© Josh Sager – April 2016
Put simply, the 2016 presidential primary on the Republican side has been an exemplar for bigotry, policy ignorance, blatant corruption, religious extremism, and flagrant calls commit to war crimes. The right wing extremist id has revealed itself for all to see, leading many in the USA and abroad to react with horror and concern for the course of the nation.
Donald Trump has spent the entire campaign at the center of the stage, calling for banning or registering Muslims, torturing and killing the families of those who are suspected of attacking the USA, and imposing draconian punishments on undocumented immigrants. He insults minority groups, gives blatantly stupid policy proposals, and declares his intent to bully other nations if elected (e.g. threatening military force if Mexico refuses to pay for a wall, withdrawing from NATO, etc.). Right behind Trump, Cruz supports most of the same discriminatory and insane policies, while adding that we should cluster-bomb ISIS and try to make “the sand glow” in the Middle East (a reference to using nuclear weapons).
The rest of the Western world looks at the GOP primary and reacts with worry and surprise. They see reflections of the European fascist movements that have long lingered on the fringes of their politics (e.g. the National Front, neo-Nazi movements, etc.) and are terrified to see such extremism gain power in the USA (a couple of the people I studied poli-sci with at BU work abroad, and they are regularly bombarded with questions and worries on this).
Authoritarian forces look at the current predicament of the USA and react with delight. Islamic terrorists like ISIS want nothing more than to provoke the USA to attack them and drive the Middle East to support their cause. Repressive regimes like North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Iran see what is happening and understand that we are throwing away our moral high ground to criticize them on issues of civil liberties, torture, civilian deaths, and surveillance (if we torture, how can we condemn them for following our example?).
Here is a still from an ISIS propaganda video which uses his bigotry as a rallying cry to attack the west
The USA is the most powerful nation on earth, both in terms of economics and military force, and the revelation that an appreciable percentage of our population is bordering on fascism is truly terrifying. When less powerful nations fall to authoritarianism, the damage can be contained by preventing them from aggressing into other nations and sending humanitarian aid. If the USA were to fall to authoritarianism, there simply isn’t a global force capable of matching us, thus the damage we could inflict on the world would be very hard to limit (remember, the world is still reeling from the consequences of us breaking Iraq and destabilizing the Middle East).
Even if the Democrats win in November, the worries created during this Republican primary is likely to remain—people will remember how fascism captured nearly half of our political system and the idea that the USA could be one bad election away from becoming a threat to the stability of our planet will linger.
The corporate/mainstream media is the primary culprit to blame for this international embarrassment. They have refused to call a liar a liar and have allowed the GOP to stray so far into extremism that they are now unrecognizable. Because they have failed act as an objective fact-checker the right wing has had cover to promote fascist and discriminatory policies without having to worry that they will be brought to task. Even worse, the media has often acted as an unflinching delivery mechanism for GOP extremism, granting extremely high levels of free media to extremist candidates (with Trump gaining particularly high levels of support).
In a fair world, the first time a candidate decided to openly advocate for war crimes on a debate stage, the media would spend the next several days excoriating them, calling them immoral, and explaining just why those actions are illegal (both under federal law and ratified treaties). They would chase that candidate out of the race and ensure that the Overton window (the range of acceptable political debate) doesn’t keep shifting to into ever more unacceptable policies.