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Trump’s Fascist America:

The Parallels Between the Trump Movement and Fascist Movements of the Past Can No Longer be Ignored

 

As someone who has written about the rise of Fascism in the 1930s, I have often been troubled by  comparisons between today’s politicians and the true tyrants of the past.  We are right to be cautious about glib comparisons to Hitler.   Yet now we are faced with an individual in Donald Trump, and movement in the Alt-Right, that really do bear shocking and important similarities to that dark era in history.   And yet just when these historical comparisons are finally appropriate, we have become strangely phobic about making them.   We cannot let fear of the dreaded Hitler analogy blind us from what is right before our eyes.

We are all proceeding as though this is a normal election –  discussing which candidate made the latest gaffe, who flip-flopped, who got a donation from whom.  Only it is anything but a normal election.  And none of this matters.  The platforms of the candidates do not matter.  The crux of what every voter should be thinking about – and everyone in the media should be discussing – is incredibly simple:  do we want to have a dangerous megalomaniac in the White House – a man who in every single character trait mirrors the Fascists of the 1930s, a man who, judging by his own words, admires violence as a means of holding on to power.

Even more frightening than the Trump himself is the way in which his followers in the paranoid fringe of the extreme right have become his enforcers – in eerie parallel to the early acolytes of Hitler and Mussolini.  This is all so ominous, and so important, that there is really no other topic worth discussing.

Here is what Trump said at the time about the Tiananmen Massacre – a massacre of hundreds or possibly thousands of pro-democracy protestors by an autocratic government:

When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength. Our country is right now perceived as weak… as being spit on by the rest of the world.

While the rest of America watched in horror at an atrocity, Donald Trump was impressed by the viciousness of the Chinese because it showed “Strength.”  He saw American leadership, by contrast, as weak.  Here was Hitler’s view about strength and weakness in 1940:

I desire a violent, domineering, fearless and ferocious upcoming generation.  It must show no signs whatsoever of weakness or tenderness. 

So what will happen to protestors in the United States under a Trump presidency?  This is the same man who said of a protestor, “beat the crap out of him,” and told thugs at his rallies that if they were arrested for assaulting protestors, he would pay their legal expenses.  Meanwhile, Trump has repeatedly affirmed his admiration of the murderer Putin.  It is worth remembering that the Russian leader who Trump so admires destroyed a nascent democracy in Russia, installed himself as de facto dictator, and routinely has his political enemies poisoned.   And make no mistake:  this is exactly what Trump admires – Putin’s “strength”, just as he admired the “strength” of those who shot the protestors in Tiananmen Square.

In February of this year, Trump actually retweeted this quote from Il Duce himself: “It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a lamb.”  What these words meant to Mussolini is pretty clear.  Murdering and intimidating the opposition.   Destroying Democracy and replacing it with Fascism.  When the source and meaning were pointed out to Trump, he refused to repudiate it.

Can there be any doubt whatever about Trump’s reverence for those who violently destroy democratic movements?  To turn it around, has he ever uttered a single word, just one, affirming his love of the principles that most of us hold dear – freedom of speech, government by the people, the right to peaceful protest?

If Trump’s words are chilling – and they certainly should be – his psychological profile dramatically increases the concern that he is a menace to our very system of government.  In every single characteristic, he matches the great tyrants of history.   His mocking of a handicapped reporter is frighteningly reminiscent of the persecution of the handicapped under the Nazis.   But it is not surprising from someone who, like the Nazis, only admires strength, and is sickened by weakness.   Once we see this, even Trump’s bizarre comment about John McCain makes perfect sense.  He prefers “people who aren’t captured,” because being captured shows weakness.  It makes one, “a loser,” to borrow from Trump’s lexicon.

Trump’s boundless grandiosity is hard to miss –  in the larger-than-life pictures of himself that he fills his houses with, and in the uncontrollable need to boast of his wealth, his IQ, his “greatness”.  Is this not only one step away from King Jong-Un and so many dictators who purport to be the strongest, the best athletes, superhuman in their feats?   His paranoia is seen not just in his self-aggrandizing, but in his touting of all kinds of dark conspiracy theories.   These should be a horrifying warning sign because they echoes Hitler’s own paranoid imagining of the non-existent World Jewish Conspiracy.   And paranoia is also at the root of Trump’s nationalistic and entirely his fact-free claim that, “other countries are laughing at us”.   And once again, this directly parallels Hitler’s view that Germany had been disrespected and humiliated by the Treaty of Versailles, a view that gave him the motive to start the second world war to exact his revenge.

