The American Crisis – What is rightwing populism?

It is difficult to fully define anything – there are always exceptions to the rule – and I am not a fan of dictionary explanations of certain things (there are many Whites for example who refuse to recognise structural racism, insisting instead only on a narrow dictionary definition of racism, restricting it solely to overt racial discrimination, for example).

However, it is important to get at least a general outline of what rightwing populism is, and more specifically how it manifests in the USA. This is what I attempt to do here.

I am going to follow the lead of Margaret Canovan where she argues that all forms of populism “involve some kind of exaltation and appeal to ‘the people’, and all are in one sense or another anti-elitist.” And I also agree with the sentiments of Berlet & Lyons (2000) in their excellent book (which informs much of this series on this matter) where they develop a working definition of populism as:

  1. Involves a celebration of ‘the people’; and
  2. Some form of anti-elitism.

They go on to distinguish a populist movement from populist appeals with the qualification that a populist movement uses populist themes to mobilise a mass constituency as a sustained political or social force.

There are of course both rightwing and leftwing forms of populist movements (and I suppose there may also be centrist populist movements). Additionally, they may be authoritarian or egalitarian in nature, and based on a charismatic cult of a central leader or a decentralised movement based around a motivating idea. They may be advocates of a new future system, or conservatives that romanticise a fabled past ‘golden age’ that they seek to reassert. Further, what falls under the concept of ‘the people’ can be inclusive or it can be ethnic or other identity based. Some may be based on an actual critique of real existing social structures (such as class or structural racism), or they may be based on absurd conspiracy theories (i.e. lizard people or Protocols of the Elders of Zion).

Additionally, populist movements may be repressive in nature or emancipatory. A repressive populist movement is one that mixes anti-elite rhetoric (and scapegoating) with efforts to create, maintain or intensify systems of social privilege and power. Such as race or sex. Often they involve channeling popular discontent away from emancipatory, positive social change and towards oppressing marginalised or vulnerable groups (ethnic or other minorities, immigrants – so, for example, against Filipino workers but away from the bosses who exploit them to depress the general wage of labour…).

Sara Diamond offers what I think is a succinct definition for determining a rightwing from a leftwing movement: “To be rightwing means to support the State in its capacity as an enforcer of order and to oppose the State as a distributor of wealth and power downward and more equitably in society.”

I also agree with Berlett & Lyon’s argument that a rightwing populist movement “is a repressive populist movement motivated or defined centrally by a backlash against liberation movements, social reform, or revolution. This does not mean that rightwing populism’s goals are only defensive or reactive, but rather that its growth is fueled in a central way by fears of the Left and its political gains.”

It is not hard to see much of the rightwing populist movement, throughout the USA’s history, as fitting the above. One need only look at the KKK as a reaction to Black empowerment during the reconstruction era, and since, especially during the civil rights era. Or the Tea Party (and Trumpism) as a reaction to the election of a Black President and gains made by the Democrats in the 2008 (such as the Affordable Care Act).

What do you think – is the above a good working introduction to what rightwing populism is?

For those interested, I strongly recommend Berlet and Lyon (2000) Right-Wing Populism in America – Too Close For Comfort (The Guilford Press). I picked it up early on in the Trump regime and have found it very informative; much of the early part of this series The American Crisis is indebted to the insights of this book.

Also cited above are:

Canovan, M. (1981) Populism. Harcourt, Brace Jovanovich.

Diamond, S. (1995) Roads to Dominion: Right-Wing Movements & Political Power in the United States. The Guilford Press.

The American Crisis – Views from the 14th Colony

I confess that when, on New Year’s Eve, I wrote about my blogging plans for 2021, I had not envisioned that an attempted coup in the USA would happen on January 6th.

To be clear, it was obvious since early December that the far-right around Trump were looking to organise a protest in early January. They were not exactly subtle about their intentions, including their ambition to storm the Capitol. However, I assumed that this was more bluster than anything – that the US security forces would be reading the same things I was and would put in sufficient security so that all that would happen would be a noisy protest outside.

My biggest concern was that the more militant elements of this mob would seek to provoke a response from anti-fascist and anti-racist groups, with the intention of giving Trump an excuse to execute some form of martial law, and do a coup through that way. I was confident they would fail in their attempt to provoke such a reaction.

