The Growing Popularity of the Radical Right: Comparing Institutional, Societal and Historical Explanations in the United States and France

By Zak Schneider
2021, Vol. 13 No. 04 | pg. 1/1


Following the enlightenment era, a new incarnation of politics created a uniquely democratic, liberal, egalitarian structure of government in Western democracies. In recent years, there has been an erosion of these qualities in favor of alternate ideologies such as Right-Wing Populism. Fundamentally, what is the appeal of these ideologies that are diametrically opposed to liberal democracy? I argue that multiple factors are catalyzing the growth of this Right-Wing Populism worldwide. Firstly, the structural weaknesses in democratic governance itself. Secondly, contemporary societal conditions that exist in certain western democracy whether it be through globalization or deindustrialization. Finally, the historical imperial legacies omnipresent in certain societies. Through examining the United States and France, one can draw a clearer picture of how this ideology begins to grow and spread, and what the future may hold.


Beginning in the post-enlightenment era, a new generation of politics brought together a uniquely democratic, egalitarian structure of government. This new governance emerged to create new political dimensions that had not been seen before in the monarchical structures that were omnipresent in the Western world. This Left-Right Axis began to shape politics from the very onset of democratic governance. Though these political dimensions may not have encompassed the same ideological overlap in different contexts, left and right parties began to diverge over which outlook was most beneficial for society. On the left, equality, social justice, civil liberty evolve. Conversely, the right has been shaped by moral universalism, individualism, and European Exceptionalism. As these two philosophically warring counterparts tugged at each other at various points in history, the fringes of both umbrella ideologies began to develop into movements and organizations that were seen as divergent from mainstream thought.

Throughout the ebb and flow of history, these groups fluctuated power and influence over the political system. In the 21st century, a notable dearth of extreme left parties has given way to a meteoric rise of extreme Right-Wing parties all over the Western world. From the United States and France to Hungary, Poland, Germany, Italy, and Greece, all have shown significant increases in radical right vote share. Why is the radical right so much more appealing than the radical left in today’s society? Multiple factors are catalyzing the growth of this ideology worldwide, such as structural weaknesses in democratic governance, contemporary societal conditions, and the historical legacies omnipresent in certain societies. Through looking at the United States and France, analysis of right-wing movements show rapid growth in popularity due to these underlying factors, as well as current trends that impact the way people understand the world around them.

Literature Review

While there has been a plethora of literature surrounding the proliferation of Right-Wing parties and ideologies in the 21st century due to external societal factors, specific weaknesses of governmental structures of industrialized democracies are another factor that catalyzes the growth of populist Right-Wing movements. One of the most important aspects of a democracy is the ability to cultivate citizens, institutions and a public sphere that is conducive to democratic thought. (Rosenberg, 2019) Inherently, democracy requires certain prerequisite assumptions about societal arrangements. Dahl (1971) theorizes that at a fundamental level, citizens must be able to formulate coherent preferences, signify these preferences to other citizens and government structures through individual and collective action and have these preferences weighed evenly among citizens. These fundamental citizenship skills are contrary to far-right populism that has weaved its way into society. The radical right thrives on divvying up the populace into different groups, and is disinterested in debating the merits of their relative position in society and dividing resources equitably. Through a self interested lens, they are fundamentally contradicting Dahl’s classifications. (Charalambous, 2019) Though these democratic values are not inherently partisan, it is clear that the most intense ideological challenge to this hegemonic governing philosophy in the Western world has come from the extreme-right. To understand how radical parties can proliferate under such universal democratic norms, one has to examine the individual.

Uniquely in democracies, the citizen has immense power to shape the system to their interpretation of the world; however, citizens’ interpretation of the world could be lacking important prerequisites. Democracy is fundamentally difficult; it demands participants to respect those on the opposite side of the political spectrum and evaluate complex information in the context of an obtuse web of institutional frameworks. Democratic elites, using their civic awareness and gatekeeping power, have been able to successfully maneuver the expansive responsibilities of self-rule for hundreds of years.1 (Rosenberg, 2019) However, this democratic elite has been losing control of these valuable institutions to competing ideologies that offer simple solutions, often in the form of authoritarian or populist action.

