The Republican establishment in New Hampshire begged Donald Trump to intervene last week as voters geared up to decide who would represent their party in the race against Sen. Maggie Hassan this November. The moderate Republican in the race, NH Senate President Chuck Morse, chased Trump to a New Jersey golf course, begging him for an endorsement. Trump refused to put his finger on the scale, and on Wednesday morning the “ultra-MAGA” conspiracy theorist Donald Bolduc won the nomination.
Bolduc is a retired Army general who is a thunderous supporter of Trump’s “big lie” that Biden stole the 2020 election. He’s pushing for the repeal of the 17th Amendment guaranteeing direct popular election of U.S. senators, and has publicly warned that the COVID vaccines contain microchips.
If Bolduc is able to win in November along with others of his ilk, it will be an absolute coup for the self-described “ultra-MAGA” wing of the GOP and would represent another step towards the consolidation of a clear far-right force in American politics.
It would be a big challenge for Bolduc to win a general election, which explains the frenzy among the Republican establishment, but if the past two years have taught us anything, it’s that extremely unexpected things do happen. If he won, Bolduc would become one of the most reactionary Senators in decades.
What The Hell Is Going On Over There?
The rapid and extreme developments on the right have been dizzying. The New Hampshire primary was a prime example of this. The GOP establishment campaigned against “ultra-MAGA” Bolduc with accusations that he wasn’t sufficiently pro-Trump. Trump said Bolduc was a “strong guy” but wouldn’t endorse him. Democrats campaigned for Bolduc because they predict he’ll be easier to beat.
It can be tempting to look at this whole process and draw the conclusion that the right wing is this monolithic blob hurtling its way toward fascism. In this vision, Republican voters, Trump supporters, Proud Boys and far-right vigilantes are all one big, gelatinous mess. This is exactly what Biden implied by scandalously referring to all 70 million Trump voters as “semi-fascist.”
The reason this can be tempting is because those boundaries that used to define the broader political right and the organized far right are coming undone. But this process is far from complete, as we saw with the pitched battle in New Hampshire. Painting every Republican, or every Trump voter even, with the same brush gives us no real insight into what ideas actually count as “far right” and how we might begin to fight those ideas.
This approach also can give the impression that all we have to fear is extremely reactionary individuals, which unfortunately is not true. What makes these developments on the reactionary right particularly terrifying is that they point toward the outline of a far-right political force, perhaps even the creation of a far-right party in the U.S.
Why Has The Far Right Grown?
The organized far right is still very marginal compared to the whole of the U.S. population. We haven’t seen people flocking in the thousands to organizations like the Proud Boys or the Patriot Front.
But what we have seen is a normalization of some of the ideas that underpin the far right among a wider section of U.S. society. This is fundamentally because of the attacks on the working class that characterized the neoliberal era, attacks that came from both the Republican and Democratic parties.
The neoliberal era was defined by a global race to the top for major corporations and a race to the bottom for the world working class. The shutting of factories in the U.S.was combined with extensive “offshoring” of production to Mexico and to East and South Asia where labor costs were far lower. Public services were either privatized or allowed to emaciate. The rubble of neoliberalism can be defined by the tremendous despair and alienation of large sections of working people.
The fact that the Democratic Party has had absolutely nothing to offer for working people has meant a small but growing section of working class people have turned to the far right for answers.
What Does The Far Right Represent?
The far right does not have some cohesive, singular political program around which it is organized and growing. Rather it’s built around two broad trends that overlap but are not mutually exclusive.
There is anti-government extremism on one end, defined by QAnon conspiracy theories, militia movements, etc. And on the other is the trend more distinctly motivated by white nationalism or “Christian nationalism” and anti-immigrant, misogynistic, and transphobic ideas.
Trump serves in many ways as a gateway for both of these far-right trends.
The Big Lie
Trump’s “big lie” about the 2020 election results echoed the conspiratorial logic of QAnon who insist that society is run by a cabal of Satanic child predators conspiring against Trump. Just last week, Trump went on a 60-post tirade on his social media platform Truth Social where he promoted QAnon accounts and theories. Truth Social, which is full of anti-government extremism and calls for a new civil war, has 513,000 daily active users. Trump has 3.9 million followers on the app.
Beyond QAnon, there’s a broader far-right “Patriot” movement which has existed for decades but has gained momentum coming out of the COVID lockdowns and Trump’s 2020 loss. The number of organizations on the anti-government far right remains stable rather than skyrocketing, with 488 active organizations in 2021, but the ideas that underpin these organizations are becoming more and more popular. Blame for this lies centrally with the complete failure of the ruling class to solve the compounding crises of the past several years. Deep and understandable skepticism of the government is a key output of the never ending whiplash of COVID variants, sky-high inflation, and the total gridlock in D.C.
Donald Bolduc in New Hampshire is all these ideas personified, but it’s not just fringe candidates who echo QAnon-style logic. There are several figures like Bolduc that are increasingly popular, including Congresspeople Marjorie Taylor Green, Lauren Boebert and Paul Goser, and the Republican nominee for governor of Pennsylvania, Doug Mastriano. Gosar recently headlined a white nationalist event which was also attended by Green.