Well, here we are, four days after the attempted coup. It happened, but not in the way I expected.

In light of the attempted coup, I have decided to try my hand at a series, The American Crisis. My objectives in this series will be to:

  1. Explore the origins and nature of the fascist/rightwing populist movement in the USA.
  2. The likely development of this movement in at least 2021, as a result of the attempted coup.
  3. The likely development of the post-Trump Republican Party (and the internal conflicts shaping this).
  4. The likely development of the post-Trump Democratic Party (and the internal conflicts shaping this).
  5. The opportunity for a revolutionary offensive (noting it might not be a revolution, but the opportunity to advance class positions against the right all the same).
  6. The potential implications of the attempted coup and the ongoing American crisis for Bermuda – and what we, in Bermuda, might do. This includes a look at our own issues of class and race, as well as our constitutional relationship with the UK.

It will take me some time to cover all of these issues. I will seek to first publish a skeleton article hitting my key points, which I will then expand in respective articles

I have taken the name of the series from the work of the same name by my favourite US Founding Father, Thomas Paine.

Additionally, while the US mythos speaks of the 13 colonies that launched the revolutionary war in the first British Empire, a war that ended in their war of independence, there were actually other colonies in the Americas. Bermuda was actually the 14th colony. Only our geography – isolation and small size – and a large British military garrison prevented us being one of the founding States. We have, of course, diverged since. However, we have always remained interlinked with the US. Like Mexico, we are too far from heaven and too close to the USA; in practical terms we remain a British colony formally, but an American colony in reality.

Smoke surrounds the Capitol Building during the January 6th attempted coup. Photo by Heather Khalifa, the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Looking ahead to 2021

Well, balancing my 9-5 job with the Commission of Inquiry workload rather put a wrench in my plans to post here regularly. Going into 2021, I will have the same challenges, at least in Q1.

Nonetheless, from Q2 on I am hopeful that I’ll be able to post more regularly. Until then, however, I will try my best to post the following:

  1. Weekly Worker – A round up of any union news, local or international (with local implications) and/or a review of relevant legislation.
  2. Municipal News – A weekly review of what’s happening in at least the City of Hamilton, with a particular focus on meetings.
  3. Alternative News – This I’m thinking will be a monthly round-up of news events in Cuba, Romania and Yemen. These are countries that aren’t regularly reported on, so I thought it would be interesting to see what’s happening there, beyond the other global headlines. I chose these three to give a representation of the Americas, Europe and the ‘Middle East’. The plan in Q2 on is to consider adding other countries to represent Africa, Central Asia, South East Asia and East Asia. That might be a bit too ambitious, but that’s the plan.
  4. National RFPs/Consultations – I’ll try to post RFP and public consultation alerts when I see them, on a weekly basis.

I may not be able to manage all of this in Q1, but I’ll try.

So Many Times Betrayed – Part II @BermudaPSU

Girl I believe you
Are you losing your mind thinking
What will it take to make somebody listen to you

I Believe You by Fletcher

Continuing my series exploring the issue of sexual harassment, this post continues the review of the BPSU’s report on Sexual Harassment in the Workplace, written by now Minister Jason Hayward.

Gender Lenses

Having provide a definition of sexual harassment and some general types of it, the report has an interesting section on ‘Gender Lenses’. Essentially, this section notes that perception of sexual harassment (and/or its severity) is often influenced by gender.

“Men and women exhibit vastly different views of the propriety of sex in the workplace. In general, men and women differ concerning the appropriateness of sexual conduct in the workplace; behaviour considered offensive by women may be viewed as harmless by men.”

This is important to note, especially in the current context that has spurred this conversation about sexual harassment. As most, if not all, of the women affected by this appointment (either having previously experienced sexual harassment, or potentially subject to such) are civil servants (and thus restricted in having a voice as the matter relates to political appointments), only one side of the story is being given – all from men, and thus potentially subject to the gender lens/filter raised in the report. Additionally, many of the social media discussion on this largely seems to reflect this gender bias (with the addition that several male commentators feel that women are weaponising sexual harassment claims).