This breakdown, as Rosenberg describes, is due to “incompetent” democratic citizens who “lack the requisite cognitive and emotional capacities to assimilate its cultural definitions and norms, to function in its institutional organizations and to participate in its public sphere.” Rosenberg is not the only one with this observation about individual citizens. In a similar but less explicit categorization of the modern American psyche, Greven (2016) describes Right-Wing populisms’ appeal in the United States along a similar construction. Promises for easy solutions to intricate and multi-faceted dilemmas without the need for compromise or negotiation that are only workable in a “fantasy world.” Greven continues by pointing out that this “fantasy world” is highly appealing to a “disaffected section of the American public” against a “supposedly hegemonic political correctness.” (Greven, 2016) Greven does draw similarities in his connotation of a “disaffected public” but his theory is more nuanced about this democratic consciousness in society being only limited to a certain subset, rather than inherent in humans as a whole. Prooijen (2019) suggests that extreme actors in society view the social world in a simplistic binary, when in fact it is much more complex.

This mirrors the “incompetent citizen” and creation of a “fantasy world” described by Greven and Rosenberg. These views illustrate a particular pattern that is appearing in the United States and Europe that values simplistic systems of thought being constructed in the place of complex democratic ideals.2 The breakdown of this democratic society has left a void that has increasingly been filled with right-wing populists who, conversely to democratic citizens, don't possess the ability or will to do the diligent work that democracy requires. These citizens are asked to comprehend that what holds them together is not their shared objective attributes but rather their legal definition and integration into an intricate system of societal and governmental relationships. (Rosenberg, 2019) Due to the failure in the implementation and fostering of these civic values over the last 40 years in our education systems, (Quigley, 1998) we live with citizens who are unable to interact with the system properly, and inevitably, they will turn toward more radical right figures who make issues more “readily comprehensible, morally sensible and personally satisfying.” (Rosenberg, 2019) This idea that democracy is unnatural and humans will inevitably resist democratic values leaves the more personally fulfilling ideologies like Right-Wing populism to proliferate in democratic societies.

In addition to Rosenberg’s examination of the structural weaknesses in democracy and its vulnerability to Right-Wing Populist appeals, current economic and social situations lead Right-Wing parties to have further appeal in developed Western countries in the 21st century. Trends clearly show increases in immigration in the United States (Nunn, 2018) and France. (The Local, 2019) Moreover, there is a significant increase in the interconnectedness of modern societies (globalization). (Ghemawat, 2019) These factors trigger societal reactions that lead to an increase in Right-Wing support. In an analysis by Hogan (2015), it is posited that external factors such as immigration and increasing globalization are some of the most salient issues that the far-right use to gain power and legitimacy. The demonization of “freeloaders” and “parasites” in society sets up an “us vs them” populist message. (Müller, 2017. Hogan, 2015) This understanding lets these populist leaders delegitimize political opponents who side with the given “other” in the society. Aligning with Hogan’s demonization of external factors like immigration and globalization, Shmuck (2017) argues that a combination of anti-neoliberal globalization and anti-cultural diversity allows Right-Wing populist parties to make simple moral judgments in line with an imagined socio-cultural hierarchy, that is perceived to be under threat. These symbolic threats about the “loss of Western civilization” (Smith, 2018) are far more salient than perceived economic threats that have been the backbone of moderate parties of both dimensions. (Shmuck, 2017)

To participate in mainstream politics, these radical right groups do not want to be considered racist or exclusionist outright. Instead, they cloak their exclusionist policies under the guise of “freedom, security, democracy and heritage.” (Hogan, 2015) This guise makes far-right groups able to engage in mainstream politics, even while sending a dog whistle to their white constituents that the selected outgroup will be combated. This allows them to garner more support and continue making electoral gains. From a psychological standpoint, especially among people on the political right, socio-cultural fear can lead to a growing salience of extreme political ideologies. (Prooijen 2015) Often, this fear of the outgroup represents immigrants or elites who are perceived to threaten the base of the populist right (working-class whites). (Heiss, 2019) This notion of the “other” is vital to the success of these Right-Wing populist movements. Through identifying the “enemies” in a polity and attributing any ill in the community to them, extreme-right groups can raise the political saliency of these societal conditions to mobilize support for their cause. This process is how Right-Wing groups can galvanize support out of external societal factors like immigration or globalization.