A section of the Republican Party leadership has also “mainstreamed” these ideas both by their out and out support of Trump’s “big lie,” their calls for a new constitutional convention and widespread voter suppression measures, and their support for the “independent state legislature theory”, a right wing constitutional theory about who has the right to determine the rules for federal elections.
It seems that a section of the state apparatus and ruling class will try to prevent Trump from running in 2024. If they double down on this strategy (which won’t work) after the big escalation at Mar-A-Lago, this could contribute to a deepening of anti-government extremist ideas.
Misogyny, Racism, and Transphobia
The other phenomena that’s serving as a highway to the far right is the further normalization of misogyny, racism, and transphobia.
Despite their initial widespread popularity, the lack of concrete victories coming out of both the Black Lives Matter and #MeToo movements has produced a very worrisome backlash to the ideas that underpinned these movements.
The idea that BLM and #MeToo represented attacks on the rights of white Americans and men has been “mainstreamed” by leading figures on the political and media right like Tucker Carlson. Republican politicians in states across the country have built their political careers around attacks on abortion rights, trans rights, “critical race theory,” and the rights of immigrants. Just last week Gov. Ron DeSantis sent two planes full of Venezuelan immigrants to Martha’s Vineyard in a twisted, racist stunt intended to “call bluff” on Democratic politicians who say they support immigrants’ rights.
Being against the right to choose, against immigrants’ rights, or even being transphobic, does not of course automatically make someone “far-right.” What makes the far-right qualitatively different is the level of vitriol and threats of violence. Terrifying examples of this being the Proud Boys systematically targeting Pride events in Idaho and drag events around the country.
In some cases high profile Republican figures are backing away from specific attacks on abortion rights and trans rights because they see it as a potential electoral liability. However, the train has somewhat left the station and there’s a section of local and state level politicians and media figures who are doubling down. Just this month a North Texas school board passed a sweeping set of policies, including a total ban on all classroom discussion of “gender fluidity.”
The fact that so many of these “culture war” battles are taking shape around schools is quite significant, especially as we see genuine polarization among young people themselves, particularly around issues facing women and queer people.
While 59% of Gen Z-ers believe forms should include more gender options than man/woman, and 35% of Gen Z-ers know someone who uses gender neutral pronouns, it would be a mistake to assume that this means there’s no room for far-right ideas to take hold among a section of this generation.
Perhaps the most disturbing illustration of this danger is the overnight fame won by Andrew Tate, a despicable misogynistic influencer who proudly moved to Romania several years ago because he said it’s easier to get away with rape charges there.
Teachers across the country are reporting in online forums that their young male students are coming back to the classroom hooked on Andrew Tate. In a viral Reddit post on r/Teachers, one high school teacher wrote: “It’s been only 2 weeks of school & these young boys are losing it. I’ve never heard such vitriol from young boys since this Andrew Tate guy came on the scene.”
Tate was booted from TikTok for violent speech, but a simple search for his name on the platform will dredge up thousands of fan accounts with millions of views collectively. And Tate is just one figure in an online sub-culture of far-right personalities.
Tim Pool is another figure that has risen to fame among young white men in particular. Pool is an extremely popular YouTuber who is regularly talking about an impending civil war in the U.S. and warning about trans “groomers.” Pool has 3.3 million subscribers on YouTube, the majority of whom are 18-35 year old white men.
What Do We Do?
It’s clear that these two strands of far-right reaction are growing and this represents a real danger to oppressed people and the working class generally. But what’s also inevitable is that any further normalization of these ideas is going to provoke a reaction in the form of a movement.
The protests against the overturn of Roe and the school walkouts against attacks on queer students are proof that young people in particular are not prepared to accept the unobstructed growth of these ideas.
The key question will become: how is this movement organized and who is it led by?
Fundamentally, weakening the grip of these ideas and isolating fascists and the far right will require building a mass, fighting labor movement the likes of which we haven’t seen since the 1930s.
These ideas pose a gangrenous threat to the unity of the working class, and it is urgent that the main organizations of working people – the multiracial, multi-gender unions – join the struggle against them. A key historical role of the far right and the fascists for the ruling class has been to attack the left and the labor movement.
This means any time the far right tries to take the streets, we need to organize massive, tightly-coordinated counter demonstrations. It means organizing protests and even strikes against the stream of reactionary laws being put forward in states across the country.
Perhaps most importantly, it means putting forward an alternative vision for society that can speak to the despair of working people who may at this time be looking toward the right. Fighting for living wages tied to inflation, for free, universal, and trans-inclusive healthcare, for a massive green jobs program, for a tax on major corporations and the super-rich to fund public schools and services, and crucially for a new working-class political party independent of big business.
This type of fighting program can speak not just to the needs of working people, but can energize the hundreds of thousands of young people looking for a way to fight back. It is this approach, not the approach of year after year electing the same listless Democrats, that can truly defeat the dangerous, reactionary forces on the far right.