Now, the report cites two studies by:

  1. Gregory, Raymond, F. (2004) Unwelcome and unlawful: sexual harassment in the American workplace. New York, Cornell University Press.
  2. Bannerjee, et al (2011) Gender differences in perception of workplace sexual harassment among future professionals (Industrial Psychiatry Journal, 20(1): 21-4).

Both of these are excellent papers and well worth the read for those interested.

Now, the key takeaways from these papers that the report notes are:

  1. In general men and women diverge greatly on what they would consider offensive sexual harassment (in particular being propositoned by the opposite sex).
  2. In general men blame women for sexual harassment, in the form of saying women are responsible for their harassment in the workplace based on their dress or working in a male dominated space, and so on.
  3. That there is a need for awareness training – especially for men – regarding the full definition and scope of sexual harassment.

These findings are not new, nor are they exceptional. As Bhattacharya & Stockdale (2016) note:

  1. “Men’s attitude toward sexually harassing activities continues to be more tolerant than women’s.”
  2. “Women are more likely than men to define social-sexual behaviour or events to be sexually harassing or rate such events to be more severe, threatening, unwelcome, serious, or harmful…”
  3. “…there is abundant evidence that women tend to be more sensitive than men to SH [sexual harassment] perceptions and that individuals endorsing traditional masculine gender role orientations or sexist attitudes tend to be less sensitive to SH perceptions…”

There are, of course, plenty additional academic studies that basically find the same thing. In general, men are less likely to perceive their behaviours as sexually harassing than the women who are generally the subject of the harassing. And furthermore, men are more likely to blame the victim.

Myself, I was struck by the similarity here with perceptions of racism. As far back as 1981 (and no doubt earlier – see McConahay, et al ‘Has Racism Declined in America? It depends on who is asking and what is asked’), it was recongised that Whites (who generally benefitted from slavery, segregation and ongoing structural racism) are less likely to recognise the continuation of racism beyond the overt ‘old-fashioned’ in your face form of racism.

As our studies demonstrated, whites mainly recognise old-fashioned racism as reflecting racism. Any of their opinions, beliefs, or actions that work to the detriment of blacks are not seen as prejudice; and since most white Americans either do not hold old-fashioned racist beliefs or they feel guilty about the ones they do hold, whites tend to think racism is a thing of the past. Hence, whites perceive the continuing efforts and demands of blacks as unjustified, while blacks see whites’ resistance to these efforts as tangible proof of racism and hypocrisy, and the cycle of conflict continues.”

In general, using the US example again, perceptions on racism remain different depending on whether the perceiver is white or black.

There is a clear gender bias or ‘lens’ in perceptions of sexual harassment.

Internalised Sexism

Not covered in the BPSU report, but something which I think is worth at least mentioning here is the matter of internalised sexism. In this, I am referring to women that have internalised sexist attitudes and help enable the perpetuation of such – in this case either dismissing claims of sexual harassment or blaming the victim.

There are, of course, various aspects of internalised sexism, but the one I’m referring to here is these aspects:

“Defending, justifying, and excusing individual acts of misogyny, mistreatment, and/or abuse, either toward oneself or toward other women.”

“Defending, justifying, and supporting societal, institutional, political, and/or cultural bias and oppression against women (internalized oppression). Blaming women for causing their own victimization.”

This has certainly been on display on some social media conversations concerning the Commissiong controversy, as well as the radio. In this, the women involved have helped support and legitimise the oppression of other women. There are even some women with internalised sexism who will actively seek out sexually harassing behaviour from men, and to that degree dismiss the very real trauma of sexual harassment on other victims.

In some situations, this can be particularly problematic should a woman with such internalised sexism holds a key role of a shop steward in a unionised workplace. This may cause women workers to feel they cannot go to their union for assistance. This is not the case – if you as a worker are in such a situation where you feel your shop steward is compromised, you can and should go directly to the union itself, be it to a Division Vice-President or to the Executive Committee of the union itself.

2020 Election Analysis

I am toying with the idea of restarting the blog. More to come on that. I won’t be touching on local Bermudian politics, in terms of opinion. However, here’s some analysis from the 2020 election.

With the caveat that I’m sleep deprived and so struggling with the maths, by my calculations, between the 2017 and 2020 elections:

1) The PLP vote declined by an average of -2.4%.