In addition to the democratic and contemporary societal explanation for the radical right, another reason for its prevalence in society today is the unique historical context that most Western nations sit in today. Former colonial powers (like France) or racially hierarchical societies (like the United States) in the West leave a lasting residue in the fabric of society that is difficult to fully scrub from today’s psyche. Veugelers (2020) argues that the relationship between the colonizers and the colonized create a legacy that contributes to support of the far-right in France. Using the former French territory Algeria, Veugelers touches upon a palpable reverence for the “old world” among the former colonizers who now make up a consistent coalition in far-right parties. Values like nativism, nationalism, and xenophobia accompany a sense of frustration with France’s historical decline. (Veugelers, 2020) This amorphous subtext that Veugelers identifies can be viewed through the lens of certain historically privileged members of society as a sensation of relative loss in social standing. This can be damaging because it can distort how an individual engages with democratic politics if relative social standing in society is misjudged. This could further lead to erroneous assumptions made about outgroup members, in which Right-Wing populists parties thrive. However, these feelings alone do not garner enough support for far-right parties; Veugelers posits that under certain conditions of voluntary self-isolation in a subculture of homogenous like-minded individuals, these historical attitudes breed supercharged identities that support Right-Wing parties more routinely.

Drawing a parallel to Veugelers’ Southern French constituencies, the party migration of Conservative Southern white Democrats to Republicans offers similar outcomes. A new analysis by Kuziemko (2018), it was found that after the mid 20th-century Democratic-led Civil Rights legislation in the United States, revvance for a traditional racial caste system, proved even more important than economic interests, lead them to migrate to the Republican party. (Kuziemko, 2018) Moreover, these racially conservative views accounted for virtually all of the Democratic voter loss in the former slave-owning regions during that period. (Kuziemko, 2018) This shows a distinct pattern of admiration of previous social hierarchie[1]s similar to the ones Veugelers pointed out in Southern France. Due to the contemporary demographics of the United States, this white Southern coalition is the base of the radical right parties today. This furthers the theory that reverence for unequal racial or ethnic hierarchies of the past is at least one determining factor of support for the radical right.

These three theories, explaining some of the conditions that make the radical right popular today, interact with each other in important ways. Specifically, the connection between Rosenberg’s paper that outlines a need for a civically educated elite to maintain a democratic “liberal” system and the modern aspects of ingrained ethno-racial superiority brought on by changes in modern society that are present in some citizens. Attempting to understand why people seek out these views about immigration or historical legacies comes back to the inability of certain citizens to properly identify their position in society comprehensibly, which is a fundamental requirement of liberal democracies. (Rosenberg, 2019) This dislike of the outsider could be deeper than just animosity toward other races and nationalities--rather it could be a new electoral expression of whites’ relative loss of power through colonization or racial constructions collectively.3 This new expression could lead to dangerous effects in the political realm like appeal to more ideologically extreme parties or the erosion of democracy itself. These specific economic and social conditions together, coupled with the analysis of the “incompetent citizen,” create a nuanced framework for understanding Right-Wing radical appeals and why they are thriving in today’s political climate.

Case Study: France

In French Society, the National Front (FN) (later amended to the National Rally, NR) party has dominated the radical populist right for decades in France. After its formation in the early 1970s that was shrouded in neo-nazi rhetoric, the party slowly moderated to have relatively significant electoral success. (Bénard, 2017) As the National Front became more organized in the 1990s, a more coherent, nuanced nationalistic message began to trump some of the more outright racial supremacy. This trend was emphasized as Marine Le Pen took over her father’s (Jean-Marie Le Pen) role as leader of the party to appeal to a more mainstream message without some of the explicit anti-semitc and racist tendencies of her father. (Bénard, 2017) Marine Le Pen additionally sharpened the economic message of the NR during this time. This inevitably leads to more mainstream electoral success. Unlike the American far-right, (Cox, 2014) the National Front Party was not birthed with dogmatic economic policy so it had to rely more on cultural and social issues to gain traction in the political sphere. This movement created a base that was deeply connected both through ethnicity and social identity to mobilize a strong coalition that culminated in a close defeat in France’s runoff election to centrist Emmanual Macron. (Aisch, 2017)

