Reviews | There’s a reason Trump loves truckers

The former president is not alone.

“I hope truckers come to America,” said Sen. Rand Paul, Republican of Kentucky, told the Daily Signal, a conservative site. “Civil disobedience is an age-old tradition in our country, from slavery to civil rights, etc. Peacefully protesting, cluttering things up, making people think about warrants.

Nor was all this confined to North America. “Ottawa Trucking Convoy Galvanizes Far-Right Around the World,” a Feb. 6 Politico article stated, “Leading Republicans, right-wing influencers and white supremacist groups have jumped at the chance to promote the impasse in Ottawa to a global audience.”

In “bowling for fascism: Social Capital and the Rise of the Nazi Party”, by Shanker Satyanath from NYU, Nico Voigtlander from UCLA and Hans-Joachim Voth from the University of Zurich offer a counter-intuitive perspective on spread right-wing organizations in Canada, Hungary, Brazil, India, Poland, Austria and the United States.

The three authors argue that in the 1930s in Europe

Dense networks of civic associations such as bowling clubs, choirs and animal breeders went hand in hand with a faster rise of the Nazi Party. Cities with one standard deviation higher association density saw entry at least a third faster. All types of associations – veterans associations and non-military clubs, “bridge” and “liaison” associations – positively predict the entry of the National Socialist Party. Party membership, in turn, predicts electoral success. These results suggest that social capital contributed to the rise of the Nazi movement that ultimately destroyed Germany’s early democracy.

Andrés Rodriguez-Pose, Neil Lee and Cornelius Lippall from the London School of Economics, take up this argument in a November 2021 Diary on the paradoxical role of social capital in promoting far-right movements. Noting that “the positive vision of social capital has, more recently, been called into question”, write the three economic geographers:

The increase in votes for Trump is the result of a long-term economic and demographic decline in areas with high social capital. This hypothesis is confirmed by the econometric analysis carried out for the American counties. Long-term declines in employment and population — rather than income, wages, or salaries — in places with relatively strong social capital propelled Donald Trump to the presidency and all but ensured his re-election.

It is, continue the three authors,

precisely the long-term economic and demographic decline of places that still depend on relatively strong social capital that is driving the rise of populism in the United States. Strong but declining communities in parts of the American Rustbelt, the Great Plains, and elsewhere, responded to the polls by being ignored, neglected, and left behind.

Translated so far, in economically and culturally beleaguered communities, the remnants of social capital have been crucial in mobilizing men and women – mostly men – who chanted “You will not replace us” and “Blood and earth” in Charlottesville, which dropped bear spray on police officers on Jan. 6 and brought Ottawa to its knees for more than two weeks.

In a separate article, “The rise of populism and the revenge of placesRodríguez-Pose said:

Populism is not the result of persistent poverty. The places that have been chronically poor are not the ones that are rebelling. Instead, he continued, “the rise of populism is the story of how the long-term decline of once prosperous places, disadvantaged by processes that made them exposed and almost expendable, triggered frustration and anger. In turn, voters in these so-called “places that don’t matter” sought revenge at the ballot box.

In an email, Rodríguez-Pose wrote:

Social capital in the United States has been in decline for a long time. Associationism and the feeling of community are no longer what they used to be and this has been documented time and time again. What my co-authors and I are saying is that in places (counties) where social capital declined less, long-term demographic and employment decline triggered a Donald Trump shift. These communities have said “enough” of a system they believe is circumventing them and have voted for an anti-system candidate, who is willing to shake the foundations of the system.

In a separate email, Lee noted that while most analysts view higher social capital as healthy development in communities, it can also promote negative ethnic and racial solidarity: “Social capital can be a good thing when it is open and inclusive. But when everyone knows each other, it can lead to a dynamic within the group, especially when people are made to care about other groups.

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