In the dust of the Iowa stunner, the Don might be bewildered and confused, but he’s not out of the race. The question emerging for the first time is, will he actually lose the primaries, and if so, will he take the Republican Party down with him by running as a third party candidate?
On the other side of the aisle, the Democrats are beginning to sink into that slow and steady malaise that only decades of programmed and uninterrupted establishment politics can bring has begun to set in, as Hillary beat out Sanders in what was supposed to be the primary foothold of Sanders candidacy.
Whether or not Sanders was beaten by the weather, the blizzard that kept his older supporters indoors, the loss in Iowa simply sets reality into clearer focus: Hillary maintains the Super Delegates and will more than likely pull in the South on Super Tuesday.
The presidential race will likely be Hillary versus the Right. Who’s right, though—the right of Trump or Cruz? And why does it matter?
The reality is that whether or not Trump loses, Trumpism has proliferated. Indeed, one could argue that Trumpism remains a mere epiphenomenon of the populist radical right, which composes a majority of the Republican Party. Is Trumpism more blatant, in-your-face, and virulent in its expressions of fascism than the cynicism beneath the traditional family values veneer of the Cruz Campaign? Yes. Does that mean Trump is the singular driving force of those expressions? No. He merely gives voice to them. He is, in a way, their figurehead. The victory of Cruz would likely represent the same movement, but in a more decentralized and guarded fashion.
In his 2009 book The Eliminationists, journalist David Neiwart strikes to the heart of the US conservative movement, exposing the cruel discourses of modern FOX News TV personalities, the punditocracy, and their Patriot connections. Identifying these networks on a range from proto-fascist to parafascist, Neiwart strikes an important chord, “Para-fascism, as it exists now, remains a political pathology, but a manageable one.”
Identifying the distance between the proto-fascist militia movement and actual fascism as the absence of the singular leader, Neiwart has shown that, at least until 2015, the conservative movement slid into increasingly extreme and violent provocations, but lacked a leader to consolidate lone wolf acts of violence.
In other works, like the 2010 book Over the Cliff (with John Amato), Neiwart shows how right-wing populist movements percolate a grassroots base from foundation funding and media representation that garners public support by “wrapping racial ignorance and blind hypocrisy in the trappings of an ‘honest racial discussion’ that only reinforces hoary stereotypes of white nationalism.”
There had been attempts at filling the vacuum of power in the white nationalist movement—first by David Duke under the Populist Party, then by Bo Gritz, his heir apparent, whose failure at populism and romantic turbulence led to a self-inflicted bullet wound that just missed his heart. Pat Buchanan seemed poised to lead the white nationalist movement in 2000 after beating out the Trumpster in a race orchestrated by Roger Stone to undermine Ross Perot’s grip on the Reform Party, but Bush, Jr., stole his luggage.
The fact is that the momentum of the white nationalist movement has not been stronger since George Wallace in 1968, and they found their mouthpiece in Trump. Ted Cruz is something of a different phenomenon. Far from a New York elitist who considers himself disenfranchised and openly calls for the revocation of the 14th Amendment in a way that pricks the ears of the sovereign citizens’ “organic citizens” dogma, Cruz projects the image of a homely middle-class Texas boy whose smarmy attitude points more to Nixon’s Southern Strategy than to out-elite populism.
For sure, Cruz is an opportunist—that’s what his Tea Party record shows. By jumping into the Congressional healthcare feud, undermining the Republican Party’s establishment, and galvanizing radical right resentment against Washington politics, Cruz dug himself a niche for which he is not well loved. Yet Cruz’s politics remain ensconced in the extremes of the Republican Party, and the fact that the Republican race is dominated by the choice between him and Trump shows the depth of that parafascist pathology that Neiwert writes about.
The difference between Trump and Cruz is really the difference between a strong leader who could bind parafascist elements together toward a larger goal, on one hand, and a severely unpopular man who would simply serve as a place holder for a number of competing interests who have to contend with a constantly radicalizing base, on the other. Either way, it would appear that the Republicans’ primary race has brought the party further to the brink of self-destructive madness. And Bernie’s campaign trail may likely be coming to an end, in which case Hillary Clinton stand as the only contestant against the lunacy of the Tea Party and worse.
Whatever the outcome, it would appear that the organizers of protests against both Democratic and Republican National Conventions will have their hands full. For the next installment of this column, Ben Jones has promised to rejoin me for an analysis of the campaigns against Trump thus far, and the potentials for galvanizing both disillusioned Sandernistas and anti-Trumpists for a radical alternative in the streets.
Originally posted: February 7, 2016 at It's Going Down