One of the most important political explanations for the rise of this group in France is Veugelers’ observed reverence for colonial times. In an analysis by a French newspaper, Jean-Marie-Le Pen, the former leader of the National Front Party, built up a significant coalition of support in the Southern Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (PACA) region. Uniquely to other regions in France, the PACA was populated by a lot of former French-Algerian settlers who returned from a polarizing and comprehensive loss in Algeria in the 1960s and 70s. (The Local, 2017) Similarly to his coalition of supporters, Jean-Marie-Le Pen himself was a former fighter in the Algerian war on the side of the colonial French power. The support among those who fought in the Algerian War is a strong indicator of popular Right-Wing support due to their yearning for an antiquated era of French colonialism. (Veugelers, 2020) More specifically, these disenchanted voters and Le Pen himself yearned for the reinstatement of French nationalism by colonial means. This perverted colonial social structure stuck with many of those who returned home from the war and shapes the outlook and policies of far-right parties in France to this day. (Cook, 2017)

Digging deeper into the mentality of these citizens, a clear list of grievances with present-day society emerges. The author Christophe Guilluy conducted a geographical study entitled “The Peripheral France.” (Vinocur, 2014) In this analysis of contemporary socio-economic conditions in France, one of the notable findings is an appeal for certain citizens to take their country back and relive France’s previous glory. Guilluy describes the sentiments of these French citizens subjected to the “vast, hidden, forgotten part of the country.” (Vinocur, 2014) This notion of “forgottenness” is adopted by many Right-Wing parties. (Cowie, 2016) And this appeal is important because it galvanizes support for a populist leader who will fight for the “forgotten man” or the “real people” in society. Guilluy goes further; he contends that those people not feel forgotten but they feel vulnerable because, in their view, the country has divested from them economically and socially compared to prior decades. Using the salient issues like immigration or globalization, far-right parties can garner support from these frustrated individuals using these societal conditions that are present to mask blatant sentiments of xenophobia and nativism. They figuratively wrap themselves in a unitary French identity, while calling outsiders “freeloaders” and “criminals.” (Whitney, 1997) This coincides with Hogan’s analysis that points out how Right-Wing parties pull together a politically salient mix of nostalgia and xenophobia that makes Right-Wing nationalist parties in France powerful among certain circumstances in certain constituencies.

Unlike mainstream neo-liberal left or right parties who are seen by some in France as the architects of native French peoples’ decline, (Vinocur, 2014) Right-Wing movements are able to pick up where traditional parties are weak. Inevitably, this call to a “prior France” is symbolizing a frustration with changing race demographics and economic patterns that have left more rural parts of the country behind. This unique messaging compared to mainstream parties gives voters another option. The idea that certain members of the French population feel “forgotten” is similarly important because, inherently, this implies a return to a more racially, ethnically, and politically homogeneous time. Mainstream parties consciously ignore these claims, and some people feel that the only way to electorally make themselves heard is to “blow up” the system that keeps undermining them. These sentiments are echoed almost verbatim in far-right politics all around the world. In the United States, Trump mirrors Le Pen’s empowering populist language by tweeting “The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer.” (Trump, 2017) When examined closely, these populist appeals raise legitimate anxieties felt in certain populations who feel that the system is not working for them. However, these citizens--by backing these extreme parties--are getting wrapped up in rhetoric that can fundamentally break down the liberal democratic tradition that has made their country so powerful in the first place and has progressed society forward.

