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The Negan Syndrome

Photo Source NFCC#4 | CC BY 2.0

Overnight, like a flash of light, the far right took another big step forward on the world stage. Brazil’s latest voting results as of October 7th are testimony to the grinding power and overwhelming influence of the irrepressible far-right, a worldwide phenomenon that brings in its wake the death knell of liberal democracy, aka the establishment, aka neoliberal globalism pick one the same as another.

Like a powerful grinding machine that never lets up, far-right-wingers are gaining ground in key political battlegrounds across the globe. And, guess what? They’re popular, very popular. People like them and vote for them. It’s why they’re winning big, very big!

It’s only too obvious that voters like the roughness and toughness of far-right candidates, similar to the ornery, conniving Negan character in the wildly popular (in the recent past) The Walking Dead TV series that clearly revealed, for all to see, no compunction whatsoever about bashing in the heads of iconic establishment characters, utilizing “Lucille,” Negan’s baseball bat wrapped with barbed wire.

As one of the great villains of all-time, Negan mercilessly bashed-in the heads of Abraham and Glenn, two favs of the long-standing TV series, while they sat on their haunches, hands tied behind their backs. Did the TV audience watch without covering their eyes, and how many were wide-eyed and filled with great anticipation and intrigue over the upcoming bloody disfigurations.

It is instructive that Negan’s victims were defenseless with hands tied behind their backs in a lineup including the TV series established characters, from Rick to Carol to Daryl, grieving in the wide open spaces as Negan’s boorish crew “the Saviors” stood by as their leader swung Lucille (named after Negan’s wife) before stopping at the first victim: Whack, Whack, Whack, followed by a strange lowly gurgle.

The juxtaposition of Negan taking down establishment actors of the TV series to Trump taking down America’s establishment leaders at the Republican presidential debates is too perfect to pass up.

Thereafter, the highest-ranking Democrat fell in similar vein as Trump stalked Hillary’s every move, in Negan’s irritating fashion, at every chance in public debate. Voters ate it up, not missing a beat and cast their votes based upon manliness.

Notably, the Negans of the world are very popular. People vote for them. Their underlying message is deadly as for the established order, Democrat or Republican or Social Democrat, whichever, and anything “establishment” is red meat.

Wherefore, Brazilian Congressman Jair Bolsonaro takes center stage. He is running for the presidency of the fifth largest country in the world (population 210M). They call him “Brazil’s Trump,” but he is more Negan than Trump.

Bolsonaro one-ups Trump on multiple levels similar to Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte or Egyptian dictator General Abdel El-Sisi. Similar to Duterte, Bolsonaro proposes to unleash the military & police into the nation’s slums to “indiscriminately murder anyone suspected of being a criminal.” Kill them!

And, just for good measure, he has also put a target on the chests of several mainstream Brazilian politicians “to be killed!” Down with the establishment. Kill them!

Bolsonaro is the “Negan of Brazil” and looks promising to be elected el presidente on October 28th. In fact, it’s almost a given that he’ll become the new president, running against the leftist candidate in the runoffs ex-São Paulo Mayor Fernando Haddad.

Bolsonaro “crushed it” in recent runoff elections, gaining a mind-boggling 60% of the votes in the State of Rio de Janeiro. Not only, his party swept to victory all across the country, registering shockingly high margins of victory. It stunned the establishment into a state of abysmal silence, somewhat similar to Trump’s eye-bulging surprise win.

For example, former President Dilma Rousseff, who had a strong lead by wide margins in polls for a Senate seat, was decimated; fourth place behind two far rightwing candidates. She was creamed!

Remarkably, Bolsonaro couldn’t be stopped by a knife wound to the gut in early September (putting him in intensive care), or by hundreds of thousands of women publicly demonstrating against his merciless misogyny (late September), or by mainstream journals like The Economists labeling him “Latin America’s Latest Menace” or by The New York Times declaring “Brazil Flirts With a Return to the Dark Days” all of which seemed to drive more voters to booths en masse.