2) If one excludes C20 which saw a boundary change to an uncontested seat, this change removing about 70 PLP votes, the PLP vote actually declined by just -1.7%.

3) The OBA vote declined by -30.5%. This of course somewhat warped by the two constituencies with no OBA candidate, thus a -100% decline.

4) If excluding C20 from this, the OBA vote declined by -31.3%. Again with the caveat of a -100% decline in two constituencies lacking OBA candidates.

5) The non-voting group increased by +9.3% (no change here if excluding C20).

6) The 2020 vote provides a baseline for future FDM analysis.

7) The PLP vote was uneven, seeing an increase in C1 by +0.5%; C8 by +5%; C9 by +1.5%; C12 by +7.6%; and C30 by +1%.

8) Excluding C20 with its boundary change (seeing a PLP vote decline of -23.8%), the three largest PLP vote declines were in C10 (-8.8%), C36 (-5.9%); and C21 (-4.6%).

9) The OBA vote was also uneven. The only OBA vote to increase was C10 by +0.2%. The three lowest declines for the OBA were in C25 (-4.4%); C8 (-4.6%); and C20 (-5.2%). If one excludes C20, then it would be C12 (-5.5%).

10) Excluding the seats without OBA candidates (thus a -100% decline), the three greatest OBA voter declines were in C34 (-99.9%); C15 (-90.3%); and C29 (-59.2%).

11) In general, the PLP vote largely remained static (albeit a very slight decline). The OBA vote largely collapsed (in double digits in all but 10 constituencies, of which one of those was such a slight % increase as to be static. – incidentally the site of the biggest PLP decline).

12) Based on the above one can generally conclude that the FDM took almost no votes from the PLP but likely attracted votes from otherwise non-voters. The bulk of FDM votes came from protest OBA votes. The OBA voters largely stayed home while a significant minority voted for the FDM. The PLP does not seem to have really lost any votes to the OBA.

13) There is scope here for an Opposition party to regain several seats simply by re-energising the anti-PLP base in those constituencies which only went PLP due to OBA voters boycotting the election.

14) The challenge for the PLP in those seats is to secure those seats by either winning over otherwise OBA voters who stayed home or attracting otherwise non-voters. Both the PLP and the Opposition parties will likely look to focus their resources in these seats between now and the next election.

15) The challenge for the FDM is that their boost as a novelty or protest vote is unlikely to be present in the next election, at least nowhere to the degree they had in 2020. They have more time to establish themselves, however the voters also have more time to size them up. The FDM needs to win over otherwise OBA voters, appeal to otherwise non-voters and also look to see how to peel voters away from the PLP.

% Change 2017-2020
Constituency PLPOBANonvoter
10.5-23.911.5
2-2.9-28.78.6
3-1.5-36.16.4
40.1-21.58.1
5-3.2-43.210.5
60.0-26.114.4
7-2.2-10.17.6
85.0-4.69.8
91.5-6.39.2
10-8.80.29.6
111.9-11.68.8
127.6-5.510.9
13-3.9-21.19.1
14-4.4-19.119.3
15-2.9-90.310.5
16   
17   
18-0.3-50.011.4
19-0.8-12.78.9
20-23.8-5.29.3
21-4.6-100.07.7
22-2.2-7.08.5
23-3.9-6.96.6
24-3.9-11.77.7
25-0.5-4.49.3
26   
27-3.7-22.512.5
28-1.2-11.111.0
29-2.1-59.27.7
301.0-5.65.9
31-0.8-6.07.1
32-2.6-38.37.7
33-3.5-100.07.1
34-2.7-99.98.8
35-3.1-64.87.3
36-5.9-54.07.1
Mean-2.4-30.59.3

Relaunch of Catch-A-Fire

Almost three years ago (well, October 26th, 2015 to be exact) I mothballed this blog.

At the time I stressed that the blog wasn’t dead, just that I was putting it to rest while I focused on other things, largely so that I could focus on a new job without being distracted or having this blog negatively impact my ability to do my work.

Well, now it’s time to reactive the site. I'm_Back

I’m going to avoid local politics, and politics generally, although I may muse on global events and politics from time to time, as well as political theory and philosophy. For the most part I want to try something slightly different and look at policy matters.

