The progressive movement must grapple with Trump and terrorism simultaneously.
By Bob Wing and Max Elbaum
Foreign Policy in Focus
Originally published in Znet.
Dec 23, 2016 - The wake-up call is right there in the front page headline of the Dec. 11 New York Times: “Poll Has Trump Gaining Ground on Terror Fear.”
Prior to the tragic burst of terrorist murders in Egypt, Beirut, Paris and then San Bernardino, California, significant aspects of U.S. politics were beginning to move in a positive direction. Pressure from #BlackLivesMatter and Raise the Wage campaigns was forcing issues of racism and economic inequality to the forefront of public debate. Climate change denialism was increasingly on the defensive. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign was giving voice to a broad anti-corporate agenda. And the Republicans seemed to be lurching so far to the right that they might self-isolate or split.
But in the wake of newly revived public fears about terrorism, and the right’s orgy of war mongering, Islamophobia and racist demagogy, “A plurality of the public views the threat of terrorism as the top issue facing the country,” according to a Dec. 10, 2015 NY Times/CBS poll. “Americans are more fearful about the likelihood of another terrorist attack than at any other time since the weeks after Sept. 11, 2001.”
Given the misery and strife of the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and the powerful influence of ISIS (Daesh in Arabic), repeated Daesh-inspired or Daesh-organized terrorist attacks in the U.S. seem likely. Though limited in scale compared to terrorism in other parts of the world, such attacks do what they are intended to do: attract outsized attention and alarm the public. And, in light of its timing, the San Bernardino attack was not only deadly, but also exposed a potential path to the presidency and control of all three branches of the federal government by the nakedly xenophobic, racist and militarist tendency now utterly dominating the Republican Party. Even a victory by one of the so-called mainstream Republican conservatives would be a calamity with Congress, especially the House, in the hands of far right.
The attacks are also increasing the militarist and law-and-order tendencies of Hillary Clinton and other mainstream Democrats, tendencies that once led them to endorse George W. Bush’s disastrous war in Iraq.
This essays calls attention to two crucial developments.
First, over the past six months or so the far right has taken dangerous steps even further to the right. They have legitimized the public expression of blatant racism and authoritarian policies toward Muslims and immigrants. The climate they have created has contributed to the recent shootings targeting Planned Parenthood and BlackLivesMatter protesters and led their supporters to brag about beating up opponents at campaign rallies. Their extremist policies and rhetoric have alarmed even many mainstream commentators, with some pundits even using the term “fascism.” Yet they are dominating the Republican Party to a greater degree than before and, in significant part due to playing the foreign terrorism card, are also garnering broader public support, threatening to shift the entire political spectrum another notch to the right.
And second, that first development urgently underscores, not for the first time, how crucial it is for social justice organizations to develop a strategy that integrates a sophisticated understanding of the intimate interconnections of war, terrorism, racism and inequality, and between peace and justice at home and abroad, if we are to mature as a major political force.