Violence as a Political Promise

Donald Trump

Editor’s Note: this is a contributor piece from Andrew Warfield. You can find him on Twitter. I encourage you to follow him.

Politicians are at it again; inspiring anger at a scapegoat demographic for political gain. Bernie blames rich people, Donald blames foreigners and immigrants. They’re both chips off the old block, taught from the same handbook and playing the same game.

The game of hate. The game of punishing one group to elevate another.

You can see the same game being played in Philippines and Austria. Rodrigo Duterte and the Austrian Freedom Party play the game of political scapegoating, stoking the fires of hate for their political benefit.

Duterte has made a political career out of rallying against the rule of law. He has called for it to be usurped by urging the public to kill drug dealers and has been tied to groups that perform extrajudicial killings of criminals. He’s gone as far to say that he would kill his own children if they used drugs. It’s clear where he thinks society’s problems originate.

The Austrian Freedom Party is much less vulgar yet cultivates the same type of scapegoating and tribalist tendencies as similar groups. The Freedom Party, founded by a former SS officer, has historically been focused on the preservation of Austrian national identity with a prime tenet being immigration restrictions, particularly on Muslim immigration. Though this party lacks the vulgar exterior of other far right groups, they are still fueled by the same identity politics.

The Austrian Freedom Party, Donald Trump and Rodrigo Duterte all have one thing in common.

They use Fear. They create an Us vs. Them narrative tailored to a certain demographic of the population that is easy to relate to because of common characteristics or experiences. By blaming immigrants or criminals for a nation’s problems they create an underdog crusade against what is perceived to be corrupt establishment powers that supposedly allowed it to happen.

You would think that people would be wise to this kind of tribalistic pandering after being exploited this way for so long. However, tribalism and identity politics continue as one of the most effective methods of gaining political power due to this fear mongering.

It’s time to stop.

It’s time to stop right-wing strong men like Trump and Duterte from controlling national dialogues on immigration and criminal justice. It’s time to end the control left-wing ideologues like Sanders have over national dialogues on tax policy. It’s time to take hate and collective blame out of the national dialogue.

It’s time to throw out the idea that groups need to be punished for the crimes of individuals.

This type of tribalism is so old, so embedded into human thinking that I don’t think it will ever be sufficiently mitigated through individual consciousness raising. However, there is one thing that can still be done.

Limit the state.

Don’t give these politicians the option to make these promises. Don’t give right-wing strongmen the ability to deport 11M human beings and don’t give left-wing ideologues the ability to promise the punishment of certain demographics with higher taxes.
Allowing strong men and ideologues to control the national dialogue is easy. But doing the right thing isn’t always easy.

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