHMGood to have you all with us. Alina, give us a general sense of what we're seeing in Europe, the trend toward far right politics.
POLYAKOVAAbsolutely, Diane. As you say in the opening, over the last eight to ten years, we've seen a huge upsurge in voter support for far right nationalist populist political parties in Western Europe and now, increasingly, in Eastern Europe as well. And this is also an interesting dynamic to observe because in Western Europe, many of these parties have been around for decades. So the Freedom Party in Austria, for example, where we just had the presidential elections were very close between the far right candidate and the left independent candidate supported by the Green Party.
POLYAKOVABut the Freedom Party has been around -- it's one of the oldest parties, was founded directly after World War II. The National Front in France is also a very well established far right party. But what's really new now is that these parties are gaining huge traction in national elections. And they're no longer French parties in many European countries. Now, they're really part and parcel of most Western European democracies and increasingly of most Eastern European democracies as well.
POLYAKOVAAnd I think this is the troubling trend that we're starting to see. And, you know, we have to ask ourselves, why is this happening now?
REHMAnd that's what I want to ask you, David Rothkopf. Why do you see this happening?
ROTHKOPFWell, first of all, I could broaden a little bit and say this is happening in Europe, but it's also happening in Latin America where you've had a shift to the right in Brazil and a shift to the right in Argentina. You've seen it elsewhere and, of course, we're seeing it in the United States. And I think in all of these cases, it's driven by several factors. One of them touched upon what's in the news, refugees, flows of immigrants, some related to current crises, some related to globalization.
ROTHKOPFI think there are two other trends that we have to keep in mind, one a slow one, one a fast one. The slow trend is demographic change. You have aging populations in Europe. You have the United States changing in the way that's it's constituted as a society where by 2044, groups that were once thought of as minority groups, African Americans, Latinos and Asians, will actually become the majority and this is displacing, or in the minds of many of the people in the former majority, displacing them.
ROTHKOPFAnd then, the fast change is the change that's taking place technologically, which is actually leading not to outsourcing of jobs so much to other countries, but outsourcing of many jobs, manufacturing jobs, now some white collar jobs to the past where automation, more powerful computers and so forth are actually eliminating jobs. And so there are these populations that were accustomed at one time to clear control over their societies that are now being displaced by immigrants, by progress, by demography and that creates the anxiety which drives these political movements.
REHMRobert Paxton, you've written a book titled "The Anatomy of Fascism." How do you see what's happening today in comparison with what went on in Germany, Italy years ago?
PAXTONWell, I think that there are differences as well as similarities. Some of the language is similar, but the situation is really very different. Just after World War I in Germany and Italy the situation was absolutely catastrophic. In Germany, which had been a monarchy and an empire, suddenly they have a new republic and the republic signs a humiliating treaty and four years later, in 1923, they have a disastrous inflation and everyone who has savings or money in the bank is pauperized.
PAXTONAnd then, in 1929, they have a depression. And so parliamentary government simply ceases to function and into that vacuum comes Hitler. Mussolini in Italy, the government there wasn't functioning very well. Italy had been disappointed with the results of the war. The Communist revolution was at hand in both countries. Now, today, the situation is much less catastrophic, but there's one similarity and that is that the traditional elites who had run these countries have lost credibility.
PAXTONThe Austrian case has been evoked. In Austria you had -- ever since the war, you had a coalition of Christian Democrats and moderate Socialists who've ruled together for a long time and all the accumulated grievances have been heaped upon the heads of that coalition. And so it's not just the rise of far right. It's also the decline of the center. This is true of almost all of the countries involved. In France, the President Francois Hollande is not a very inspiring leader and he is unable to budge the unemployment figure to reduce it.
PAXTONHe is unable to deal with the crisis if Muslim populations who won't or don't integrate. And so there is very widespread disillusion with the traditional leadership and the search for somebody new.
REHMAnd to you, Holger Stark. I know you cover the U.S. for a German publication. What do you see as similar or different about this story and how it's playing out both here and in Europe?
STARKI think we see a lot of similarities between the situation in Europe and the situation in the United States right now. One of the main points is that too many people, right now, feel that they are losers of the current development. That has a lot to do with the economy. If you compare the average household income in the United States between 1999 and today, it's a decrease by $5,000. So a lot of American people have the impression that they are left behind what we are seeing and what we are calling the globalization.
