With Lula’s Win in Brazil, the Left Dominates Latin America

“With Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva’s narrow victory over president Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil—the two-time former president defeated the incumbent by a 1.8 percent margin (50.9 to 49.1)—the Latin American left has completed its strategic dominance over the region’s seven largest countries.
In the 2000s, much was made of Latin America’s so-called “Pink Tide,” which began with Hugo Chávez’s first electoral victory in Venezuela (1998) and da Silva’s first term in Brazil (2002–2006). There followed an unprecedented rise of left-wing governments across the region. However, there were still important holdouts at the time; Mexico and Colombia didn’t veer left at all; Chile maintained its post-Pinochet social democracy; Peru’s original “Pink Tider,” Ollanta Humala, initially scared the markets in 2011 but proved to be mostly moderate in power.

By late 2022, however, hard leftists—often in cahoots with local communist parties—had handily won the last elections in each of these countries and in Argentina, which returned to Peronist Kirchnerism in 2019. Bolsonaro was the last right-winger standing”

January 6 isn’t a priority for voters — even where you’d most expect it

“In conversations with voters at an early-voting location in Virginia Beach, the economy weighed far more heavily than the attack on the Capitol. While jets from a nearby Naval Air Station roared overhead, those coming and going from casting their ballots didn’t view January 6 as a factor. Mike Malbon told Vox that he had voted for Kiggans. Although he had never voted for Luria, he described himself as a swing voter who had voted for Trump, Obama, and George W. Bush. Malbon said his vote was based on the fact that he was “just not really happy with what the Democrats were doing.” When asked if he’d thought about January 6 while voting, Malbon said, “I’ve thought about it for sure. I probably would never vote for Trump again, I would have otherwise.”
Melinda Salmons, who said she was voting for Kiggans because she thought Luria was in Nancy Pelosi’s pocket, echoed this. When asked about Trump, she told Vox, “Donald Trump doesn’t affect me one way or another. The man is not running. I’m like a lot of people, I like what my pocketbook says. I do not like what he says.””

Opinion | How to Message Against Far-Right Populism

“As a psychological anthropologist, my team and I have conducted new research showing the idea that the “system is rigged” is gaining ground among Americans of all political persuasions. That’s been particularly true post-2020, as Covid-19 shook the world, calls for racial justice became louder and a contentious election ended with a violent insurrection. It’s a dynamic that offers real opportunity for progressives. This rhetoric — if deployed in a way that doesn’t simply fuel despair — offers a blueprint for countering right-wing populism while providing the crucial fixes needed for our society.
Progressives already recognize the role systems play in determining opportunities and outcomes in the United States. Acknowledgment that institutions shape our lives can counter a tendency toward individualism and foster thinking that favors inclusion, justice and community. As an example, “systemic thinking” moves the conversation about poverty from one focused on individual deservingness to one about opportunity. More systemic thinking can also help people understand that environments influence our health outcomes, leading to greater support for safe housing and affordable child care and health care. “Systems” thinking can similarly help us see how racism is embedded in the criminal legal system — from harmful police incentives to over-patrolling of Black neighborhoods to cash bail.”

“Of course, there are also traps and dangers in acknowledging and feeding the narrative that the system is rigged, which is one reason why some progressives have shied away from this approach. Americans across the political spectrum feel the system isn’t working, but they aren’t always sure what the system is, who is rigging it, or how. This leaves system-is-rigged thinking open to manipulation and cooptation. The left may see a chance to critique corporate power and redesign the system for more equitable outcomes. But the right has used this narrative to push the story that government systems are rigged to benefit minority groups at the expense of “ordinary” Americans, leading to the spread of the racist replacement theory and reinforcing the view that government is part of the problem.”

“To channel the public’s thinking in productive directions — and show that the system is rigged while demanding that the system be reformed — progressives must consistently fill in four crucial gaps: What system is being rigged? Who is rigging it and how? What impact does this have on specific groups of people and our country more broadly? And, most importantly, how can we “un-rig” these systems that aren’t working?”

A New History of the Old Right

“The discontent Trump used to propel himself to the White House has always been present on the American right. When Sen. Joseph McCarthy (R–Wis.) began his crusade against “the hidden Communists in America and their liberal Democratic protectors,” for example, he found support in the Republican Party and in the few conservative publications that existed at the time—The American Mercury, Human Events, even the libertarian-leaning Freeman. As McCarthy’s accusations multiplied and “became more outrageous, more galling, and more disconnected from reality,” Continetti writes, conservatives such as William F. Buckley Jr. still backed his crusade. There are similarities in the way Sen. Robert A. Taft (R–Ohio) responded to McCarthy’s conspiracy theories and the way Sen. Mitch McConnell (R–Ky.) has responded to Trump’s. While McCarthy ultimately undermined himself by launching outrageous accusations against President Dwight D. Eisenhower, Continetti demonstrates just how long conservatives have been tempted to follow aggressive demagogues while they lambaste liberals.

