According to a report presented at the National Public Radio (NPR), 12% of Bernie Sanders voters during the 2016 Democratic Party presidential primaries ended up voting for Donald Trump in the U.S. general election. The reasons of why it happened was not so obvious at how it looks: It was not their views on trade policy (what Trump and Sanders were closest to), but the lack of involvement of these voters with the Democratic Party what, in principle, would have determined their decision in the general elections. The 2016 election demonstrated that an ‘anti-elite’ discourse that directly addresses the improvement of the average worker’s living conditions (and not the ‘identity politics’ promoted by the liberal left) can generate an important electoral transit between an openly ‘socialist’ candidate towards a financial tycoon who, like never before in American political history, based his campaign on misogyny, xenophobia and racism. This fact should make us reflect on how far apart the lessons of the first half of the 20th century are when we address the resurgence of extreme right ideas and political proposals in today’s world.
Contemporary far-right politics requires a new debate on its ideological features, as well as its roots in the management of the contemporary economic crisis. However, what we usually see are common places that have been generated both by the progressive left and by libertarianism / neoliberalism, which, for different reasons, have contributed to feeding the extreme right in the Americas. While progressives tend to consider the far right as a mere oligarchic reaction towards the deepening of the neoliberal model (something that would not make them very different from traditional ‘rightist’ politics), libertarians / neoliberals have preferred to ignore their protectionist tendencies to have them as allies in their partisan struggles against ‘cultural Marxism’ and ‘gender ideology’ (especially in Latin America).
We believe that this is an mistake. This new ‘XXI century fascism’ does not operate under the traditional left-right parameters because of its deliberate disconnection between the internal front and the external front. For example, while outwardly Donald Trump opposes Free Trade Agreements such as the Trans-Pacific Agreement (TPP) and proposes to renew the NAFTA under more protectionist criteria; inward raises tax cuts in the style of the old ‘trickle down economics’ and more financial deregulations that favor the Wall Street bankers that Trump himself criticized in campaign. The same applies to Bolsonaro, who during his campaign proposed to maintain trade and tariff barriers that have sustained the country’s industrial structure, but inwardly it eliminates ministries and reduces social protections for indigenous and LGBT communities. Classifying both governments simply as ‘liberal’ or ‘nationalist / protectionist’ economically is a mistake; but it is also a mistake to classify them merely as ‘authoritarian’ or ‘populist (right)’ politically, if we consider that both still drive unpopular measures within the possibilities allowed within the current legal and constitutional framework. Despite their intentions and firebranded speeches, these governments have not yet taken concrete steps into dismantling their current constitutional models to move towards autocratic regimes. In the case of Bolsonaro, we still reserve our opinion due to his recent arrival to power; while, in the case of Trump, his most mediated and controversial campaign proposal, the new border wall with Mexico, can not be built without the approval of Congress, which is endorsed by the American Constitution.