STARKOn the other hand, you see a small elite, which is getting richer and richer. The 400 most wealthy people in America have the same wealth as 61 percent of the rest of the population so there is the widespread impression that a small number of people is benefitting of the development, but the broad variety of people is losing. And remember, the feeling of being a loser has been a significant point in the '20s and '30s, why fascism has been on the rise in Europe at that time.
STARKAnd I think Donald Trump is tapping very clever, very smart thing for those feelings into those anxieties. He's appealing to nationalistic ideas. He's playing immigrants against the blue collar majority of the American people. And similar rhetoric we see in Europe as well. There's a division between the core population on one hand and the migrants, which are fleeing the terrible situation in the Middle East coming from Syria. We could embrace them and say, like, well, those are the people who are fleeing ISIS and who want to just survive.
STARKBut the political right is playing the anxieties and playing the core population with those anxieties against the new immigrant waves and that's a very dangerous situation.
REHMAlina, Holger used the word "losers" and that has come up in almost everyone's conversation. Is this a rise of those who feel they have been cheated somehow, that they've lose the momentum that perhaps their parents had, their grandparents had after World War II and now it's a totally reverse situation?
POLYAKOVAWell, to those of us who've been following these issues for some time, if we look at the constituency of who votes for these far right parties in Europe, there's a really interesting parallel that Holger's already brought up about what happened in Europe when these parties really began to take their mark in national elections in the '90s and what's happening in the U.S. today. So scholars of this far right rise talk about the losers of post-modernity to describe the constituencies of the far right populous.
POLYAKOVAAnd by that, what we mean is that each of the individuals feel left behind as industry has been shipped off shore, as the economies of the developed countries in Western Europe have shifted more towards tech, more towards service. And so the individuals are really left behind by these broader forces of globalization and development. What's been interesting to observe and this is where we see a parallel to what's happening in the U.S. now, is what we can call the pluratelerization (sp?) of the constituency of the far right.
POLYAKOVAAnd by that, we mean is that in the 1990s, we saw the working class in Europe turning towards the far right populous nationalists and really away from the center left or even the far left of the labor parties that are the natural representatives of the working class. And we see that happening with the individuals who now support Donald Trump. We see the American working class turning towards Donald Trump as an answer.
REHMAlina Polyakova, she's with the Atlantic Council. We'll be talking more, taking your calls, your email. I look forward to speaking with you.
REHMWelcome back. If you've just joined us, we're talking about the rise of the Far Right in Europe, also what's happening here in this country. David Rothkopf has pointed out it's also happening in Latin America. Here in the studio, Alina Polyakova, she is deputy director of the Eurasia Center at The Atlantic Council. Holger Stark is Washington bureau chief for Der Spiegel. Joining us from the NPR studios in New York City, Robert Paxton, Professor Emeritus of social science at Columbia University, the author of "The Anatomy of Fascism." And David Rothkopf, CEO and editor of the FP group which publishes Foreign Policy Magazine. He's the author of a book titled "National Insecurity: American Leadership in an Age of Fear."
REHMDavid Rothkopf, I think our listeners and many of our Facebook commentators would like some definitions; nationalists, populists, neo-Nazi, fascism. How do these terms have similarities and how are they different?
ROTHKOPFWell, I mean, there are differences between each and every one of them. We tend to lump them together. We had the Nazis who are national socialists, which, you know, seemed paradoxical since they were a right wing party and embraced the term socialism. But, you know, essentially there is fascism which are political movements in a country with an authoritarian bent and a nationalist bent that draw on the roots of fascism that were seen early in the 20th -- in the mid-20th century from people like Mussolini or Franco or Hitler.
ROTHKOPFNationalists have existed in all countries at all time and have tried to play in the heartstrings and patriotism of countries to achieve their goals. I think it's very, very important here to be careful about our language, but having said that, you know, you take a case like Trump, and when people call Trump a fascist, there's a lot of pushback and you said, well, he's not as bad as Hitler in that respect or in this respect. I think we can all agree on one thing, strip away the labels, you get a leader like Trump who is unqualified for the job, is using racism, misogyny and kind of desire to scapegoat the other as his campaign platform. And that's just horrible.