Traditionally, conservative elites have tried to channel populist sentiments into a respectable and successful movement. No one had to grapple with this question more than Buckley, the founder of National Review. The usual conservative narrative says that Buckley legitimized conservatism by being a gatekeeper: In keeping the conspiracism of the John Birch Society and the radical individualism of Ayn Rand at arm’s length, he made it less likely that conservatives would be labeled extremists. In the case of the John Birch Society, Buckley wrote a 5,000-word essay, “The Question of Robert Welch,” that condemned the group’s founder, arguing that “the best thing Mr. Welch could do to serve the cause of anticommunism in the United States would be to resign.” Buckley’s purges are often held up as a great success, but the reality is that Welch did not resign and the John Birch Society continued to have influence.

While Buckley initially aligned his magazine with segregationists in the South, a choice that has marred the movement’s reputation ever since, he was resolute in opposing Alabama Gov. George Wallace’s particular brand of populism. Wallace, of course, was a strident proponent of segregation in the 1960s. During his second run for president, on a third-party ticket in 1968, the candidate turned heavily to anti-elitist rhetoric. “As he began to attack the federal government and its know-it-all politicians and bureaucrats,” Continetti writes, “his support among conservatives grew.” Buckley called Wallace “Mr. Evil,” “a dangerous man,” and a “great phony.” He was also taken aback by the “uncouthness that seems to account for his general popularity.”

Other conservatives joined the denunciations. Wallace’s conservative fans, National Review founding senior editor Frank Meyer wrote, need to recognize that “there are other dangers to conservatism and to the civilization conservatives are defending than the liberal Establishment, and that to fight liberalism without guarding against these dangers runs the risk of ending in a situation as bad as or worse as our present one.” In modern parlance: Don’t back a man like Wallace to own the libs.”‘

A New History of the Old Right

“Unlike most accounts of the American conservative movement, Matthew Continetti’s The Right begins in the 1920s, when two Republican presidents returned the country to normalcy after World War I. The ideals of that era’s Republicans were not so different from those espoused by former President Donald Trump today: They believed in cutting taxes, restricting immigration, and protecting American industry through tariffs. But there was one fundamental difference: Presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge rejected the populism of their age. They aimed to preserve American institutions. Trump is more like William Jennings Bryan, riding the coattails of discontent. He represents a time, Continetti argues, when an increasingly apocalyptic conservative movement “no longer viewed core American institutions as worth defending.””

“Traditionally, conservative elites have tried to channel populist sentiments into a respectable and successful movement. No one had to grapple with this question more than Buckley, the founder of National Review. The usual conservative narrative says that Buckley legitimized conservatism by being a gatekeeper: In keeping the conspiracism of the John Birch Society and the radical individualism of Ayn Rand at arm’s length, he made it less likely that conservatives would be labeled extremists. In the case of the John Birch Society, Buckley wrote a 5,000-word essay, “The Question of Robert Welch,” that condemned the group’s founder, arguing that “the best thing Mr. Welch could do to serve the cause of anticommunism in the United States would be to resign.” Buckley’s purges are often held up as a great success, but the reality is that Welch did not resign and the John Birch Society continued to have influence.”

“Continetti’s major contribution comes in explaining how conservatism has changed since the end of the Cold War. Here he details the conflict between neoconservatives, such as Bill Kristol, and paleoconservatives, such as Pat Buchanan. With their dedication to the culture war and their opposition to foreign intervention and immigration, the paleoconservatives presaged Trump’s electoral success in 2016.
The paleocons lost the political battles of the 1990s and 2000s. But the War on Terror ultimately discredited the neoconservatives, opening the door for populist discontent to capture the Republican Party. The first manifestation of this was the Tea Party movement. While Continetti draws a straight line from this to Trump’s election, in reality the Tea Party encompassed several strands of conservatism (all populist in nature) with conflicting conceptions of what 21st century conservatism should entail. Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Marco Rubio of Florida, and Ted Cruz of Texas all rode the Tea Party wave to victory in 2010–12, and all had very different visions for the future of the nation—and very different visions from Trump’s. Nonetheless, the anti-establishment politics that emerged in the wake of the Iraq War and the 2008 financial crisis ultimately brought Trump to power.

