US midterm elections: Donald Trump supporters' strange salute and growth of 'super theory' of everything racist point to fading of American dream – Henry McLeish

Watching, live on television, a Donald Trump “Save America” rally offers a spine-chilling insight into how populism works and what unrestrained nationalism could mean for America and the world.

When he referred to his political opponents as “thugs and tyrants”, his fans loved it. For 90 minutes in Youngstown, Ohio, on Saturday evening the former president reminded us of how dangerous a second term in office would be for those who value democracy and see identity politics as a brutal weapon in race, immigration, gender, religion and various other culture wars sweeping the United States.

Polling suggests Trump’s influence is waning and that watching an ‘unchained’ Trump rallying his followers could distort your sense of reality, but there is no escaping the possibility that he could run for office again, and that he could win.

In Ohio, after mercilessly attacking Biden’s record, Trump said: “May just have to do it again, keep tuned.”

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One frightening aspect happened at the end of the rally where supporters stood up to applaud Trump and raised their right arms with index finger pointing to the sky. Was this a Nazi-type salute or a reference to God or what?

In a bizarre postscript to this Save America rally, the pro-Trump TV company, which broadcast the event, had two offers for their viewers.

First, a limited edition of “Trumpy Bear”, with a “certificate of authenticity” and described as a “priceless piece of American history” costing $60. Second, there was an offer from former Republican governor of Arkansas and presidential candidate Mike Huckabee who said: “The danger that socialism poses to America is very real. That’s why I want the kids in your family to have a free kids guide to fighting socialism gift bundle, and a God Bless America video.” These adverts were absolutely serious.

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Supporters raise their right arm and finger as Donald Trump speaks at a Save America Rally to support Republican candidates running for office in Ohio (Picture: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images)

The Republicans who subscribe to Trump’s Maga (Make America Great Again and, for some, Make America Godly Again) movement are not seeking just to replace Democratic policies and ideas, many want something more.

A vicious cycle of anger has begun. Dignity is insulted. Identity intervenes and becomes a political weapon. The idea of revenge and violence may be not far behind in a country overflowing with guns and absolutism. This is the emotional backdrop to what is taking place in America.

According to the Washington Post, “Republicans in key battleground races [for governors and the Senate] refuse to say they will accept results”. This is anarchy.

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The midterm election campaign has only 50 days to run. Joe Biden raised the political temperature by using the term “semi-fascist” to describe Maga Republicans, who are now using the socialist card against the Democrats.

The US economy is a key campaign issue. But immigration is once again emerging as a poisonous and deeply divisive issue on the back of the Republican governors of Texas and Florida flying undocumented immigrants from Venezuela via border towns in the south to the home of Vice-President Kamala Harris in Washington DC and to Martha’s Vineyard, which is very white, wealthy and Democrat.

After much polling for the midterms, predictions are hardening around the Republican party regaining the House of Representatives and the Democrats only narrowly retaining control of the Senate.

Losing both would be an enormous blow to Biden, resulting in a deepening legislative crisis on Capitol Hill. The Democratic onslaught on Trump and fascism is a high-risk strategy which says more about 2024 and the next presidential campaign and less about the rapidly advancing midterms. The presidential election may be a more appropriate battleground to settle the ‘soul of America’ question and decide whether the country remains serious about its democracy.

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The economy normally takes centre stage in elections throughout the world, but the United States is not normal. So far conspiracy theories, culture wars, woke ideas and race still play an unhealthy part in US politics and elections.

Amidst the violent verbal clashes, there is another conspiracy theory gaining ground which will be the cause of further racial strife. In addition to the debate on critical race theory, the ‘great replacement theory’ is likely to gain in importance.

Originating in Europe, in particular France, and still the basis of extreme right-wing party thinking in Europe, this ‘theory’ is based on the idea that white America will become a minority in the US, with a combination of African Americans, Asians, Hispanics, and Native Americans the majority.

The statistics behind this are based on accurate assessments made by reputable private and public organisations and which confirm that this will happen before 2050. Enormous potential now exists for more white supremacy, white nationalism, and a doubling-down on white culture. Colour, race, ethnicity, and immigration are destined to play an even bigger role in the politics of an already divided country.

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There is a suggestion that a supposed ‘super theory’ of everything racist is being developed, epitomised by a call for more white babies to be born in the US. The push to abolish abortion is being linked to this theory because more white mothers have abortions than non-white women. More immigration is seen as an even bigger threat to “white” America, and some recent killings of Black Americans were apparently driven by a desire to reduce the population of non-whites.

At the heart of Trump’s America, on display at his Ohio rally, is the idea – never spoken, but often hinted at and always there – of support for a white America and a disdain for immigrants.

The American economy was built by the people who were stolen from Africa and turned into slaves, but in Trump’s vision of the future there is no place for remorse, guilt, shame, embarrassment, or empathy for non-whites, especially African Americans, who only want to be part of a fading American dream.

Henry McLeish is a former First Minister of Scotland and ex-leader of the Labour Party

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