ROTHKOPFSo don't call it fascism, call it horrible, call it inappropriate to become president of the United States, call it inappropriate to have a place on the political stage, call out the media for legitimizing a candidate who should be repudiated from his resume onward to his actions, but don't, you know, get too hung up in the kind of academic debate about labels, because I don't think it's as important as the imperative of stopping a candidate like that from gaining power.
REHMRobert Paxton, you've studied fascism. Define it for us in your terms.
PAXTONWell, I wrote my book, "The Anatomy of Fascism," partly to avoid or prevent the facile use of the term, because practically everybody has been called a fascist sooner or later, ranging from parents who take away your toys to the dean of your college to a politician you don't like. And I think the term needs to be used with great precision. And we take Mussolini and Hitler as the models. These are mass nationalist movements that build upon a sense of decline or defeat in a country that's been humiliated. I think you have to have a defeat or humiliation to discredit the existing leaders.
PAXTONThey feel that there's an illness inside the country, an internal enemy who needs to be rooted out and who's linked to an external enemy, and so the populations are mobilized in astonishingly effective ways to march off in ranks behind the leader. And finally there's the recourse to war, which is the ultimate aim of these people. They want to overturn an international system, and so it was unfavorable to them. These were all very dramatic, and there's hardly been anything equally dramatic since 1945. And so some people would say we shouldn't use fascism at all for movements in our somewhat less extreme times.
PAXTONNevertheless, I think we must admit that Mr. Trump, whether knowingly or whether simply by some kind of instinct, is using language and even facial gestures that recall those of Hitler and Mussolini. He plays on the theme of decline. He's virtually invented a scenario in which this country, even though we're -- has the most military in the world and have the strongest economy in the world, are somehow seen as declining because indeed there are intractable problems like ISIS that nobody can deal with. And he has the same appeal to racism. He defines an internal enemy that has to be rooted out, whether it's immigrants or Mexicans or whatever.
PAXTONAnd his techniques, the arrival by plane, it was Hitler who pioneered that. No one had ever seen a politician arrive by plane. It's enormously exciting. But the most profound differences at the same time, the fascists were -- the fascists intended to unite a country that had been fragmented and their idea was that the individualism needed to be subordinated to the community interests. And the term fascism that Mussolini invented referred to a Roman symbol with an axe and rods bound around it that stood for the power and the unity of the country. We're not dealing with movements toward national unity. We're dealing with runaway individualism. Everybody's supposed to do what they want with a minimum of government regulation.
PAXTONIt's not -- the profound energy here is away from the forced unification or the fascist movements.
PAXTONAnd so I think the similarities are perhaps outweighed by the differences.
REHMAnd that's where I want to go. The differences in Europe, Alina, among these various parties.
POLYAKOVAThat's right. Just to pick up on this definitional point, the new right parties that we see today in Europe have gone to great length to distance themselves from the old fascist parties of the past. And they don't want to be associated with the likes of Mussolini and Hitler. And there's a very clear and typically French example of this with the National Front, when Marine Le Pen, who's the current leader of the National Front, had a scandalous falling out with her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, who was the founder and the former leader of the party, because of his anti-Semitic, highly racist remarks that did sort of hearken back to the war period and the fascism that we saw manifested then.
POLYAKOVAAnd she pushed him out of the party, so completely. And this was a way for the new right to really make a stance for itself as not associated with the old right pass. Now, going back to your question, Diane, there is a lot of (unintelligible) between far right parties today across Europe. I would say the main thing that we see a lot of differences on is the social conservative views. So we see some parties that really promote the idea of family values, traditional families, et cetera. And then we see other parties, for example, like Geert Wilders in the Netherlands who are much more open and liberal when it comes to the social and cultural issues.
POLYAKOVAI think what unites all these parties, however, if we had to paint with a broader stroke is that they're all anti-EU parties. They're...
POLYAKOVA...highly skeptical of the European integration process, and they advocate for very strict immigration laws. And this of course has been manifested and played out very clearly in the current refugee crisis.
REHMWhat about numbers? Do we have numbers that indicate to us what percentage of residents, of voters of these various countries are leaning or voting in that direction? Holger.