I’m not quite sure what that will involve at the moment, however I’m currently seeking inspiration from some other blogs that focus on policy analysis and to begin with I’ll probably use them as a template until I’ve got my groove back.

I’m also going to respond to public consultations as I’m aware of them and try to encourage greater awareness of the issues around them as I learn about them. Which will likely involve me leaving my comfort areas of environmental issues – which is fine, that’s how one grows after all!

I’m going to try to post at least once a week, and I might vary between a short post and then a much more detailed post. I’m not sure. I’m really just going to be experimenting initially.

I decided to reactivate this blog rather than start a new one, primarily because I’m familiar with it and it has some familiarity to readers too. Over time I may decide it truly is time to end this site and launch a whole new one.

I’m open to feedback on that.

Coming Out

Just a short note here. I wanted to commend Mr Deacon for this post and helping to raise awareness about this issue – and mental health generally.

I also have the occassional bout of depression, and have over the years learned how to manage it better. But there’s a lot of stigma and myths attached to it, and other, conditions that need to be dispelled. I hope that this post by him can help with that.

Bermuda Blue

I often hear people say that they are depressed. Of course, what they really mean is that they are unhappy, they would not use the phrase if they were aware of what it really meant.

What is depression? Here is one definition but it will vary from person to person, depending on the severity of the symptoms.

Why am I writing about this? Well, I suffer from depression and thought it was time to ‘come out’. I was diagnosed about four years ago and since then it has been on my mind to write about my experiences.

For the rest, click here: http://bernews.com/2015/10/opinion-time-come/#comment-3059342

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Behind Germany’s refusal to grant Greece debt relief – Op-Ed in The Guardian

I am thoroughly disappointed with the Greek Government’s vote last night to effectively capitulate to the Troika, despite the momentum they won from the successful No vote last Sunday.

I am increasingly convinced by the argument of Costas Lapavistas that the only viable option left for Greece now is a default and departure from the Eurozone.

Here former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis articulates some of the reality behind the Troika’s approach.

Yanis Varoufakis

Tomorrow’s EU Summit will seal Greece’s fate in the Eurozone. As these lines are being written, Euclid Tsakalotos, my great friend, comrade and successor as Greece’s Finance Ministry is heading for a Eurogroup meeting that will determine whether a last ditch agreement between Greece and our creditors is reached and whether this agreement contains the degree of debt relief that could render the Greek economy viable within the Euro Area. Euclid is taking with him a moderate, well-thought out debt restructuring plan that is undoubtedly in the interests both of Greece and its creditors. (Details of it I intend to publish here on Monday, once the dust has settled.) If these modest debt restructuring proposals are turned down, as the German finance minister has foreshadowed, Sunday’s EU Summit will be deciding between kicking Greece out of the Eurozone now or keeping it in for a little while longer, in a state of…

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Minister No More!

I’m saddened to see Varoufakis depart from his ministerial post – I enjoyed his insights and flair. Personally, I see it as an error to make concessions such as this to the Troika when the momentum was with Syriza following the successful OXI vote. Nonetheless, if it is Tsipras’s conclusion – and Varoufakis agrees – that this is the best course of action for the greater victory, then I wish them the best of luck accordingly. I trust that Varoufakis will continue to offer his keen insights – and may well have a freer hand to do so now that the ministerial burden is lifted from his shoulders.

Yanis Varoufakis

The referendum of 5th July will stay in history as a unique moment when a small European nation rose up against debt-bondage.

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Thanks Shawn

I gotta agree, the priorities seem rather confused. There’s been little to no talk/consultation or awareness raising about these issues, but there’s been clear social anguish at the continuing carnage on our roads, and a supposed commitment by the Government to address it.

And what do we get? Government backs down in the face of the alcohol lobby from taking some steps that might just work, and instead drops the ball and does a Monty Python ‘something completely different’ by putting its energies into tinted windows and hands-free kit.

Is this what counts as tragicomic?

Bermuda Blue

Months after the police launched a road safety campaign, months after Transport Minister Shawn Crockwell announced a working group to look at road safety, we get an announcement about tints and hands-free kit.

proad-death_2044944c

SMH! What matters more? Unbelievable, just unbelievable.

Thanks Shawn.

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