Heather Cox Richardson
It seems that former president Donald Trump is aligning his supporters with a global far-right movement to destroy democracy.
On Saturday, in Durham, New Hampshire, Trump echoed Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s attacks on immigrants, saying they are “poisoning the blood of our country”—although two of his three wives were immigrants—and quoted Russian president Vladimir Putin’s attacks on American democracy. Trump went on to praise North Korean autocratic leader Kim Jong Un and align himself with Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, the darling of the American right wing, who has destroyed Hungary’s democracy and replaced it with a dictatorship.
Trump called Orbán “the man who can save the Western world.”
Dr. Sarah Riccardi-Swartz, a professor of religion and anthropology at Northeastern University, explained in The Conversation what Trump is talking about. Autocrats like Orbán and Putin—and budding autocrats like Trump—are building a global movement by fighting back against the expansion of rights to women, minorities, and LGBTQ+ people.
Russian leaders have been cracking down on LGBTQ+ rights for a decade with the help of the Russian Orthodox Church, claiming that they are protecting “traditional values.” This vision of heteronormativity rewrites the real history of human sexuality, but it is powerful in this moment. Orbán insists that immigrants ruin the purity of a country, and has undermined women’s rights.
Riccardi-Swartz explains that this rhetoric appeals to those in far-right movements around the world. In the United States, “family values” became tied to patriotism after World War II, when Chinese and Soviet communists appeared to be erasing traditional gender roles. Those people defined as anti-family—LGBTQ+ people and women who challenged patriarchy—seemed to be undermining society. Now, as dictators like Putin and Orbán promise to take away LGBTQ+ rights, hurt immigrants, and return power to white men, they seem to many to be protecting traditional society.
In the United States, that undercurrent has created a movement of people who are willing to overthrow democracy if it means reinforcing their traditional vision. Christian nationalists believe that the secular values of democracy are destroying Christianity and traditional values. They want to get rid of LGBTQ+ rights, feminism, immigration, and the public schools they believe teach such values. And if that means handing power to a dictator who promises to restore their vision of a traditional society, they’re in.
It is an astonishing rejection of everything the United States has always stood for.
The White House today responded to Trump’s speech. White House deputy press secretary Andrew Bates said: “Echoing the grotesque rhetoric of fascists and violent white supremacists and threatening to oppress those who disagree with the government are dangerous attacks on the dignity and rights of all Americans, on our democracy, and on public safety…. It’s the opposite of everything we stand for as Americans.”