STARKWell, we've observed a couple of experience in the last years in Europe, and so the latest one has been the election in Austria where the FPO, the Freedom Party of Nobatova (sp?), had 49 point something percent, so almost half of the population. In December of last year we saw the elections in France where Marine Le Pen and her Front National, the National Front gained some 27, 25 percent, so it's a quarter of the population. In Germany the newest polls indicate that maybe 15 to 20 percent are willing to vote for the alternative for Deutschland which is the German equivalent on the far right.
STARKSo something between a fifth and a half of the population is right now willing to give their vote to an extreme right position. And I think that corresponds to what we are seeing in the United State as well.
REHMAnd would you agree that at least in Europe, and perhaps here as well, immigration is one of the central factors?
STARKAbsolutely. In Europe you have to remember that the European Union has been -- for a long time has been considered a success model. It was a conclusion after two terrible world wars to unify a peaceful Europe beyond national borders to have like an association of states, which are not trying to compete against each other, which are not seeking for war, but which try to tear down walls, tear down borders. And so we invented the euro as the currency. We invented the possibility to travel without passports. And this has for a long time been seen as a huge advantage. And now it turns the other way around that the nationalist (unintelligible) to bring back the national currency, to bring back walls and borders is appealing to people.
STARKAnd there's one more point which I think is unifying all those movements, and that's the anti-Muslim rhetoric. We have seen this year in America, I think the point that Donald Trump made in November when he said, like, we want to ban all Muslims at least temporarily from entering the United States. And even going one step beyond and suggesting to make a register for every Muslim in America. This gets very close to what we've seen in Germany when it came to Jewish population in the '20s and '30s. And this is really stunning. And this is a point where I would say it gets beyond the idea of a free democracy where you have freedom of speech, freedom of religion. This really taps into the core of a liberal democracy.
REHMWhat do you think of that, David Rothkopf, the idea that banning a certain segment of the population is truly a part of what's going on here, not only in Europe, but here in this country as well?
ROTHKOPFI think it's a big part of Trump's appeal. I think it's one of the clearest reasons that he's repulsive to anybody who actually adheres to American values. You have a country that's built on immigrants coming in, that has actually gained its' competitive strength from bringing together people from all over the world and embracing them. And you have a man who has run his campaign based on the identification of the other and trying to direct anger from those who feel dispossessed against the other, whether it's Mexicans or whether it's Muslims.
ROTHKOPFYou know, but it has to be called for what it is. This is not a political tactic. This is racism. This is the vilest form of demagoguery that one can see from a political leader, and it runs directly contrary to traditions in the United States that, you know, have driven the growth of the country. You know, I think that as we look forward, one of the things that you have to take from the statistics that we've just heard is the American lesson of that too. As bad as Trump is, it's just as bad that there is a cadre out there, which is 20 percent or 30 percent or 40 percent or more of the American people, that will be there at the end of this election whether Trump loses or not.
REHMAnd you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." That was the point I wanted to get to, Robert Paxton, as David Rothkopf just said, it's not just Donald Trump, it is the people around him who are following him, who believe that immigration of Muslims, of Mexicans is part of the U.S. problem, that they are willing to go along with the idea of banning a certain population. Is that not part of a mentality that can take this country farther and farther to the right?
PAXTONYes. One of the essential elements that propelled fascism, and I'll use the term for a moment with all the reservations I've already expressed, but one of the things that propelled it was the sense that there's an internal enemy digging away at the very nature of our country. Some of our fellow panelists have already evoked the losers in the economic recovery that was real but incomplete in the United States since 2008. These are people who aren't really sufficiently educated to participate in the digital economy that we now have or in the service economy. And they need to find a scapegoat. It's easy to blame a person. It's hard to blame an abstract cause.
PAXTONThe pockets of employment that we find in Appalachia and Rust Belt cities and so forth are there for a variety of reasons. One of them is the outsourcing of work to other countries. One of them is the use of displacement of human beings by artificial intelligence, by robots, by all sorts of technological replacements. And only in a third place, and perhaps not very powerfully, is the role of immigrants in creating unemployment. Immigrants actually may reduce unemployment because they also consume, and they should stimulate the economy. So...
REHMBrief comment, David Rothkopf.
