Philip Green
10 min readApr 11, 2024


The Hard Right: What Is It All About?

I. The Opportunity Society

You could think you were reading about the good land:

“How African Immigrants Have Revived a Remote Corner of Quebec
Hundreds of newcomers from Africa have filled a shortage of workers in Rouyn-Noranda, creating a new community in a remote mining town.”

Of course over time there are hundreds or thousands of such stories; I remember reading some years ago about a Syrian woman, a refugee who’d been a doctor before the civil war there, settled in some Upper Michigan town which lacked any such practitioner; observed the lack, and got to work building up medical resources beginning with only her own effort, and wound up being the –deeply respected–doctor to a population of several thousand people. That’s what you might call a story of “progress,” from everywhere, repeated over and over again.

As one commentator puts it in a quite contrary vision of the United States, “Their message is that the countryside is the custodian of national traditions under assault from modernity, political correctness and immigration, in addition to a thicket of environmental rules that, in their view, defies common sense. Such messages resonate with voters who feel forgotten.” And thus join “the Right.”

But of course nowadays we can also read about how”Mr. Abbott has ordered the Texas National Guard and the state police to add new fencing and apprehend migrants who cross the Rio Grande from Mexico,” who we might add have survived the bales of barbed wire he’s had laid to get in their way.

Or, in the words of Lydia Polgreen, a Times “Opinion Columnist,”

“The thing from the Senate hearing that was so shocking to me was the casual, almost automatic Republican assumption that Mangi as a Muslim, might have suspect views of Oct. 7, 2023, or Sept. 11, 2001, and that asking him about them was legitimate.”

Of course this is nothing new, and anyhow it’s really disingenuous of me to be shocked, Rick, shocked, by anything that supporters of the Republican Party, as a gathering place for human scum, have got up to: but in truth I was shocked, by the Fox News attempt to hold President Biden and the Democrats in general and DEI and immigrants in particular (the ship’s crew were not in any sense immigrants but forget that) for the collision with the Key Bridge. We’ve never seen anything more vile in American political history. Except that we have.

As it came about, Nicole Wallace, had the brilliant insight to play for her audience a press conference that President George W. Bush held after the collapse of a major bridge in Minnesota during his presidency, a presser at the end of which he concluded that “of course,” the cost of rebuilding the bridge should be borne by the “Federal government,” in its entirety.

So it turns out that President Bush (whose remarks might well have been scripted by one of his speech-writers, namely Nicole Wallace), was, underneath everything that we loathed about his tenure, a normal human being, of the oil-millionaire conservative variety. However, what was at the time one of the paths being pursued by his Party would turn out to be the subhuman shit-hold into which that Party has not fallen, but aggressively descended–along with all its congregation. What the difference was between then and now is the question I want to pursue. it will help, though, to look at a quite different, though perhaps even more horrid example of the Right Wing human race. Here, quite easily. This is from a report on a Supreme Rotten Court by Dahlia Lithwick and Mark Stern in Reader Supported News recently,

“One of the most exhausting lessons of post-Roe America is that being “pro-life” definitively means privileging the life of the presumptively sin-free unborn — or even their “dead” remains — over the life of the sin-racked adults who carry them. This is why women are left to go septic or to hemorrhage in hospital parking lots; it is why C-sections are performed in nonviable pregnancies, at high risk to mothers; it’s why the women who sued in Texas to secure exceptions to that state’s abortion ban are condemned by the state as sinners and whores. And it’s why — in the eyes of the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine — it is a greater hardship for a physician to “waste precious moments scrubbing in, scrubbing out” of emergency surgery so long as they don’t believe that the emergency warrants their professional services, than it is for a pregnant person, anywhere in the country, including in states that permit abortion, to be forced to give birth.”

Is there in fact a more loathsome human being than Erin Hawley, who made this argument before the Court, anywhere in the United States?
But when we look hard enough we see that there are two slightly different low points of American humanity; of persons who should have been, to use their own thought, put down in their embryonic state.

