The results of Super Tuesday primaries brought the Republican Party the unthinkable: the possibility of Donald Trump being Republican nominee for the 2016 presidential election.
While it is still too early in the contest, the writing on the wall is clear for everyone to read and no one seems able to stop Trump’s steam train. If anything, Trump represents the triumph of bigotry and the re-emergence of a long-discredited xenophobic strand in United States mainstream politics.
Whether this will be sufficient to carry Trump into the White House is still to be seen, but the odds are moving in his favour. Hillary Clinton is likely to become the Democratic Party candidate – a political figure with a negative electability rating, low likeability among voters, and a history fraught with far too many scandals to withstand an entertainer’s assault. A Trump encounter with Clinton will provide far too many opportunities to push the same angry outsider rhetoric against a well-established and an insider political figure.
A phenomenon in the making
The Trump phenomenon has been in the making for quite some time. Indeed, the anger that coalesced into the Tea Party after Barack Obama’s election in 2008 is a driving force behind the solid base of support for Trump’s candidacy.
It is important to remember that the Tea Party managed to create and cement the visible cracks in the Republican Party starting with the 2008 elections. Republican opposition to Obama created the fertile soil for the rise of the extremist and racist fringe in the party, and for it to push ahead on the basis of a xenophobic and populist agenda.
For the Republican establishment, as long as the extremist fringe directed its anger at Democrats and worked with the national leadership to disrupt Obama’s agenda, then all was well and they were welcome in the big tent party.
Fascism always comes riding a populist steam train offering a fictitious message of prosperity, a promise to fix existing problems, a call to past greatness, and strength in the face of multiple enemies - domestic and foreign.
The Republican Party provided resources, and big funders lined up behind Tea Party activists to energise a disgruntled white, working-class base that had been wiped out in the financial meltdown.
Legitimate grievances and popular anger at Washington was stage-managed by the infusion of massive funding, and focused into a sustained disruption tactic directed at the Obama administration.
The big funders were seeking to prevent any real reforms after the financial meltdown, and to make sure that adopted regulations were stripped off effective enforcement or oversight mechanisms.
Trump’s core support is coming from white middle class and blue-collar workers who have witnessed a steady decline in their income and wealth starting in the middle of the 1970s, but accelerated in the past decade as manufacturing jobs were outsourced and a shrinking industrial sector left them unemployed and unemployable.
The anger is legitimate and the fear for what the future holds is real and palatable. But who to blame and how to fix it is where this group goes totally wrong. Trump is playing with the angry crowds like it is part of a TV reality show, and stage-managing the anger to avoid any serious questions about how he would resolve any of it. Trump himself is part of the outsourcing industry and shares the penchant of chief executives to send jobs overseas to the lowest labour cost possible.
The ugly head of fascism
Trump’s blaming China, while directing animus at African-Americans engaged in Black Lives Matter movement, Mexican immigrants and Muslims, is hardly a solution to anything other than fanning the flames of bigotry.
Populist politicians of old times have used this blame strategy time and time again with the results ending up in the blood and destruction visited upon divided and torn-up societies.
If evidence is lacking or the nightly news does not have enough time to cover it, then turning our attention to Germany’s experience with this type of politics and the consequences it visited upon the country, Europe and the world should serve as a warning sign for all.
Trump’s triumph is a serious nod towards fascism, and his non-committal answer when called to disavow an endorsement on national TV by the white supremacist and former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, is yet another sign that we have entered into a very dangerous period.
Fascism always comes riding a populist steam train, offering a fictitious message of prosperity, a promise to fix existing problems, a call to past greatness, and strength in the face of multiple enemies – domestic and foreign.
Yet, as soon as fascism takes hold it begins to craft the desired society by silencing critical voices, using violence against opponents, and investing in militarism for domestic repression and foreign adventures.
It will be the same, and those who carry Trump on their metaphorical shoulders, if he gets elected, will end up being carried away in security wagons as they try to protest at the betrayal of promises.
Whether Trump ends up being the nominee or, absurdly, makes it to the White House, the Republican Party is reaping the bitter harvest of the racist populism they unleashed on Obama.
The past eight years witnessed the normalisation of racist discourse using Obama’s image as a signpost, while stoking white resentment in the hope of disrupting government operations and ride it back into power.
Trump is taking the blame strategy to its ultimate conclusion by riding the racist wave, and in the process displacing the Republican establishment itself.
Racism has reared its ugly head again and is winning at the ballot box across the US: Today is the time to push back through building an anti-racist, inclusive, and broad coalition.
Hatem Bazian is co-editor and founder of the Islamophobia Studies Journal and director of the Islamophobia Research and Documentation Project, and a senior lecturer in the Departments of Near Eastern and Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.