CORRECTION: Our morning lead was a link to a story on the BBC Magazine by Michael Goldfarb. This is not the Founder of the Washington Free Beacon, but a different individual. Breitbart News Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Marlow accept responsibility for this mistake and apologize to Michael and the staff of the Free Beacon.
One startling feature of the latest race to become the next president of the US – which begins in earnest with next week’s Iowa caucuses – is the runaway success in the opinion polls of the outspoken billionaire, Donald Trump. But this should not be so surprising, says Michael Goldfarb, as Trump is just the latest example of a tendency in American politics that goes back a very long way.
The simple four-letter word that works if you want to get elected. Political professionals know that playing on people’s fears – going negative – is the way to win.
A somewhat fancier word that is used to describe excessive, irrational fear and distrust. It, too, works from time to time – in American politics, at least.
This current presidential season is one of those times. Donald Trump has surged to the front of the pack competing for the Republican Presidential nomination by giving voice to outsized fears many in America have – of illegal immigrants, of Islamic terrorists, of free trade agreements shipping American jobs to China.
Trump promises to make America Great Again – as if the US somehow was no longer the most powerful country in the world – by simple solutions: deporting all 11 million illegal immigrants, banning Muslims from entering the US, and forcing the Chinese government to back down through tough talk.
The phrase “paranoid style in American politics” was coined by the late historian Richard Hofstadter. He defined the Paranoid Style, “an old and recurrent phenomenon in our public life which has been frequently linked with movements of suspicious discontent.”
In a country that at its best radiates an infectious optimism, it is interesting how often fear has stalked the American landscape.
Richard Parker, who lectures on religion in the early days of America at Harvard’s John F Kennedy School of Government, traces paranoia in American public life back to the Salem Witch Trials in the late 17th Century and even before that, to the religious politics of the Mother Country.
You can read the rest of the story here.