Donald Trump taps into anti-immigrant malaise afflicting even Canada: Walkom

December 8, 2015

By Thomas Malkom, The Star |

Canadians seem astonished by the rise of Donald Trump, the front-running contender for America’s Republican presidential nomination. They shouldn’t be.

Trump is not just a self-aggrandizing buffoon. He is also a shrewd operator who has tapped into a dark malaise that afflicts much of the Western world — including Canada.

That malaise expresses itself through fear and insecurity. When Trump calls for a ban on Muslim immigration and a wall along the Mexican border, he is playing to the same fears that France’s National Front leader, Marine Le Pen, exploits overseas.

When Trump urges his supporters to physically eject hecklers from his rally, he is echoing the tactics of Greece’s Golden Dawn, an openly racist party that uses Nazi-like symbols.

All of that might be of limited interest except for this: The anti-immigrant right is doing unusually well in the West.

Le Pen’s National Front used to be dismissed as a party of the lunatic fringe. This week, it scored first in the preliminary round of French regional elections. Analysts say Le Pen could win France’s 2017 presidential election.

Greece’s Golden Dawn may appeal to only a minority now. But it is still the third-largest party in that country’s parliament.

In Hungary, the success of the anti-immigrant far right has pushed the country’s mainstream conservative government to build a razor-wire fence along the border. In Denmark, the anti-immigrant Danish People’s Party is part of the governing coalition. In Sweden, the far-right Sweden Democrats, now the country’s third-ranking party, are forging ahead in the polls.

The roots of this xenophobia are deep and may lie in the pathological side of human nature. The proximate causes, however, are easier to see.

Both Europe and North America are in economic crisis. Unemployment is up. In many countries, wages are stagnant.

The resulting unease has been amplified exponentially by the decision of Muslim factions fighting in the Middle East and South Asia to export their terror tactics to the developed world.

But the economic crisis remains at the core. European countries dealt with it by slashing public spending – which made matters only worse.

Canadian and U.S. governments did more to shelter displaced workers from the ravages of recession and stagnation. But not enough.

For a while, Canada was protected by its high-flying oil industry. The U.S. was not. In that country, the new populism spawned by crisis initially found expression through the resolutely anti-government Tea Party.

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