Culture Wars/Current Controversies

A coalition unites to defeat a rightwing populist. Then what?

Damon Linker is the only other commentator beside myself that I have ever seen use the description of “popular front” to describe the neocon-led (or neocon-embedded) anti-Trump coalition.  Linker is what is called a “theocon. ” The theocons were a neocon front movement that was created by Podhoretz associate Richard John Neuhaus (a former leftist Lutheran pastor and Norman Thomas socialist turn Catholic priest who followed the standard social democrat-to-neocon trajectory). Linker himself is a Jewish convert to Catholicism. The purpose of the theocons was neocon infiltration of the religious community, primarily the “Judeo-Christian,” “interfaith,” and “ecumenical,” milieus along with the evangelical Christian Zionists.

The “Popular Front” model was originally developed by the European Communist parties as a strategy for countering fascism with a coalition of centrist, liberal, leftist, and socialist parties, all of which the Communists planned to suppress once fascism was out of the way. A major point of contention between the Stalinists and Trotskyists during the Popular Front was how aggressively to push socialism at the time. The Stalinists wanted to push socialism on hold and focus on defeating the fascists. Stalin personally ordered the fraternal Communist parties to temporarily abandon revolutionary activity in the West in order to stabilize the Popular Front coalitions. The Trotskyists wanted to keep pushing for a socialist revolution.

Something remotely comparable is happening now with the right-wing of the anti-Trumpists merely wanting to hold the line against Trumpism, but with the further left sectors of the “new popular front” wanting to push a neo-Keynesian economic program. Despite their roots in Marxism, Trotskyism, and social democracy, the neocons of today are not socialists but Jacobins and Girondists, although their enthusiasm for global revolution mirrors Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution. The neocon objective is to regain the power they had during the George W. Bush era so they can go to war with Iran and continue carrying out the program of the Project for a New American Century.

By Damon Linker, The Week

Why Joe Biden’s governing problem is a global one.

Right-wing populists are losing elections. Their latest defeat took place a week ago in the Czech Republic, when a fractious coalition of parties prevailed over Andrej Babis, the country’s billionaire prime minister.

Something similar happened in the runoff round of presidential elections in France four years ago, when centrist Emmanuel Macron defeated far-right Marine Le Pen. It happened again in Israel earlier this year. Macron hopes to re-enact the strategy in elections next spring — as do opponents of Viktor Orbán in Hungary, whose Fidesz Party also faces the voters next year, and those who hope to defeat the Law and Justice party in Poland in 2023.

This has historically been called a popular front strategy — even though, when deployed against populists, it sometimes ends up looking more like an establishment front. It entails an ideologically disparate coalition uniting to defeat a specific candidate or party that would otherwise win a plurality of votes. If the right-wing populist is Candidate X, the opponents set aside their differences and combine around a platform of Not X that pulls more votes than the populist.

Kicking populists out of power is good, as is keeping them from winning in the first place. But that doesn’t mean the popular front strategy solves the problem that right-wing populism poses to liberal democracies around the world. On the contrary, that problem can fester while the victorious (but ideologically incoherent) coalition attempts to govern, opening a path to a return to power for the right-wing populists the next time elections are held.

We can see this dynamic at work right here at home — in the United States.



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