ROTHKOPFWell, I just want to add that it's not just Muslims and Mexicans. You know, there's a big core of white supremacists and alienated groups like that that are behind Trump. And I want to say from personal experience, and I know a number of other people have gone through this, that when you go and attack Trump, you immediately get a social media backlash, in my case, that has been virulently and repulsively anti-Semitic. And it happens all the time. So, I mean, literally I have seen a rise in anti-Semitic commentary in social media over the course of the past few months that directly correlates with the rise of Trump.
PAXTONAnd African Americans as well.
REHMDavid Rothkopf, he is with Foreign Policy. And we're going to take a short break here before we come to your calls, your emails. We have many of you waiting and I'll try to get to as many as I can. Stay with us.
REHMAnd we'll go right to the phones as we talk about the rise of the far right, not only in Europe, in South America, and indeed, in this country. Let's go first to Marionville, Pennsylvania. Hi Jeff, you're on the air.
JEFFYes, hi Diane. Thank you for taking my call.
JEFFYes, I was just listening to the show, and it seems like the panel asked the gentleman seem to really have it out for Mr. Trump. But, I guess in his defense, I can see why he wants to keep out Latinos and Mexicans and certain, you know, the bad ones, and the Muslims. I think he's trying to do good for this country. I don't believe that they're all bad. But there is a lot of bad people. You know, in, like Mexico. I mean, I listened to the BBC show back on March 7th.
JEFFThey actually kidnap people and kill them and dismember them if they don't get ransom money. And I just think people think that everybody coming over here is like Jennifer Lopez and I don't believe that's the case.
REHMAll right. Alina.
POLYAKOVAYou know, just to pick up on that point, I think that many of the anxieties and threats that people feel in their own societies and to their own communities in Europe and the United States are very real. And in fact, you know, we don't see a big connection between immigration and support for far right parties in Europe. So there's not a clear connection there. You know, high immigration rates do not necessarily lead for people to flock to the polls and support the far right.
POLYAKOVASo, it's really about the perception of that threat and the perception of other threats like terrorism, you know, the change, rapid change in peoples' societies. And it may not be manifested in reality. And so, I think politicians like Donald Trump, like Marine Le Pen, like other far right nationalist populists, are responding to these very really and genuinely felt threats that Americans and also Europeans currently feel because of rapid change in their societies. And I think it is the role of political leaders, and particularly those in the center, the elites, that have failed to pick up on some of these anxieties, to take those and channel them into productive policy solutions.
STARKYeah, and I think Donald Trump is filling a vacuum that you see, and from a European perspective, let me add that I think it's stunning how the American political class, over the last 10 to 20 years, try to demolish their own political system. If you walk around in Washington, it almost appears that no one is a Washingtonian, no one is part of that system here. Everybody is rigging the system. Look at Ted Cruz. I mean, he came in to say he wants to destroy the system. If you have a political class, which is on one hand ignoring the anxiety of the people.
STARKAnd on the other hand, trying to really destroy the political system, then you see the fruits, you bear the fruits after a decade or two decades. And I think this is what Donald Trump is playing a card that he's being the anti-establishment guy. And that makes him so strong.
REHMAll right. To Michael in Arlington, Virginia. You're on the air.
MICHAELHi, thank you for taking my call.
MICHAELSo, your analysts, your panelists were speaking about the recent spike in far right movements in Europe and more recently in the United States. And my question is, has there been sort of a counter response to that uptick in Europe that may be a precursor in the United States? Because what concerns me is that, as a second generation immigrant, you see something, you see the things in Europe from the 1920s, 30s and 40s and that there wasn't really a -- no, an effective counter response against Hitler and Mussolini and people like that. So, if there is no counter response, in fact, what would that actually look like, hypothetically?
STARKWell, there is certainly a counter response in all over Europe, basically. Let me exemplify it when you look at Germany. There is a broad civil society reaction, especially when it comes to the migrant crisis and the Syrian refugees. People who are volunteering in opening gymnasiums, who are trying to share their apartments, their houses with refugees, who are providing money, food for those people. And who try to really advocate for an open society and who get very much in the debate.
REHMBut at the same time, Holger, isn't Angela Merkel under a great deal of pressure because she has done exactly that, urged the country to be more open, to be more accepting. And now, people are saying the citizens of Germany are saying, hey wait a minute. What are you doing to us?
