The revisionist wave of uber-nationalism is sweeping across the democratic countries and demolishing the certitudes of moderation, centrists and most importantly, that of the progressives. Instinctively the stand of the progressives is usually a minority-voice as it runs counter to the underlying currents of majoritarism.
Hence it requires nurturing, acceptance and assimilation by societies, and the political parties. The progressives by definition challenge the status quo of societal positions, and are therefore in the line of fire by the traditionalists, who seek to perpetuate the status quo and not evolve a change. While the traditionalists are able to posture on their basic instincts, the inherently tenuous nature of the progressive positions makes them easy targets to be labelled weak, indecisive and ultimately, antinational.
The land of the free that historically championed change and progress in the Free World i.e. the United States of America, is today witnessing the retreat of its progressives like never before, and the strains of its racist and xenophobic past, is making an unmistakable return. Reversing the narrative from the front is the US President, Donald Trump, who realises the potency of his divisive, exclusivist and discriminatory rants that naturally militate against the constitutional underpinnings of the United States.
In an increasingly impatient world seeking simplistic and quick-fix deals, the man who claims to having written the bestseller The Art of the Deal, knows a little about divideand- rule. The net result of his brand of politics leaves him with a committed cadre of “un-apologists”. His war-cry of America First has nothing to so with Lincoln’s statesmanship or Jefferson’s scholarship; on the contrary it relates to blatantly transactional, mercantilist and whimsical moorings that spare no friend, ally or even its own citizenry, if so required for electoral arithmetic.
Towards securing his bid in the 2020 Presidential elections, Mr Trump has thrown caution to the winds in order to tarnish the electoral narrative and postulate his America First as the binary alternative to progressives. Political pundits in the rival Democratic Party, who realise the deviousness of the Trumpian move, are left with little choice but to play down or even selectively disown the space of progressives, as it unfortunately gets perceived as enervate, elitist or simply anti-national space, amongst the mainstream.
In the current scenario, theface of progressives in the US House of Representatives is represented by the four Democrat legislators ~ Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib, jointly known as the Squad. These Congresswomen of colour are naively committed to expose the various injustices in the newnormal of the American Dream. They argue passionately against border aid package and refer to the detention centers as concentration camps. They have called for the impeachment of the President and advocate the Green Deal and Medicare.
In the perspective of President Trump, they “want to turn us into a socialist country. Within the Democratic Party, the strongly-opinionated and unbending stand of this progressive group is a matter of concern, as their plainspeak is fodder for Trump and his ilk,in order to deviously spin-doctor statements by stoking fear and hatred amongst the people. Ilhan Omar’s tweet that she believed the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), was paying American politicians to adopt a pro-Israel position was immediately slammed as Stunningly anti-Semitic, and thus roused the hugely powerful and influential Jewish lobby within the United States.
Often, Democrat seniors like Nancy Pelosi have had to rein in the progressives and compromise on various issues in order to manage popular perceptions that could influence the run-up to Election 2020. Trump realises and relishes the discomfiture within the Democrat ranks about handling the progressives. In order to center-stage the progressives as the essential leitmotif of the Democratic Party, he has attacked them with decidedly racist, xenophobic and false tweets in order to get the Democrats to rally behind the Squad, and thereby attribute the progressive positions as the dominant Democratic Party position. Trump’s Machiavellian tweet, “So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe” was scripted to provoke a counterreaction and force the Democrats onto the minefield of emotive issues like religion, immigration, communism, terrorism etc.
Very presciently, Trump revelled in his move by stating, “The Dems were trying to distance themselves from the four progressives, but now they are forced to embrace them. That means they are endorsing Socialism, hate of Israel and the USA! Not good for the Democrats!” The fact of the matter is that all progressive agendas will invariably suffer a larger force of naysayers against it, as was evident during the Suffragette Movement, Gay Rights Movement, Civil Rights Movement etc., yet the persistence, patience and passion of its proponents helped usher in positive changes.
Time, tide and the ignorance are conspiring against the culture of questioning liberalism and freedom. Mr Trump is proceeding head-on to vitiate the environment to such a degree that he emerges as the only powerful and decisive option in 2020. The tailwind of the cyclical economic resurgence has given the US President some bragging-rights and he is on a roll with such “ammunition” as the “greatest economic boom in the history of our country, the best employment figures, the biggest tax reduction, rebuilt military and much more.
While a lot of educated people in America’s coastal areas are cringing at the daily dose of revilement dished out by the Presidential Twitter-handle, Donald Trump is unfazed and smug in the knowledge that a lot more people in the heartland of the United States are enjoying the break from the political-correctness of the past. The damage that happens to societies with such tactical and brazen style in the long run is both incalculably regressive and effectively irretrievable. But the past profundities and the long-term future impact of such retrograde campaigning do not concern President Trump as he is riveted to 2020, and for that he is on top… individually.
(The writer IS Lt Gen PVSM, AVSM (Retd), Former Lt Governor of Andaman & Nicobar Islands & Puducherry)