To appeal to these disillusioned (PACA region) voters who believe the colonial hierarchies in France was more attractive, the National Rally must stick to stringent definitions of who is considered “French.” Marine Le Pen’s vision for France includes ending birthright citizenship and making this citizenship based on hereditary rather than geography. (Vinocur, 2017) The National Rally also extends these sentiments into more blatant discrimination of foreigners through the targeting of Muslim people directly. Whether this comes in the form of a Mayor urging schools to serve Pork in their cafeterias (McAuley, 2018) or stopping the construction of a new mosque, (Fieschi, 2020) this more ideological, partisan center of the movement lurking just beneath the surface.

When all of these economic and social anxieties are omnipresent in an advanced Western nation like France, Rosenberg’s hypothesis about how democracy itself gives way to Right-Wing populism is evident in tangible political changes. In his work, Rosenberg notes of the Right-Wing populist citizen (like the constituents in Le Pen’s party): they do not want a democracy of diverse citizenry, and interconnected relationship in the continent nor do they have the capacity or will to deeply engage with complex institutions that have to deal with the will of their ideological enemies. These citizens feel like the European Union and liberal city centers have sapped from them their “rightful” stake in French society and they turn sharply to someone with more simplistic radical ideas to break down the system. Emmanual Macron, Le Pen’s victorious centrist opponent in the national elections of 2017, echoed this tone in a comment to Le Pen: “I respect all of your voters because they are angry and disheartened….but you don't have any answers, you manipulate their anger.” (France 24, 2017) As Macron rightly points out, National Rally constituents feel fed up with a system that is not working for them individually. Unfortunately, democracy fundamentally requires citizens not to think as individuals, but as groups put other people’s needs before themselves. Radical Right-Wing parties fight these values, and in the case of France, are actively trying to break down inclusive democratic culture in favor of policy-driven strictly by self-interest politics.

Case Study: United States

In the United States, similar to France, there has been significant growth in radical right ideology. However, this ideology has become the mainstream to a greater extent compared to European politics. This is primarily because the United States has a two-party system, so each major party must act as a catchall for a wide range of different issues. This has coupled with other factors that make major governing coalitions more susceptible to shifts in political culture, unlike other multi party-systems. (Greven, 2016) Where in France, Le Pen’s National Rally Party only made up roughly third of the voting base, the United States is split almost evenly between Democrat and Republican. This, coupled with extreme ideological sorting makes partisan identification powerful. (McCarty, 2019) This means that any salient ideology on either side of the political spectrum can be expressed in a major governing party if public support is strong enough. This exact process occurred in 2009, following Obama’s election.

Figure 1

Unique to other Liberal Democracies, the United States has one of the most extreme major governing parties. This trend, driven by the asymmetric polarization of the Right, has produced historic conditions of ideological consistency and affective polarization which have further radicalized and entrenched the views of both parties. (Greven, 2016. McCarty, 2019) This has only served to further elevate and legitimize far-right mainstream government in a two-party system. Today, according to an analysis from the Manifesto Project, the American Conservative party (Republicans) is farther to the right ideologically than its French counterparts. (Chinoy, 2019) To illustrate the extremism compared to parties in Europe, today’s Republican Party is equidistant from the National Rally Party (center right) and the Alternative for Germany (AfD) which is considered a neo-Nazi Party by some observers. (Aderet, 2018) (Graph of Right-wing parties on left-right continuum, pictured above)4 These underlying institutional factors and electoral conditions (like sorting and polarization) are vital to understand the rise of the radical right because Trump was able to easily push aside the biggest threat to his ideology: the moderate establishment inner-party members. Through having a relatively favorable opportunity structure (Edwards, 2018) in government, this allowed Trump and his coalition to overtake the previously dominant establishment wing of the Republican party. This, coupled with weaknesses in democracy and historical legacies and social grievances pave the way for successful Right-Wing populist leaders like Donald Trump to build a massive coalition to win the White House.