STARKYeah, absolutely. I mean, she's clearly fighting for her political survival. I met her in New York the other day last year and she was full of yes, we can do this. We must do this as a humanitarian duty that we have to fulfill. And now, she shifted. She tried to convince Turkey to keep most of the refugees. Basically to keep them out of Germany, that's a truth. So, she shifted course because she saw that there is a limit that the German society is able to stand.
STARKAnd if she is not going into that direction, she probably would lose the next election. And she's, in the end, she's an elected leader and tries to find a way in the middle and of course, yeah, she changed her course.
REHMDavid, here's an email from Robin in Miami, who says, liberals were supposed to fight for tolerance. But when we have leaders siding with intolerant fascists like Turkish President Erdogan, rather than standing up for tolerant egalitarian Kurds, why should we be surprised to see the right gaining power in Europe?
ROTHKOPFFirst of all, in the United States, liberals and conservatives both have stood up for tolerance and for openness in society. That's the foundation on which the country was built. Secondly, leaders make political errors of judgment all the time. That doesn't mean that they repudiate the fundamental values on which the country was founded. President Obama was drawn in by the charms or whatever of President Erdogan of Turkey, who has subsequently turned out to be a very bad guy.
ROTHKOPFAnd President Obama has not taken a sufficiently strong stand in favor of the Kurds. It's absolutely true. But that doesn't make him responsible for the kind of vileness that has happened on the Trump side of the ledger. I have to go back, by the way, to the earlier comment where somebody said, you know, there are bad Mexicans and there are bad people from the Islamic world and say, this, you know, we -- you know, giving an academic response to that kind of comment exacerbates the problem. That's racism.
ROTHKOPFThere are a billion people in the Islamic world. There are people who are making a gigantic contribution to the well-being of the planet in the Islamic world. There are a tiny, tiny fraction of those people who are extremists. Just there are a tiny fraction of people in our society who are criminals or who are operating outside of the law. And for us to suggest that we should shut out systematically, pieces of humanity from the American mosaic, simply because somebody has chosen to stir up our fears in that regard, is really a repudiation of 240 years of American history.
ROTHKOPFAnd I really caution everybody on the panel and listening to this thing against coming up with academic analyses of these things that legitimize them when they don't deserve that legitimization.
REHMAll right, to Josh in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. You're on the air.
JOSHHi. How are you?
JOSHI live in England full time. And I find it very interesting that -- this discussion, because in watching the progressions now -- I live in a very liberal part of England, in Newcastle. But watching the progression from this sort of liberal to now the coalition government, and even towards the right, it's not playing on people's fears or racisms, I think, I look at it more of a shift towards British nationalism and British patriotism. You know, if you look at the United States, you know, where I'm sitting right now, I can see five American flags.
JOSHWell, if you hang the Union Jack in England because of the association with the British National Party, BNP, you're considered a racist. But it's their national symbol. It's, it's, it's a progression of becoming a unity a country is the way I see this shift.
POLYAKOVAI mean, one thing we haven't mentioned when it comes to Britain specifically is of course the upcoming vote on Brexit. The referendum for the British public to leave the EU. And of course, this referendum is very much being driven by the same kind of factors that are driving the rise in the far right populist nationalists across Europe. You know, we'll see what happens with that. I think when it comes to the question of the rising nationalism or patriotism in places like the UK or across Europe, you know, we have seen a general uptick in how people see themselves.
POLYAKOVAThey identify primarily with their national countries. They don't identify with the EU. And we've seen this on the rise, particularly since the financial crisis, that when the economy has gone down, people look to their national political leaders, not to European political leaders. So to go back to this question of what is the counter-response to this, I think European centrists, as we've been talking about so far, are finally waking up to the problem of the challenge from the right.
POLYAKOVAAnd Donald Tusk just recently said, he's the President of the European Council right now, and he has challenged the center to provide an alternate narrative, a vision for a new Europe that can really capture the imaginations and the hearts and minds of the population, particularly the young people who are now flocking towards the far left and the far right in numbers that we haven't seen before. And I really think this should be the counter-response. It's really up to the center right and the center left to take that up.
REHMHolger, so, we've had discussion here, thus far, that has brought in Donald Trump to a great extent. And the word fascism has been used, though very carefully, defined by both Robert and David. How do you see that in covering the US? In covering what's going on here and the far right here as compared to the far right in Europe?