A little sanity check:  Nobody is laughing at the United States.  We are not being, “Spit on by the rest of the world,” as Trump has claimed.  Our economy, in the last eight years, has performed better than nearly every other advanced economy.  Our military is by far the most advanced in the world.   We have more young and innovative and successful corporations than the entire rest of the world combined – from Apple to Google to Facebook to Amazon to Uber to Tesla.  All of them American!  We are the envy of the world.  Yet how quickly people are drawn into believing Trump’s paranoid delusion that we are being laughed at!  Germany in the 1920s arguably had a real grievance.  Trump’s view is simply whole-cloth delusion.  Yet has anyone in the media demanded evidence from Trump that the world is laughing at us?

That Trump is a pathological liar cannot be disputed.   Of course we all know his whoppers, such as claiming he saw thousands celebrating the towers falling on 9/11.  What gets less attention are his constant stream of smaller lies:  That he met Putin during the taping of a, “60 Minutes” episode, when in fact he never met Putin;  That the NFL had contacted him to complain about the debate schedule – a claim that the NFL said was entirely false;  That a policeman in Chicago told Trump he could stop the crime problem in two weeks – something that never happened.   As The Washington Post put it, in regard to a set of Trump lies in some of his lawsuits:

Trump’s falsehoods were unstrategic – needless, highly specific, easy to disprove.

This is pathological lying, and it is fundamentally different from the fibs and exaggerations that many people fall into from time to time.  And here’s why it matters:  Pathological lying is not only a moral failing.  It is also a sign and a symptom of a serious personality disorder, frequently associated with sociopaths and extreme narcissists:  individuals who are so consumed with the need to feed their own fragile egos that they must continually conflate and fabricate and reinvent reality.

And now we see why Trump cannot bring himself to admire anyone but a tyrant:  because his narcissism is so extreme that he does not respect anything less than absolute power.  He cannot really look up to those who are guided by checks and balances of a democratic system.

(By the way, the myriad lawsuits themselves should be another glaring red flag.   Paranoid people are often extremely litigious.   They feel perpetually cheated and humiliated, and push back by cheating and humiliating others).

So there is the charismatic, Fascist leader in every aspect:  grandiose, despising of weakness, admiring of the violent suppression of opponents, paranoid about his country’s place in the world, and so consumed with himself as to be utterly incapable of empathy for others.

Yet if Trump the candidate should terrify, the movement of extremists who have rallied around him is  that much scarier.   Because we are seeing the exact pattern one sees in nearly every Fascist movement.  The leader becomes a powerful icon and a figure of veneration (Ann Coulter recently said she would die for Trump).  The most extreme of the extreme, many with their own paranoid tendencies, identify with this new symbol of strength, and glory their anointed leader.  They feel empowered and liberated, become his fanatical defenders, and are soon exacting violent revenge on his adversaries.  This is the rapidly rising “Alt-Right”, the Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists who not only have been drawn to Trump, but who have beaten up protestors and threatened his opponents – particularly Jewish opponents – on social media.

The connections between the Trump campaign and the White Supremacists are many, from members of his actual campaign staff with unsavory pasts to Trump retweeting tweets from the alt-right.   Fortune Magazine reported in March that Trump, in the previous eight months, had retweeted posts from White Supremacist accounts seventy-five times!    New York Magazine found in January that over half of his retweets were from white supremacists!  Where did he even find these tweets to retweet?  Does he follow these people on twitter? Do his staffers?  Let me answer this for you:  Yes and yes!

