The will of the people is currently invoked in both the UK and the US. But only 17 million people (32% of the population) actively voted for Brexit. Trump’s following is a minority of the US population, and heavily skewed on racial, class and gender lines.
As history shows, “the will of the people” comes easily to the lips of those with an anti-democratic agenda. As Adorno and colleagues in the Frankfurt School argued after the rise of Nazism, the simple remedies of Fascism have a particular appeal to those who lack power. Michael Rosen conveys ironically the apparently benign aspect of fascism:
Fascism arrives as your friend.
It will restore your honour,
make you feel proud,
protect your house,
give you a job,
clean up the neighbourhood,
remind you of how great you once were,
clear out the venal and the corrupt,
remove anything you feel is unlike you…
But fascism taps into eternal tribalism and hatred. As Adam Gopnik says, the rise of Donald Trump is not merely a “people’s war” or a movement of the dispossessed. Trump has no sympathy for the dispossessed. In his presidential candidacy announcement, Trump announced: “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best…. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” As Henry Giroux argues, Trump’s endless racist, hate-filled and misogynistic remarks are viewed by the mainstream media as indiscrete and colourful rather than as symptomatic of the tribal resentment and hostility on which he relies in his bid for power.
Max Joseph writes:
Trump’s hate-filled rhetoric, blatant chauvinism, mean bullying, and open admiration of authoritarian rulers are more than just hints of what’s to come if he is elected … I have become obsessed with opposing Trump because, throughout my short-ish life, I’ve asked myself why no one stopped Hitler on his way up.
“Our programme means militias, mass imprisonments, transportations, war and persecution.”
The sovereignty of a democratic parliament and the rule of law are bulwarks against an unthinkable future.