Where populism fails, walls are built

To me, Donald Trump represents countless things: the extremities of a bipartisan system, the setbacks of progression, reactionary politics. Yet—and this is what occupies my beliefs most—the presidency of Trump signifies everything I absolutely detest in not only the culture of the U.S., but our planet in its entirety. Trump, as he swings his racist fists and hurls his fascist ideologies, encompasses the whole of a patriarchal society; he is the power that has been granted, time and time again, to the wealthy elite.

Perhaps this sounds, in its conception, rather divisive, or—dare I say it—hateful. That’s because it is. I hate, with every fiber in my body, this system of control, this culture of the hyper-masculine, of the bourgeoisie. It’s much for the same reason I abhor Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, Viktor Orbán, Mohammad bin Salman, Matteo Salvini, and those of the like.

These men stand for everything immoral and unjust that humanity has produced. Be it patriotism, rightist populism, nationalism, ethnic purity—whatever word needed to mask mass xenophobia and iniquity—it’s not a matter of outward advocacy, but simply the nature of their politics and what has resulted from such. If we were to simplify Trump’s views to, say, this proposed border wall, what does such a construction symbolize? The easy answer is: racial segregation. Yet Trump—and I’ll admit, he does so rather convincingly to an uneducated, working class population—successfully disguises his racism with big ideas, big promises of border security, so much that such a term, border security, is suddenly nuanced with and equates racism, white supremacy.

I will not explore the complexities of borders; my anti-imperialist beliefs of open borders are for another place, another time. Yet it’s one rather contended topic to portray these men for what they are and what they continue to prove themselves to be. And my take on this is not fresh, not new—it has been something stated and restated by thinkers much more qualified than I. Instead, I am just another student extremely concerned with the rise of rightist politics in the world and the empty promises this proposes. For what does radical populism, at its core, hope? Cut down, it aims for a connection to those consistently left out by capital pursuits of increased jobs, better economies, streamlined trades and/or manual labors.

Yet it doesn’t do that. In actuality, this populism seems to only make the rich richer, and the poor poorer. Those who are marginalized continue to be so, while ingrained with the optimistic viewpoint that the government is, indeed, looking out for them. But they’re not, and they won’t. Populism—in the case of Trump, of Orbán, of Salvini—is just the same as “border security”: a term dressed up by false promises in order to ensure the power, the control remains where it always has.

photo by Richard Derwent / The Guardian

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