Authoritarian populists in charge, really?

Gilead

White Christian nationalism (Trumpism)


Fig. 1. A Ku Klux Klan meeting in Gainesville, Florida, Dec. 31, 1922, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

I’m not sure Thomas Edsall has it quite right, but his article[1] suggests that what I identified in my dissertation as authoritarian populism, which I thought to be Donald Trump’s original base, and with its definition of ‘liberal’ as everything they’re against[2] is somehow the illiberal unifying force that now renders conservatism largely monolithic.[3]

Edsall cites a paper by Marlene Laruelle which, in his quotation, describes illiberalism as “to some degree coherent; it represents a backlash against today’s liberalism in all its varied scripts — political, economic, cultural, geopolitical, civilizational.”[4] I disagree that this is in any way “coherent.” Simply being against something does not make for a coherent ideology and what Edsall describes, citing numerous sources, remains overwhelmingly about what illiberals are against. About the only thing they are clearly for is religion, principally Christianity with a patronizing nod to other faiths.[5]

Edsall’s view[6] leaves me with a rather glaring question in that he fails to explain how seven disparate tendencies, many with their own intellectual (such as they are) traditions, that I identified in my dissertation,[7] have somehow unified under an anti-intellectual incoherent authoritarian populism that Edsall calls illiberalism,[8] a term appropriate in the international context, and what I have labeled white Christian nationalism, a term appropriate in the U.S., Hungary, and Russia.[9] Still, to the extent he’s right, I feel some vindication: My initial assessment of Trump as authoritarian populist[10] seems wholly consistent with what I see here.[11]

But if this is indeed a correct view—and I certainly cannot say that it is wrong—then this monolith will surely be unstable. The intellectual differences must at some point reemerge.

Thomas B. Edsall, “Seven Years of Trump Has the Right Wing Taking the Long View,” New York Times, September 28, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/28/opinion/trump-right-wing-america.html


Western neo-fascism


Fig. 2. Photograph by Joachim F. Thurn, August 1991, Bundesarchiv, B 145 Bild-F089030-0003, via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0 DE

Michael Crowley, “Italy’s Hard-Right Lurch Raises New Concerns in Washington,” New York Times, September 26, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/26/us/politics/italy-election-biden.html

Yascha Mounk, “Italians Didn’t Exactly Vote for Fascism,” Atlantic, September 26, 2022, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/09/italy-election-far-right-winner-giorgia-meloni-fascism/671556/

Van Badham, “The election of Italy’s fascist-adjacent Giorgia Meloni is a public reminder that women can be just as awful as men,” Guardian, September 27, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/sep/27/the-election-of-italys-fascist-adjacent-giorgia-meloni-is-a-public-reminder-that-women-can-be-just-as-awful-as-men

Ishaan Tharoor, “The mainstreaming of the West’s far right is complete,” Washington Post, September 27, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com//world/2022/09/27/mainstreaming-wests-far-right-is-complete/

Thomas B. Edsall, “Seven Years of Trump Has the Right Wing Taking the Long View,” New York Times, September 28, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/28/opinion/trump-right-wing-america.html


(dis)United Kingdom

Prime minister


Fig. 3. President Reagan on the South Lawn during the arrival ceremony of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher of the United Kingdom. U.S. Government photograph, November 16, 1988, via Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

There is a new blog post entitled, “‘O ye of little faith,’ the British are doing supply side economics again.”

Greg Ip, “The Return of Inflation Makes Deficits More Dangerous,” Wall Street Journal, September 28, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-return-of-inflation-makes-deficits-more-dangerous-11664366538

Heather Stewart, “Stick, twist … or sack Kwasi Kwarteng? The choices facing Liz Truss,” Guardian, September 28, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2022/sep/28/stick-twist-or-sack-kwasi-kwarteng-the-choices-facing-liz-truss

Adam Taylor, “Kwasi Kwarteng and the ideology behind the British pound’s collapse,” Washington Post, September 29, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com//world/2022/09/29/kwasi-kwarteng-ideology-behind-british-pounds-collapse/


Ukraine


Fig. 4. “Destroyed Russian military vehicles located on the main street Khreshchatyk are seen as part of the celebration of the Independence Day of Ukraine in Kyiv, August 24.” Photograph by Gleb Garanich for Reuters, August 24, 2022,[12] fair use.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has formally attributed the leaks in natural gas pipelines that supply western Europe with natural gas from Russia to sabotage. The declaration does not accuse Russia but some members do.[13] That hair on the back of my neck remains on end.

Julian Borger, “Russia’s nuclear threats ‘totally unacceptable’, says UN chief,” Guardian, September 22, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/sep/22/russia-nuclear-threats-totally-unacceptable-says-un-chief-antonio-guterres

Robyn Dixon, Mary Ilyushina, and David L. Stern, “Putin faces fury in Russia over military mobilization and prisoner swap,” Washington Post, September 22, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/09/22/mobilization-putin-anger-russia-war/

Robert Mackey, “Russians Return to Streets to Protest Widening of Putin’s War on Ukraine,” Intercept, September 22, 2022, https://theintercept.com/2022/09/22/russia-ukraine-putin-war-protests/

Paul Sonne and John Hudson, “U.S. has sent private warnings to Russia against using a nuclear weapon,” Washington Post, September 22, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/09/22/russia-nuclear-threat-us-options/