The mechanics of this rise of the extreme-right in the US can be attributed to similar factors as in France, however, there are notable changes in the formation and ideology of these extreme parties. Widely accredited with catalyzing the first far-right agenda in the United States (the Tea Party) CNBC reporter Rick Santelli described how the country was a ‘tinderbox’ and ‘I lit the fuse’ to catalyze the American far right movement. “This is America!” Santelli remarked. “How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor's mortgages [when they have] an extra bathroom and can't pay their bills?” (Perlberg, 2014) This modestly conservative economic sentiment morphed into a strikingly popular political message that appealed to neo-nazis and centrists alike and took over the Republican party. Over time, this message morphed from a strictly fiscal message to a populist message that lambasted immigrants, stoked nationalism, and lamented social hierarchies of the past all wrapped in a radical right message that “our country is slipping away. ( This paved the way for leaders like Trump to proclaim that he alone could fix the problem, and offer the classic simple solutions that are commonplace in radical Right-Wing ideology.

Understanding this mindset and motivation has proved difficult due to the large ideological variation among the Republican party, (Bacon, 2019) however, similarly to France, one of the key issues that galvanize support for radical right parties is the dislike of outsiders. Hogan’s (2015) Right-Wing populist “playbook” is still applicable in the context of American society. By constructing a threatening view of immigrants and other outsiders, white constituencies are made to seem under threat. Working against this “threat” through ideological frameworks, however, is more implicit in the United States than in France. Hocrschild (2012), uncovered the psyche of these individuals as feeling their way of life is jeopardized by the modern, globalized world. Using an analogy of waiting in line, she speaks from the perspective of those on the Right: “Look! You see people cutting in line ahead of you! You’re following the rules. They aren’t. As they cut in, it feels like you are being moved back.” (Hocrschild, 2012) This conceptualization invokes an almost identical sentiment to those certain French people after the Algerian war, a palpable loss of social position. Similar to the analysis in Guilluy’s “Peripheral France,” these people feel forgotten and lost in modern politics, which leads them to support radical parties. And this feeling of forgottenness and loss of social position is not merely theoretical, similar to institutions in colonial France, the United States has had explicit forms of social hierarchies that have slowly been dismantled over the past five decades.

Similar to Veugelers’ observations about French settlers returning from post-colonial lands, lamenting past social structures is a precursor to joining the radical right; and this notion is further confirmed by the American case as well. In the U.S. it wasn't colonial dominance like the French, but rather a white slave-owning class (or just poor non-slave owning whites) that felt padded by their superiority in the system. Compared to antebellum times, these white constituencies have felt a relative loss in society. Expounding upon Hocrschild’s categorizations of the “line cutters,” these individuals, just like the French, felt like their country was divesting from them in favor of multiculturalism and globalization.5 In a profile on Americans who waved the Confederate flag, a traitorous symbol of slavery, a similar theme of reverence for a different time was noticeable. A consistent sentiment of poverty and a symbol of loss in class in society was documented: “What it boils down to is black people are just trying to overrule us.” He went further, “If we can’t get white people to stand together, it’s going to be another civil war.” (Ladd, 2018) Though the sharpness of these statements varies in different conservative groups, the general sentiment of longing for the old societal order is almost always present in some form in the radical right’s rhetoric. These groups play to this statement by promising to “Make America Great Again,” implying that we need to bring America back to an inevitably whiter, homogenous society. As far-right groups construct this subjective portrait of history, these calls to bring back society to its “European Christian Culture” is simply a pseudonym for ethno-racial homogeneity. (Alt Right: Age of Rage, 2018)

However, even the radical nature of the extreme-right in the U.S. has to moderate its racial message to appeal to a broader audience. They have done this by using calls to “put America first” (America First Policies, 2020) by crafting a “racialized message of deservingness.”6 (Sides, 2019) This welfare chauvinism is a substantial part of the appeal to radical right parties. These views are reactive to societal factors and are finding a way to slice the pie in the most advantageous way for his swath of the American populace. This messaging proved quite effective, coalescing around the simple, easily digestible, personally satisfying message to conservative-minded voters. Importantly, this messaging is even more effective because populists insist they are the only ones who represent “the real people” so anyone infringing on their view of how society should look to them is threatening to their grip on power. (Müller, 2020) This sentiment threatens the very foundation of democracy by de-legitimizing the opposition, breaking core norms of governance. (Levitsky & Ziblatt, 2018) Coupled with trends of an extremely divided and ideologically sorted public, (McCarty, 2019) Right-Wing populist parties--like the Republican party--catapulted to power. At its core, the party used the emotional appeal of divisive politics and produced a more popular message among white constituencies than the traditional left-wing party in the United States.