II. The Mission: Money, Money, Money

There is a two-fold approach for understanding the Far Right: not just in the U.S., but world-wide today. We start with the Tea Party, as we must, in that it was the foundation of what is now the degradation known as Trumpism–but at its start is was all about money, and nothing else: as was the President. In the wake of the 2008 recession, and under pressure from then-President Obama (and acquiescence from ex-President Bush), some of the Federal set-aside from the Treasury, in the wake of the collapse, went to organized labor (in Illinois especially, to no one’s surprise). This dastardly deed enraged the Tea Party reps, especially now-Fox News “economist” Larry Kudlow. They signed off from all efforts at recovery involving fiscal spending: and that’s where we begin. Only tax relief to the rich, about which there was no dissent, could be entertained by “fiscal” policy.

What then is the “Right wing?”? How does this happen, and where do they” come from?

Anywhere and everywhere. Every right-wing party–the locution I’ll use from now on, to distinguish from the “merely conservative,” as say Mitt Romney, or Jacob Javits — is founded on and dedicated to one mission: to protect, increase, and preserve, the wealth of the wealthy. For non-devotees of Fox News, this was made perfectly clear during the Republican primaries by Nikki Haley, who would drop dead before she’d vote for a “tax the rich” Democrat.

I use the word “mission” deliberately, for that is what we’re talking about. This approach is called “trickle-down theory,” but that’s a misnomer; there’s nothing faintly “theoretical” about this behavior. The wealthy, out of their unearned income may give a little tithe to the poor, but unless they’re McKenzie Scott or Beyonce Knowles, it won’t strain a checkbook. They worked hard for it, after all, it’s not easy being born.

For the hard Right, to simplify, any deduction from their wealth for spending (as opposed to charitable giving, about which the rich are on the whole awful) must be offset by an equal or greater opportunity to rake it in; as the Republican Foot-licking Court has made clear, that’s the limit on Federal spending. No progressives or environmentalists need apply; Nikki Haley has no use for you.

III. Opportunity for What?

As long as the rich get richer, the Right has done its job, though an occasional “whiff of grapeshot” has been useful to make the point on many occasions. But democracy poses a potentially deadly problem, and this is where the real meaning of “Right” comes in. For the Wealth Mission to succeed, popular support to some extent is crucial, but how to produce that support?

Pure force has sometimes worked, but many times it hasn’t. What does work?

The answer was first articulated by Patrick Buchanan at the Republican convention in 1992 and is now conventional wisdom on the Right and –not only in the U.S. On the ordinary grounds of public policy, the Right cannot compete with the Left: the cost of economic redistribution even at the minimal level that the post-New Deal Democrats have practiced it, is incompatible with the Mission. And especially as the rich think that redistribution is morally unacceptable (so to speak). Peter Thiele, one of the billionaire trumpites inner circle, has called it “Naziism.” That’s a quote; helping the poor escape poverty is how the Nazis helped Jews…?

But no, as we are too familiar, the Buchananite solution is to substitute
Cultural Warfare, as shrilled out at the ’92 Republican convention, for the defense of wealth.
(As we’ve seen the latter takes care of itself.) The object of culture war, however, is deviance, especially and above all sexual deviance: abortion, transgenderism, same-sex fulfillment and insufficient nationalism.. (See J.D Vance, below.)That is a terrain on which, once established, it is very hard for those who are accused to compete. The choice is to surrender, or fight on terms that put one’s very life at stake. And this, as we now know all too well, are terms that the Right has made its own, and will fight to the death–the literal deaths of the deviant if need-be.

They are, moreover, the terms commanded by the orthodox religious, and unavailable to those whose lives fall outside orthodoxy, above all that which is pentecostal and evangelical. The culture war is thus a religious war against secularism and its values; and as such it converts the normal battlegrounds of politics to an arena where only devotees of the devil can stand. Intolerance to combat tolerance; inequality to combat equality: that is the solution of the Culture War: and it can overtake whole segments of a population in its pursuit. So encompassing is its ambit that it can make a heroic leader out of a narcissistic sexual abuser.