Şebnem Arsu et al., “Putin Bets It All in Ukraine,” Spiegel, September 23, 2022, https://www.spiegel.de/international/world/no-more-illusions-putin-bets-it-all-in-ukraine-a-a94b78fd-a99b-4196-a0a6-0332057337ea

Pjotr Sauer and Dan Sabbagh, “Border queues build as people flee Russia to escape Putin’s call-up,” Guardian, September 23, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/sep/23/border-queues-build-as-people-flee-russia-to-escape-putin-call-up

David L. Stern and Robyn Dixon, “With Kalashnikov rifles, Russia drives the staged vote in Ukraine,” Washington Post, September 24, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/09/24/ukraine-putin-referendums/

Robyn Dixon et al., “Russian mobilization prompts backlash as Ukraine annexation effort plows ahead,” Washington Post, September 25, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/09/25/russia-ukraine-mobilization-referendums/

Edward Helmore, “Jake Sullivan: US will act ‘decisively’ if Russia uses nuclear weapons in Ukraine,” Guardian, September 25, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/sep/25/us-russia-ukraine-war-nuclear-weapons-jake-sullivan

Yaroslav Trofimov, “Pushing East of Kupyansk, Ukrainian Forces Expand Offensive,” Wall Street Journal, September 25, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/pushing-east-of-kupyansk-ukrainian-forces-expand-offensive-11664111037

Ishaan Tharoor, “The right-wing turn against Ukraine may be around the corner,” Washington Post, September 26, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com//world/2022/09/26/ukraine-west-right-wing-fatigue-italy/

Michael Horovitz, “Medvedev asserts Russia’s ‘right’ to use nukes to defend its territory,” Times of Israel, September 27, 2022, https://www.timesofisrael.com/medvedev-affirms-russias-right-to-use-nukes-to-defend-its-territory/

Julia Ioffe, “Putin’s Male Fragility,” Puck News, September 27, 2022, https://puck.news/putins-male-fragility/

Anatol Lieven, “Putin’s regime may fall – but what would come next?” Guardian, September 27, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/sep/27/putin-regime-fall-ukraine-west-negotiate

Agence France-Presse, “‘Full chaos’: Over 100,000 Russians flood neighboring countries to flee army call-up,” Times of Israel, September 28, 2022, https://www.timesofisrael.com/full-chaos-over-100000-russians-flood-neighboring-countries-to-flee-army/

Bloomberg, “Putin Raises Gas-Cutoff Threat as He Moves to Annex Ukraine Regions,” September 28, 2022, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-09-27/putin-raises-gas-pressure-as-he-moves-to-annex-ukraine-regions

Jennifer Hansler, “US Embassy warns Americans to leave Russia,” Cable News Network, September 28, 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/09/28/politics/us-embassy-russia-warns-americans-leave/index.html

Meg Kelly and Michael Birnbaum, “E.U. warns of ‘robust’ response against sabotage after Nord Stream blasts,” Washington Post, September 28, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/09/28/nord-stream-russia-methane-leak-baltic-sea/

Times of Israel, “Suspecting Nord Stream sabotage, EU vows ‘robust’ response to energy network attacks,” September 28, 2022, https://www.timesofisrael.com/suspecting-nord-stream-sabotage-eu-vows-robust-response-to-energy-network-attacks/

Drew Hinshaw, Matthew Dalton, and Laurence Norman, “NATO Formally Blames Sabotage for Nord Stream Pipeline Damage,” Wall Street Journal, September 29, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/nato-formally-blames-sabotage-for-nord-stream-pipeline-damage-11664449396


  1. [1]Thomas B. Edsall, “Seven Years of Trump Has the Right Wing Taking the Long View,” New York Times, September 28, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/28/opinion/trump-right-wing-america.html
  2. [2]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  3. [3]David Benfell, “My 2024 forecast,” Not Housebroken, September 10, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/03/10/my-2024-forecast/
  4. [4]Marlene Laruelle, quoted in Thomas B. Edsall, “Seven Years of Trump Has the Right Wing Taking the Long View,” New York Times, September 28, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/28/opinion/trump-right-wing-america.html
  5. [5]Thomas B. Edsall, “Seven Years of Trump Has the Right Wing Taking the Long View,” New York Times, September 28, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/28/opinion/trump-right-wing-america.html
  6. [6]Thomas B. Edsall, “Seven Years of Trump Has the Right Wing Taking the Long View,” New York Times, September 28, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/28/opinion/trump-right-wing-america.html
  7. [7]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  8. [8]Thomas B. Edsall, “Seven Years of Trump Has the Right Wing Taking the Long View,” New York Times, September 28, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/28/opinion/trump-right-wing-america.html
  9. [9]David Benfell, “My 2024 forecast,” Not Housebroken, September 10, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/03/10/my-2024-forecast/
  10. [10]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  11. [11]Thomas B. Edsall, “Seven Years of Trump Has the Right Wing Taking the Long View,” New York Times, September 28, 2022, https://www.nytimes.com/2022/09/28/opinion/trump-right-wing-america.html
  12. [12]Reuters, “Ukraine puts destroyed Russian tanks on display in Kyiv,” August 25, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/news/picture/ukraine-puts-destroyed-russian-tanks-on-idUSRTSALV9Q
  13. [13]Drew Hinshaw, Matthew Dalton, and Laurence Norman, “NATO Formally Blames Sabotage for Nord Stream Pipeline Damage,” Wall Street Journal, September 29, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/nato-formally-blames-sabotage-for-nord-stream-pipeline-damage-11664449396

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