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It seems a given that the far right political fringe has gained a new energy and sense of legitimacy in recent years. It's a general sense rather than something for which one can find concrete proof. Nevertheless one can point to things like the close-run Austrian presidential election, Le Pen making it to the last round of the French presidential election and some of the nefarious characters Trump has seen fit to elevate to cabinet.

Maybe this overtly biased, but I find this deeply worrying. We've seen where this has the potential to lead and that fear goes beyond traditional left-right economic politics into something inhumanly destructive. The warning signs seem very clear: the parallels between the triumphalist, "fake news" narratives of the modern far right and those of Nazi Germany are obvious, direct and scary.

The speed and scale with which elements of the far right have risen back into the mainstream has been dazzling. Immigration has been a top political concern in the West for some years now, but I find it hard to believe that's the fuel for this sudden rise. There seems quite a clear distinction between the desire to limit immigration and the far-right message that immigrants are inferior, dangerous and must be kept out at all costs.

So, what's powering this sudden attempt to get back into mainstream politics? Have there been armies of silent far-right supporters who just kept quiet for fear of the prevailing cultural narratives? Are younger people forgetting the lessons of the past? Has anyone done some serious studies on what's going on here?

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  • Nobody knows. So all you can get in the answers are speculations and various hypothesizes. Is that what you are looking for? – Björn Lindqvist Jul 27 '17 at 10:08
  • @BjörnLindqvist Not really, I can do that for myself & it rather defeats the SE format. Unless the hypothesis is supported by some kind of evidence or data, at least. I'd be kind of surprised if no-one had looked in to this in an academic fashion at all, but if you can provide "negative evidence" I guess that's an answer in itself. – Bob Tway Jul 27 '17 at 10:11
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    As much as I like your question, it sounds like answers would be too opinion based. I'd be very impressed if someone could answer this factually and evidence backed. In my opinion, the far right was always there. It's just gotten much more outspoken and better represented, but I'm not sure that's the entire story. Barry Goldwater did run for president in 1964. Certainly in the US, far right cheer-leading has grown enormously every since Rush Limbaugh made a career out of it. – userLTK Jul 27 '17 at 11:59
  • I don't understand the confusion, unless you have some special definition of "far right." Who controls the U.S. government? Bill Gates and an army of CEOs keep getting richer as the middle class slowly disappears. The rich also control the media, which continuously spread the far right's gospel. In the 1960's, people protested the war in Vietnam. Today, even liberals obediently support the troops. Whoever controls the press controls people's minds. – David Blomstrom Jul 30 '17 at 14:36
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    This question is overtly biased, as you openly admit to. There is fake news all over the internet with biases that span the entire political spectrum so that doesn't support your opinion that the modern far right is comparable to Nazi Germany. Immigration is a legitimate concern in many countries around the world and can be linked to any number of things including economic pressures on the working or lower class (though immigration of tech workers has also been a political issue at times). The bias you added could be stripped away and the core question is legitimate. – tnk479 Sep 6 '17 at 19:11
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The far-right is rising mainly in Europe currently though it has also affected other countries, such as the US. As seen from the Wikipedia page, it is more prevalent in Europe. There have been various reasons that have led to far-right parties gaining ground in elections, but people are mainly discontented with the "migrant crisis, sluggish economic growth and growing disillusionment with the European Union", as the NYT suggests.

Many of these far-right parties use populist rhetoric that identifies well with a substantial number of voters, especially working-class voters, these policies mainly include anti-immigrant policies, policies against the euro currency or protectionist policies. If you read NYT's guide to the various far-right parties in Germany, France, The Netherlands, Greece, Austria, etc. Almost all of them offer anti-immigrant views.

The Independent elaborated that these popular rhetorics identify well with the voters. In Europe, the economic situation is not ideal currently and people are poorer than what they expect, thus they are against immigrants too. This is also partly the reason voters chose to leave the EU in the 2016 referendum.

That's why it's no surprise that right-wing populism is on the march in Britain and everywhere else for that matter. People are poorer than they thought they'd be, so they don't feel like they can afford to be as generous to immigrants anymore. That's even true in the erstwhile socialist utopias of Denmark, Sweden and Finland, where the right-wing Danish People's Party, Sweden Democrats (who have their roots in neo-Nazism), and Finns Party have all risen near the top of the polls.

(emphasis mine)

Voters are also not clear of the risks associated for voting for the far-right and are attracted to the policies that they promise.

However, it's still worth mentioning that even though the far-right and populism is rising currently, the conservatives are still winning at the moment. Examples would be the defeat of Le Pen in France and Norbert Hofer in Austria. But it is still a worrying trend.

The declining support has put social democrats in a tough position. If they embrace anti-immigration or protectionist positions to win back the predominantly working-class voters who have defected to the right, they will likely lose their remaining young and urban liberal supporters.

(emphasis mine)

As for other countries outside of Europe, the reasons that I have cited above are mostly true too, as anti-immigrant sentiments are present in countries, such as the US.

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    IMHO this answer would be more complete by also mentioning how politicians in EU countries have systematically differed the hard decisions on Brussels in the past 50 years so, and then blamed the EU for unpopular laws that they need to transcribe into national law (because directives or regulations). The EU ends up becoming a scape goat across the political spectrum, and extremists (both right and left) are prompt to pile onto the sentiment in times of economic duress. – Denis de Bernardy Jul 27 '17 at 15:55
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    A lot of the countries in which the alt-right has grown strong have incredibly strong economies and have not received a substantial amount of refugees. One example is Poland. Its economy is booming and it has not received many refugees. Yet the government is dominated by near-fascist politicians. – Björn Lindqvist Jul 27 '17 at 17:03
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    Comment looks like it was deleted for some reason, but "Voters are also not clear of the risks associated for voting for the far-right" can apply to any group not just far-right. People vote for preference. No idea why it was removed – SCFi Jul 27 '17 at 20:11
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    What are the risks of voting for anti immigrant parties? Most European countries could completely shut down all immigration and not suffer badly (excluding intra EU migration) – JonathanReez Sep 6 '17 at 20:02

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