IV The Hard Right and the Authoritarian Personality

But why? How does this strange inversion of popular opinion and political leadership come about?

My answer is in a sense familiar, but all too common. It is the answer given by the study, The Authoritarian Personality. What I’ve described above is precisely that, and all the evidence of modern history is that it exists in proliferation, waiting to be called up “from the vasty deep:”
The hatred of tolerance, the fear of equality, the demand for sameness.

In the modern era, to be sure, almost all sovereign states pass as democratic, at one time or another in that they choose leaders by free elections: the American model. How did more than twenty of the American states come to desert that model, and do it so forcefully, with such striking alienation from the roots that the Right-Wing Supreme Court majority loves to quote.

My answer, such as it is, is this: Men who are trying to lead without resistance (and the occasional woman, but not many) make an offer which I have referred to several times before: They will serve the wealthy if the wealthy serve them. But what is it they have to offer?

They offer the masses, that is, enough of the masses to have a chance to exchange democracy for autocracy, the latter having no truck with the general income, let alone its redistribution. But what do they get in exchange for what is usually a trivial life change?

Answer: they get a license. A license to do whatever it is authoritarians secretly want to do–at least that is the way the would-be leaders, the ones who are confident of their own charisma, would have them do. Anything is acceptable to the authoritarian, as long as it is also agreeable to the leader. To be racists, sexual tyrants, unforgiving nationalists, religious autocrats. A good example of the wretched pretender in action is the sycophantic Senator J. D. Vance. Starting out with a memoir, Hillbilly Elegy, that became a Times best seller–you have to read the Wikipedia entry to grasp its flavor and reception–he then adjourned to Silicone Valley where, lo and behold, he became a partner in neo-Fascist Peter Thiele’s venture capital fund. That’ll put all those Rust Belt opioids back on the shelf, yes indeed.

They exist, that we know, though we do not know in who or how many. But when a charismatic leader comes along, who detests those types of being, and can transmit that hatred to the authoritarians in waiting: a sea change may take place. That is what I mean by “Opportunity”: it is the opportunity to let loose a spirit that has up to that moment been in hiding–at least in the larger sphere of politics. In every way he, Trump, is a hater of women who seek equality and freedom–I won’t go, read it and weep, but will just add that with this boot-licking of Donald trump and election denial, the cheerful became a traitor to the Constitution and the nation, and the working class (not hillbillies) of Ohio like so many millions of others, that is, he was a traitor to everything about democracy.

To be sure, not every would-be Hitler lives up to his own desires. E.g., in 1936 Sir Oswald Moseley led a rag-tag army of dedicated Fascists into London’s East End to attack the area’s Jewish residents. His “army” was met by a volunteer army of Communists from all over Great Britain, and was finally routed by Jewish housewives pouring a rain of shit on them from upper-story windows. He had not seized an opportunity that was actually there.

But in 2016 Donald Trump fought for the leadership of the Republican Party, and won. In the general election thereafter he gained almost 63 million votes and changed the United States forever. Unlike Hillary Clinton, he desired, could, and did make good the opportunity for takeover by an authoritarian army in waiting: a Republican Party that had for some time been moving toward a desertion of democratic values: and not for the first time. Now, it is etched in the stars.

That is the right opportunity–waiting at the right place: the ballot boxes of a democracy that was, as it happened, a tinder box waiting to explode.
That’s the Hard Right: always waiting. If you have an authoritarian personality–and you’ll know it if you do–just go somewhere you can sign up. Just one caution: it won’t be the U.S. Army. The Seals, maybe, or if with extreme good luck one of Donald Trump’s lawyers signs you up to assassinate one of his opponents–with immunity.

P.S. There is one obvious problem with what I’ve written here. You can’t be friends. You can play on the same team, work in the same plant, whatever. But I see no alternative. There’s no way you can counterfeit if you want to deny women abortions, and will not relent; then I detest you–and probably vice versa.