STARKI agree with Professor Paxton that it's probably not helpful to use the label fascist or fascism too often. History doesn't repeat itself. Things changed over the last 80 years, but I think Donald Trump is playing with some fascist ideas, some fascist arguments. So, we've mentioned already the anti-Muslim point. He's also very, very tough when it comes to the freedom of speech. I've attended a lot of his rallies. He's constantly using a point where he's threatening, really threatening and also playing with violent moments, threatening the media.
STARKHe's attacking judges when they are not in favor of him. So, he's really attacking some core principals of a free society, of a free democracy. And I think he does it because he knows that people who are in favor of him really like that. That appeals to them. And the moment when he's threatening journalists during his rallies is one of the most, most thrilling moments for the audience. People are -- the whole audience is looking at the journalists and it really feels bad if you're within that small cage where the journalists are usually held. And like 10,000 people are turning to you and showing you fists and all kinds of fingers that you don't want to see.
STARKBecause it gets so violent and, in the air, in that moment. And I think Trump is playing very smart and very dangerously with that kind of (unintelligible).
REHMAll right. And a number of us would like -- a number of our listeners would like us to correct what a caller said about Jennifer Lopez. She was born in New York and is of Puerto Rican heritage. Let's go to New Braunfels, Texas and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." Jason, you're on the air.
JASONGood morning. Listen, so many things that you all have said, I know you like to think of yourselves as thoughtful, intelligent academics, but the more you talk, the more you make the point about why Donald Trump is being successful. It is not diversity that made this country great. It was the fact that people from diverse backgrounds could come here, embrace that free market capitalism of the United States despite their last name and make their way the best they could. The Muslims don't want to do that.
JASONThey want to come here and bring their Sharia Law, they want to come here and bring their weird practices, the way they treat women. And Americans have no right -- no reason to stand for that. And this notion, this misguided notion that you liberals have that the element of Islam that is bad is a small percentage is absolutely false. It is absolutely false.
REHMRobert Paxton, do you want to comment?
PAXTONYes, I think the most regrettable aspect of this electoral campaign is Mr. Trump's success in arousing stereotypes in people. It is extremely harmful to the political life of a country and not just at election time. To come up with stereotypes about black people, about Jews, about Texans or anyone else, whereby, instead of judging them as individuals, as they should be judged, we take one look at their skin color or their accent or whatever. We say, oh, that's a bad person. That is certainly not what made this country great and it's very, very painful to watch this use of stereotypes spread so widely.
ROTHKOPFThis is -- I mean, that call was, you know, exhibit A, right? It was founded on distortions and lies and fear. It presented them as facts, just as Trump does. It was full of emotion. We are sitting here having a nuanced debate about the semantics of fascism while people are out there throwing aside nuance, throwing aside facts, throwing aside morality and doing whatever feels good in their gut. And the only way to respond to this is to call it out for what it is. This guy, who just called in, crawled out from some rock.
ROTHKOPFFive years ago, in a political debate, he would not have been allowed into the discussion. He would not have manifested himself in that debate, but he now feels he has the cover of the Trump campaign to go out and express his racism, although, as though it were legitimate. I think one other thing is very interesting and I'd like to throw it in here. We've now had an hour long discussion about this very important subject, and we've talked about the response, and the name Hillary Clinton has never come up in the course of this response.
ROTHKOPFThe reality is that the campaign that she is running, talking about the fact that America is already great, talking about the fact that diversity is what makes America great, focusing on the issues that are necessary to maintain American greatness, is actually the appropriate centrist response. And fortunately, I think, electoral politics in the United States being what they are, it's likely to be the victorious response. But -- and I do think we ought to keep in mind there is somebody out there who is offering an alternative view.
REHMAll right. And that is the last word in a fascinating discussion. Thank you all so much for being with us. Thanks for listening, all. I'm Diane Rehm.
Most Recent Shows
Reaction to this week's political shocks, why many conservatives are choosing to double down on Trump critics, and then, a conversation on the growing dis-union in America.
Political fallout from the dismissal of FBI director James Comey, how our government created racially segregated cities, and a young Palestinian's perspective on Mideast peace.
Washington Post reporter Dan Balz on covering President Trump and linguist Deborah Tannen on how women support each other with the words they use.