Opinion: The far right became a little more fascist this week. Did you notice?
Good morning. I’m Paul Thornton, and it is Saturday, Aug. 7, 2021. Let’s take a look back at the week in Opinion.
You might have missed it, with Donald Trump still occupying the cranial space we devote to thinking about the Republican Party. I never bought the argument that every self-aggrandizing tweet and bigoted blurt was the product of careful political calculation meant to distract us from what’s really going on, since simple explanations tend to be closer to the truth than more elaborate ones. But this week, I do believe two deeply disturbing events on the right went largely unnoticed thanks to the consensus on the left that the GOP is a Trump personality cult.
One person who did notice and promptly sounded the alarm on Twitter was our own columnist Jean Guerrero. At an event for young conservatives this week, Stephen Miller, considered the architect of Trump’s immigration policies, drew raucous applause after bragging about preventing refugees from coming to the U.S. and casting immigration as a critical threat to the character of this country. Miller’s remarks were an object lesson in the intellectual cover the right gives to white nationalism, and his audience of future Republican leaders had an opportunity to reject a vision fundamentally at odds with America’s idea of itself (and not long ago, at odds with the GOP’s idea of itself too). But when Miller took off the mask and exposed the cruelty and racism that motivated Trump administration immigration policies, his audience cheered.
“This is the future of the Republican Party,” tweeted Guerrero, who has also written about Miller’s days as a high school student in Santa Monica and his “well-documented plan to make America white.”
The other development was a little more, shall we say, on the nose: This week, Fox News star Tucker Carlson hosted his show from Budapest, Hungary, where authoritarian leader Viktor Orban has decimated press freedom, consolidated his influence over public universities and cemented a semi-permanent governing majority through electoral subterfuge (which should remind us of an anti-democratic political movement a little closer to home). Any reasonable commentator or reporter (and there was a time when Carlson was that) would take this as an opportunity to press the autocrat over his flagrant illiberalism, if only as a professional courtesy to Hungary’s beleaguered journalists.
But no. This is what Carlson said when he began his week in Budapest, in the stark language favored by would-be tyrants in search of an enemy: “If you care about Western civilization and democracy and families, and the ferocious assault on all three of those things by the leaders of our global institutions, you should know what is happening here right now.” Carlson wasn’t holding Hungary up as a cautionary tale for the United States, but rather as what the right could achieve if it subdued the left.
It’s tempting to dismiss the remarks of a white nationalist and a Fox News commentator as too far outside the mainstream to take seriously; doing so might even be fashionable among journalists loath to appear excitable. But Miller and Carlson are extraordinarily consequential figures on the right — Miller gloms onto whichever person happens to be the most prominent racist policymaker at the moment (he was with then-Sen. Jeff Sessions before Trump), and Carlson hosts the most-watched show on cable news. Taken together, these events present a frightening picture of what the ascendant far right wants for this country. Don’t say you weren’t warned.
Biden shouldn’t let right-wing Cuban Americans drown out Cuban voices. When she’s not sounding the alarm over white nationalists in the United States, Guerrero keeps a keen eye on immigration policy and politics in Latin America. This week, she warns President Biden not to take his cues on U.S. economic policies toward the Caribbean nation — made more punitive by the Trump administration — from the relatively well-off, mostly white Cuban Americans descended from wealthy emigres who left before the communist revolution. L.A. Times
He ended up in the eye of Hurricane Delta Outbreak. LZ Granderson was supposed to live out his “hot vax summer” on Cape Cod in Provincetown, Mass., where about 60,000 people — many of them gay men — retreated on the Fourth of July weekend to celebrate “after a year and a half of being alive but not feeling alive.” He and his friends were vaccinated, followed all the public guidelines and felt they were safe. But many of them, along with hundreds of others in Provincetown, came down with COVID-19 infections, prompting Granderson to warn, “The danger is real, and at this moment it’s also really simple to minimize: Get vaccinated. Wear a mask. Stay tuned for further guidance as opposed to browsing conspiracy theories online.” L.A. Times
Los Angeles flirted with wildfire devastation this week. When the Antonio Fire flared up near Mt. Baldy Tuesday, I tweeted about it and preemptively started the grieving process, as local hikers tend to do when we see dark smoke rise over the San Gabriel Mountains. But firefighters contained the blaze to about 50 acres, preventing a recurrence of last summer’s devastation. Other areas of California haven’t been so lucky. With the powerline-linked Dixie Fire ravaging forests in the far north of the state, the San Jose Mercury News editorial board calls on Sacramento to begin taking over the troubled utility Pacific Gas and Electric, echoing a call made by The Times Editorial board in 2019.
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The teachers union’s opinion on the Middle East is neither needed nor wanted. If there’s a connection between a group that exists to bargain on behalf of public school teachers in Los Angeles and the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians, The Times Editorial Board doesn’t see it. United Teachers Los Angeles is in an uproar over a resolution supporting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which will go before the union’s governing body for a vote in September. The editorial board’s advice: Reject the resolution (and it has nothing to do with the merits or faults of the BDS movement itself). L.A. Times
East Los Angeles’ bid for independence could succeed this time — not cityhood for the unincorporated, 7.5 square-mile community, but rather a “special district” designation that would allow residents to elect a board of trustees. But don’t expect the quest for liberation to end there. “East Los Angeles has long been the neglected stepchild of urban development in Southern California,” writes UCLA professor Eric Avila. “Its list of grievances is lengthy, and if history is any guide, it will continue to push for cityhood until its long-standing dream of independence is realized.” L.A. Times
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