Once again, drawing similarities to France, and expounding off of analysis done by Rosenberg, it is clear that these radical populist ideologies present the world in a system of simple binaries of good and bad. These distorted categorizations undermine democratic culture which in turn lets Right-Wing populist ideas fill the void of angst and uncertainty among a population. Making sense of the Republican party’s efforts to build a wall on the southern border to supposedly curb immigration, (Crossley, 2019) or pull out of a historic multilateral climate change agreement because it didn't “put America first,” (Vitali, 2017) is only possible through the lens of the Right-Wing populist individual. The particular policies appealed to these individuals because they expunged the perceived “bad guy” (immigrants and elites respectively) in society without regard for other complex implications. This can be aligned with Rosenberg’s argument that these individuals lack the ability to critically synthesize information beyond self-interest, in a governing structure that requires citizens to do so. These previously lost and confused citizens jump to an ideological understanding that does not require conceptual comprehension of complex institutions, but rather simple, and satisfying ideas that affirm their misguided, preconceived notions about the world that offer supposedly simple definitions of what is true and right. (Rosenberg, 2019)


Both in France and the United States, these radical right groups have latched on to a salient political message demonizing the outgroup in society. Whether the outgroup is immigrants, the poor, or globalists, these Right-Wing parties can latch on to this distinctly populist rhetoric and further validate their world view. This could be due to Rosenberg’s incompetent democratic citizen that lacks the capacity to properly participate in complex democratic institutions. Or, it could also be partly due to the threat of multiculturalism and interconnectedness that is perceived to damage an imagined cohesive polity noted by Hogan. And it could even be due to Veugelers’ observed reverence of historical social structures, that carries an antiquated view of membership and equality in society. Through a combination of the theories listed above and countless other factors, the rise of these ideological styles in the world today demonstrates the inherent appeal of the radical right among a certain demographics. The trend of the 21st century has been marked by democratic decline and a rise in authoritarian Right-Wing leaders all over the world defined by misinformation, revisionist history, xenophobia, and racism. Centrally, Right-Wing populist parties reject the notion of Democracy for all once they have to actually practice what this entails. These potent ideologies have all merged to create a strong backlash to the hegemonic neoliberal doctrines that have ruled over society since the end of World War II. A brewing cultural war, lead by Right-Wing populists, on political correctness, egalitarianism, and metropolitanism, threatens the very foundation of tolerant interconnected societies. And more grimly, a political war could be on the horizon that threatens the very nature of democratic governance itself. However, the constituencies who make up these Right-Wing parties are not acting irrationally, and to fight these trends the world must listen to their legitimate economic and social anxieties--not ignore them. We must build competent citizens, and address systemic inequalities while embracing natural changes in society. To get to this place of shared understanding of values, our political world must diverge from the current, dangerous, path we find ourselves on and embrace a new direction for the future.


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1.) This is not to suggest that a conservative cannot be a democratic elite. It is just that Right-Wing ideology is more vulnerable to be radicalized and taken over by populism recently.

2.) Additionally, while both the extreme left and right have been responsible for this decline in democratic thought, the right-wing coalition is much more effective and organized today’s societies. (

3.) The demographics of radical Right-Wing movements across the world are overwhelmingly white. (

4.) Picture caption: “What Happened To America’s Center of Gravity?” Retrieved from: (Chinoy, 2019)

5.) These trends are not inherently wicked, or wrong, as some on the right would point out, rather they are simply a product of modern society.

6.) This racialized message of deservingness can be seen in the Tea Party and current Republican party’s willingness to support entitlements, (like Social Security) but only to those who have “earned it;” or more aptly, their base of older white Americans. On the same token, they clearly discourage other handouts and entitlements for those they deem “unworthy” such as immigrants or poor people. (

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