It was during this time, from 2010 to 2016, that Continetti believes “the populist American Right [became] less interested in preserving institutions than in tearing them down.” One could hardly think of a better instrument for that purpose than Trump. Trump condemned illegal immigration and trade with China, announced “support for a ban on Muslim entry into the United States,” and recalibrated “American politics along the axis of national identity.” Many conservatives initially condemned him, and National Review even released a special issue titled “Against Trump.” One of its contributors called the candidate “a philosophically unmoored political opportunist who would trash the broad conservative ideological consensus within the GOP in favor of a free-floating populism with strong-man overtones.” Nonetheless, Trump won.”

The Reactionary Tradition Out To Annihilate American Liberty

“For portions of the MAGA right, the stakes in politics seem unbearably high. They imagine their elections stolen without consequences, their children menaced by transsexuals in the schools, their fathers’ manufacturing jobs shipped away by globalist corporations that mock their values. People whose worldviews sicken them seem to control every citadel of political and cultural power and to brook no opposition.

Even President Donald Trump seemed powerless to shift America back to the country they wanted. And so several institutions and thinkers of the intellectual right have declared that it’s time to take the gloves off in a way even Trump would not. It’s time, they argue, to fight against “liberalism”—not just the attitudes associated with the Democratic Party, but the historical idea of a social order based on people’s ability to make their own choices about what to do with their lives and property, to live and travel where they wish, to choose meanings, family structures, attitudes, and lifeways freed of any obligation to national or ethnic traditions. They want the American right to get tough and to crush progressivism at its root.

Thus, there has been a small intellectual revival of mostly forgotten or despised thinkers often dubbed “reactionary.” In A World After Liberalism, Matthew Rose of the Morningside Institute assesses five of them”

“These reactionary writers see, in Rose’s words, “humans as naturally tribal, not autonomous; individuals as inherently unequal, not equal; politics as grounded in authority, not consent; societies as properly closed, not open.””

Jan. 6 Didn’t Set Off A Wave of Right-Wing Terrorism. Here’s What Happened Instead.

“Rather than a spate of attacks by organized groups — largely what the Biden administration has prepared for — instead we have seen a massive expansion of the broader ecosystem of far-right extremism. I study terrorism and regularly monitor the rhetoric traversing Telegram and other platforms frequented by far-right extremists. Over the past year, it’s become clear that the violence underpinning the Capitol rioters’ ideology has seeped into mainstream culture and politics. As a result, many more people can — and do — engage in extremist thoughts and actions, not just members of groups like the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. This raises risks of violence by radicalized “lone wolves,” who are much harder to track and thwart.”

“Remarkably for a year that started off with an unprecedented display of political violence, 2021 saw zero major terrorist attacks on U.S. soil, nor did we experience anything resembling the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va. One reason is that the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has artificially suppressed terrorism plots and attacks that we might have seen otherwise. At the same time, lockdowns, isolation and stress have exacerbated many of the underlying factors that contribute to extremism, while also making mental health matters more acute. Meanwhile, 2020 and 2021 were record years for the sale of weapons and ammunition. Americans are anxious, angry and well-armed — a combustible combination.

Another reason for fewer incidents of domestic terrorism during 2021 is that far-right extremists, both individuals and formal organizations, have likely been cowed by an aggressive law enforcement response to Jan. 6. To date, more than 700 individuals have been charged with federal crimes for their role in the insurrection. The city of Washington, D.C., has sued the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, seeking severe financial penalties. Given how paranoid many far-right extremist groups are about being infiltrated by law enforcement, many have gone underground and attempted to drop off the grid to avoid further entanglement with the authorities.

However, it would be a mistake to conclude that the problem has faded away. Though we haven’t seen the most visible signs of growing extremism, a more extreme climate is permeating our society, culture and politics. Far-right talking points about election interference and comparisons of public health officials to Nazis are now part of mainstream political dialogue among Republicans.”

“Trump’s unique role in sending extremism mainstream helps explain the most salient domestic terrorism we face in 2022: political violence by those who are convinced the 2020 election was stolen. Many of the calls for violence I’ve observed denigrate Biden’s presidency as illegitimate and refer directly to the falsehood that his victory was “rigged.” A University of Massachusetts Amherst poll revealed that nearly 71 percent of Republican voters still contest the 2020 election results, falling victim to Trump’s “Big Lie.” When almost three-quarters of a political party believe an election was stolen, and that party’s leader continuously reinforces the belief, it lowers the bar for violence.”

“To date, the vast majority of those charged with crimes stemming from the Jan. 6 insurrection, approximately 87 percent, do not belong to formal organizations. In fact, although these groups were busy organizing in the weeks before Jan. 6, the makeup of the rioters on the actual day was far broader. This means there is a massive throng of “free agents,” the most radicalized of whom have the potential to become “lone wolves,” while others may seek to join existing groups or opt to form new ones.”