It was well covered in the media when his campaign put out a shockingly anti-Semitic anti-Hillary ad that featured a Star of David and a backdrop of dollars that came directly from a White Supremacist website.  But the story soon disappeared.   Who in his campaign chose this backdrop?  Why were they on such a website?  How can the media simply drop this?   Is this 2016?  Or 1932?  More recently Donald Junior sent out yet another tweet containing the figure of Pepe the Frog, the adopted symbol and mascot of the White Supremacy movement.  This could only have come from the website of a hate group.  Trump’s new campaign head, Stephen Bannon, is the former head of Brietbart News, a site that so pandered to the alt-right that, according to one study, 31% of twitter users who follow the handle #whitegenocide (a handle of the Alt-Right movement) also follow Bannon’s website.  One of Bannon’s assistants at Breitbart, Milo Yiannopoulos, was banned from twitter after his online race-baiting of a black celebrity.

It should not be surprising then that Trump has repeatedly wavered about disavowing the many openly racist organizations supporting him.   They are his information source.  He spreads their lies.  In his heart, he clearly sympathizes with them.  And make no mistake about these groups.  A quick perusal of the comments on their websites will show that the word, “deportation” is sometimes replaced by the word, “extermination”.   I saw, in my brief foray, one commenter showing a picture of a fiery Nazi-style oven, with the caption, “Step right in, motherfuckers.”  Another declared, “We must be prepared to do the unthinkable.”

With this toxic brew coming to a boil – the megalomaniac leader, the cultish, extremist followers – the time has come to imagine the seemingly unimaginable: that a tilt toward Fascism would be entirely possible under President Trump.  No, he would not start of by ordering round-ups and executions.  But it is easy to see his devoted, newly-empowered followers beating up those he criticizes, those he perceives as his enemies.  He would have deniability about direct involvement.  He would send mixed messages about condemning it.  And this would further enable his Fascist bullies.  Opponents would begin to feel intimidated about speaking up.  And bit by bit, our beautiful democracy begins to unravel.   He would no longer feel even a slight need to repudiate his White Supremacist followers once the election is won.  He would probably reward a few with positions in his administration.

How far would Trump himself go in suppressing opposition?  Who is to say.  We know he admired the viciousness in Tiananmen.  And we know that he supports not just waterboarding, but far more severe forms of torture.  Presumably, torturing would begin with our enemies.  But what about our enemies’ sympathizers at home?  Or the people who Trump, in his dark, conspiracy-filled judgement, believes are sympathizing with the enemy?   Would they be next?  Would he tell his hand-picked and like-minded head of the CIA to start torturing his opponents?

Until this past summer, I was among those who felt, “It could never happen here.”   And probably it still cannot.  It is true that American Democratic institutions are strong.  And this “worst case” that I am describing is not something that even the vast majority of Trump supporters would ever want.  But as history shows, a despot does not require a majority or even a large minority of support.  A small band of thugs, willing to use violence and terror to impose their will, is more than sufficient.

So with the spectre of Fascism as our backdrop, what are we focusing on?  The candidates’ medical records!  As though any of this matters.  Have we lost our minds?    Imagine the German media, in 1932, ignoring Hitler’s paranoia and war-mongering and hate, and instead asking, “Should we let him be Chancellor even if he doesn’t release his medical records?”

Actually…that’s kind of what happened.   Everyone said, “He doesn’t really, literally mean all the crazy stuff he says.  He’s just a fiery speaker.”

And that’s precisely what we hear today from so many.  “He is just revving up his supporters.” “He doesn’t really want Hillary assassinated.”  “He doesn’t really think his supporters should beat the crap out of protestors.”   “He doesn’t really agree with the White Supremacists.”  “It’s just a joke.”  “Lighten up!”

It is not a joke.  We are at risk of electing the most dangerous leader we have ever had – dangerous to the very institutions that have produced our beautiful and free society.   And, just like Europe in the 1920s and 30s, we are lost in a complacent daydream.

 

 

SOURCES:

http://nymag.com/selectall/2016/01/donald-trump-mostly-retweets-white-supremacists.html

  • Ny mag trump tweets

http://fortune.com/donald-trump-white-supremacist-genocide/ – Fortune, trump tweets

http://www.worldfuturefund.org/wffmaster/Reading/Germany/Radical%20Ecology.htm – Hitler quote

https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/politics/2016-election/trump-lies/ Wash Post  quote

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2016/08/stephen-bannon-donald-trump-alt-right-breitbart-news

Breitbart and Yiannopoulus

http://ijr.com/2016/01/513180-trumps-comment-about-chinese-government-at-tianenman-square-shows-hes-strongman-america-needs/ – Tiananmen quote

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