Axis: Bold as Hate

Bernie Sanders sees in the global trend toward nationalism an “authoritarian axis”, and proposes a new progressive international front to oppose it in an op ed for the UK edition of the Guardian

 At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, when the world’s top 1% now owns more wealth than the bottom 99%, we are seeing the rise of a new authoritarian axis. 

 While these regimes may differ in some respects, they share key attributes: hostility toward democratic norms, antagonism toward a free press, intolerance toward ethnic and religious minorities, and a belief that government should benefit their own selfish financial interests. These leaders are also deeply connected to a network of multi-billionaire oligarchs who see the world as their economic plaything.

It remains a mystery what “democratic norms” are threatened by these elected leaders. Trump’s calling out news organizations by name for their bias remains just that–and has the added misfortune of being accurate. In calling out the press for its treatment of him, Trump calls them out for their history of actively colluding to mislead a public they disdain.

Indeed, the media leveraging Trump’s hostility toward them into an attack on freedom of the press follows a pattern so habitual they don’t see it, the same one by which they make of a thug shot by a cop a national racism crisis, or of a baseless rape accusation a national college rape crisis.

Those of us who believe in democracy, who believe that a government must be accountable to its people, must understand the scope of this challenge if we are to effectively confront it.

 Those of us who voted, who demand our government be accountable, are who you confront.
I would be a lot more impressed with these never-ending screeds about Trump’s threat to democracy if they at least acknowledged the irony of their position. Much less the paucity of evidence democracy or–please!–national unity are more threatened by Trump’s populism than they are by his enemies. the same people who cut Bernie off at the knees when he threatened to make democracy meaningful on the Democratic side. How dare Sanders talk about a threat to democracy after submitting to that and now effectively allying with the same monied and entrenched interests that want to do it to Trump. Bernie can’t see the irony for all the irony.

Megaphone-leveraging: Trump’s imperious persona and combative style are portrayed as authoritarianism, when he’s done nothing authoritarian, and is in fact so isolated he couldn’t if he wanted, or knew how to go about it.

It should be clear by now that Donald Trump and the rightwing movement that supports him is not a phenomenon unique to the United States. All around the world, in Europe, in Russia, in the Middle East, in Asia and elsewhere we are seeing movements led by demagogues who exploit people’s fears, prejudices and grievances to achieve and hold on to power.

This trend certainly did not begin with Trump, but there’s no question that authoritarian leaders around the world have drawn inspiration from the fact that the leader of the world’s oldest and most powerful democracy seems to delight in shattering democratic norms.

Those shattered democratic norms are as fictional as the bed of shattered glass upon which Haven Monahan led his notorious gang-bang.

So let’s hear about this global plot and how it works.

Three years ago, who would have imagined that the United States would stay neutral between Canada, our democratic neighbor and second largest trading partner, and Saudi Arabia, a monarchic, client state that treats women as third-class citizens? It’s also hard to imagine that Israel’s Netanyahu government would have moved to pass the recent “nation state law”, which essentially codifies the second-class status of Israel’s non-Jewish citizens, if Benjamin Netanyahu didn’t know Trump would have his back.

An Obama Administration certainly would have opposed Israel’s ethnostate law. As for Saudi Arabia, they are embarking on a possibly reckless course of liberalization that the Trump Administration is encouraging. Certainly there’s more to this Vast Rightwing Conspiracy.

Other authoritarian states are much farther along this kleptocratic process. In Russia, it is impossible to tell where the decisions of government end and the interests of Vladimir Putin and his circle of oligarchs begin. They operate as one unit. Similarly, in Saudi Arabia, there is no debate about separation because the natural resources of the state, valued at trillions of dollars, belong to the Saudi royal family. In Hungary, far-right authoritarian leader Viktor Orbán is openly allied with Putin in Russia. In China, an inner circle led by Xi Jinping has steadily consolidated power, clamping down on domestic political freedom while it aggressively promotes a version of authoritarian capitalism abroad.

Russian corruption is not new. Saudi Arabia’s ownership of the country is not relevant to the new nationalism. China’s nationalism is hardly new–and the socialist Bernie completely ignores its origins in the communist party. I agree with Sanders that there’s a global trend toward nationalism in reaction to globalization. But in trying to paint it sinister, he draws comic connections worthy of Alex Jones; Orban to Putin to China to Saudi Arabia…

We must understand that these authoritarians are part of a common front. They are in close contact with each other, share tactics and, as in the case of European and American rightwing movements, even share some of the same funders. The Mercer family, for example, supporters of the infamous Cambridge Analytica, have been key backers of Trump and of Breitbart News, which operates in Europe, the United States and Israel to advance the same anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim agenda. Republican megadonor Sheldon Adelson gives generously to rightwing causes in both the United States and Israel, promoting a shared agenda of intolerance and illiberalism in both countries.

Sheldon Adelson as white nationalist. Who knew? It makes one long for a real alliance of affinity between Isreali and American nationalists.

But the notion shared ideology means affinity between nations is wrong: democracies still compete with each other. Chinese nationalism does not naturally ally with American nationalism–quite the contrary. Isn’t a lack of national cooperation the whole problem with nationalism, Bernie?

The truth is, however, that to effectively oppose rightwing authoritarianism, we cannot simply go back to the failed status quo of the last several decades. Today in the United States, and in many other parts of the world, people are working longer hours for stagnating wages, and worry that their children will have a lower standard of living than they do.

Yes. Immigration’s role in this goes unmentioned, and it’s the immigration issue above all that arouses anti-Trump fervor.

Our job is to fight for a future in which new technology and innovation works to benefit all people, not just a few. It is not acceptable that the top 1% of the world’s population owns half the planet’s wealth, while the bottom 70% of the working age population accounts for just 2.7% of global wealth. 

Immigration plays a role in this, no?

Together governments of the world must come together to end the absurdity of the rich and multinational corporations stashing over $21tn in offshore bank accounts to avoid paying their fair share of taxes and then demanding that their respective governments impose an austerity agenda on their working families. 

Austerity programs. Who Imposes those?

It is not acceptable that the fossil fuel industry continues to make huge profits while their carbon emissions destroy the planet for our children and grandchildren.

Oil companies, just because.

It is not acceptable that a handful of multinational media giants, owned by a small number of billionaires, largely control the flow of information on the planet.

Careful there, mister, you’re ‘wading into InfoWars territory. Next thing you’ll say is they conspire against Trump.

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