“Perhaps the most notorious lone wolf terrorist is Timothy McVeigh, who was responsible for the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 people. McVeigh was the product of the far-right ecosystem of the 1990s, which was far smaller and less radicalized than the equivalent today. It’s certainly plausible that the next McVeigh (or McVeighs) could emerge from the murky online extremist landscape that is increasingly blending with mainstream politics.”

The intellectual right’s war on America’s institutions

“It’s easy to dismiss this kind of illiberal language as purely rhetorical: radical posturing with few practical implications. But the past year of conservative politics, from the January 6 riot to the spread of voting restrictions and extreme gerrymandering to the rise of Rufo’s war on the education system, has shown that the right’s illiberal impulses are actually shaping our reality.

Conservatism, in theory, is supposed to be an ideology of preservation. But the current right is increasingly being shaped by a reactionary impulse bent on the radical transformation — if not the outright destruction — of America’s leading institutions.”

Police, soldiers bring lethal skill to militia campaigns against US government

“Thousands of police and soldiers – people professionally trained in the use of violence and familiar with military protocols – are part of an extremist effort to undermine the U.S. government and subvert the democratic process.

According to an investigative report published in the Atlantic in November into a leaked database kept by the Oath Keepers – one of several far-right and white supremacist militias that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 – 10% of Oath Keepers are current police officers or military members. Another significant portion of the group’s membership is retired military and law enforcement personnel.”

“The Three Percenters, another militia present at the Capitol on Jan. 6, also draws a substantial portion of its members from law enforcement, both military and civilian. Larry Brock, a pro-Trump rioter arrested with zip-tie handcuffs, allegedly for taking hostages, is a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel who posted content from the Three Percenters online.”

“Far-right elements have always had some presence in U.S. security forces.

Throughout the 20th century, many local police departments were heavily populated with Ku Klux Klan members. The connections between terror groups and law enforcement enabled discrimination and violence against African Americans, Jews and other minorities.

In 1923, all the Black residents of Blandford, Indiana were forced out of town to an unknown location following accusations that an African American man assaulted a young girl. The unlawful “deportation” was conducted and organized by the local sheriff, a Klansman, with the assistance of local Klan chapters.

Many U.S. military bases have also had cells of neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups throughout the 20th century.

In 1995, three paratroopers from Fort Bragg, in North Carolina, were arrested and charged in the killing of a Black couple in Fayetteville. Two were sentenced to life in prison for the murders. The Army initiated an investigation at the base, which was known for being a hub of the National Alliance, then the country’s most influential American neo-Nazi group.

The Army identified and discharged 19 paratroopers for participating in hate activities. One went on to kill six worshipers in a Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin in August 2012. He died in a police shootout.”

“The militias’ success secretly infiltrating police departments contributed to the emergence of new far-right associations that openly recruit law enforcement, like the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers of America.

Founded in 2011 by former Arizona sheriff Richard Mack, the group promotes the notion – contrary to the Constitution – that the federal government authorities should be subordinated to local law enforcement. It has more than 500 sheriffs nationwide. Just over half are currently in office.

The Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers of America has pushed its members not to enforce gun control laws and pandemic-related mask regulations that they believe infringe on civil liberties.”

Labeling groups like the Proud Boys “domestic terrorists” won’t fix anything

“Canada recently designated the Proud Boys, a far-right hate group, as a terrorist organization, a move that has put pressure on President Joe Biden’s administration to take similar punitive action against the group and others who participated in January 6 attack on the US Capitol.

The Congressional Research Service has asserted that the Capitol insurrection was an act of domestic terrorism, as defined by federal regulations and law. The FBI has identified the criminal activity by the Proud Boys as a domestic terrorism threat.

But while the federal government maintains a list of foreign terrorist organizations, it does not have a mechanism to formally designate domestic terrorist organizations. National security experts argue that creating one would not only invite legal challenges, but would do little to improve law enforcement’s response to the nascent threat of domestic terrorism.

Creating such a list would raise legitimate First Amendment concerns because it could potentially be used to target political dissidents on both the left and the right. Experts also say it’s ill-suited to address the kind of domestic terrorist attacks and plots that the US is facing, which according to the Department of Homeland Security, primarily come from right-wing extremists acting as individuals, rather than as organized groups.

The best way forward, they say, is for the federal government to better employ existing tools to combat domestic terrorism — a threat that was not prioritized by former President Donald Trump, who repeatedly refused to denounce white nationalists and told those who stormed the Capitol, “We love you.”

“Violent white supremacists are not a new problem,” Faiza Patel, the director of liberty and national security at the Brennan Center for Justice, said. “Law enforcement has dealt with them before and can do so again. The FBI’s robust response to the attack on the Capitol shows that these groups can be investigated and prosecuted under existing law, undercutting any argument for new tools.””