The bitter truth is that Brazilian voters casts ballots in opposition to the establishment ruling class that has failed them on many levels. This modus is all too familiar worldwide as the establishment throughout the world caves-in time and again in the face of a distraught working class that has lost all hope.

As for one fitting example, Obama won on promises of hope. His most effective electioneering ploy was the iconic “HOPE” poster designed by street artist Shepard Fairey. Voters reached out to that message but to no avail.

The “deplorables” (Hillary Clinton’s biggest mistake and a misnomer) are in fact voters found in large numbers everywhere from the Philippines to the United States to Brazil. In the U.S. they embraced Trump with fervor, and he awkwardly addressed some of their grievances, like unfair trade blamed for loss of good-paying jobs. It is true. Good-paying jobs have gone offshore for more than a generation, exported to the lowest common denominator of wages and benefits. The lower, the better. This has gone on now long enough to sink into the fabric of working class mentality: They’ve been screwed, and after a while it hurts, a lot, and they know it and vote it!

The backlash against liberal democracy’s nightmarish creation called “neoliberal globalism” is fierce and deep and bitter. That backlash knows no boundaries because hope is as dead as a doornail. Hope is the final frontier of political leadership, but Obama bushwhacked hope. Ipso facto, Trump unwarily stumbled into riding on a wave of fierce backlash by the workers of the world, which includes all classes below the elites; take notice.

The frustration is everywhere as the far-right mushrooms in popularity throughout the world, Albanian National Front Party, Peoples Reconstruction Party (Argentina), National Socialist Movement of Denmark, European Alliance for Freedom, National Front (France), National Democratic Party of Germany, Golden Dawn (Greece), Icelandic National Front, American Freedom Party (U.S.), National Front (UK) amongst many, many more, all enlarging like the spread of an uncontrollable breakout of the plague that decimated the European continent in the 14th century.

Alternative for Germany (far right) is now Germany’s second most popular party behind Chancellor Merkel’s coalition government. And in Italy, the Interior Minister Matteo Salvini is the poster boy for Europe’s resurgent far-right. According to a Bloomberg analysis, support for far-right parties is at a 30-year high as one of the biggest motivators, i.e., migrant arrivals, has dropped off precipitously. Yet, national populism is strongest where the fewest refugees or migrants arrived, for example, in Hungary.

Not only that, but in America Black, Latino, and Asians are joining multiracial rightwing groups. This strange paradox is really no paradox at all according to Yale associate professor Daniel Martinez-HoSang, author of Producers, Parasites, Patriots: Race and the New Right-Wing Politics of Precarity (University of Minnesota Press, April 2019 in hardcover).

Martinez-HoSang describes a multiracial far-right that is equally far-right in terms of beliefs, hierarchy, embracing violence, necessity of strong state authority, but remarkably not clashing with belief in a white ethnostate. It’s a clever political twist unified by allegiance to strongman personalities.

With hindsight, it is fascinating that the Trump presidential campaign identified a huge overlap with the audience of The Walking Dead as potential Trump voters. During the election campaign they c0mmitted funds heavily to Trump ads during The Walking Dead TV series and on social networking to fans of the program.

In like spirit, The Walking Dead was all about a life-and-death struggle between the “I” and the “Other,” fear of strangers, enclosing of borders, and strong statehood over universal values. Significantly, strongman Negan ruled by fear, similar to what underlies an embarrassing cave-in by the Congressional Republican acquiescence to Trump, similar in fashion to reverence for Negan by the Saviors.

Meanwhile, Brazil’s strongman Bolsonaro is the embodiment of the brutish Negan Syndrome as he willy-nilly dictates death warrants but still garners votes galore. He buries establishment candidates.

And, not to forget that Trump did say he could shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue and not lose any voters. Similar to Bolsonaro, he was right. Fascinatingly, Trump thoroughly, very assiduously understands the Far Right, maybe better than Bolsonaro or Duterte or El-Sisi. Imagine that!

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Robert Hunziker lives in Los Angeles and can be reached at rlhunziker@gmail.com.

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