Fascism and Trumpism Update (From a letter to members of The Bertrand Russell Society)
Donald Trump continues to rise in the polls. If you doubt the lunacy of large elements of the GOP, simply add together the current polling for Trump, Carson, Huckabee, and Cruz. The latter are in varying degrees misinformed, cynical, irrational, and dangerous; however, with that said, Trump is vastly more dangerous (and interestingly, LESS conservative in the sense of the traditional Nelson Rockefeller/Bob Dole, country club/Midwestern-heartlander kind of Republican, or the quasi-libertarian Republican kind, which all hew to variations and species of liberalism, broadly understood. No, his outlook is much more akin to George Wallace (pre-1980) and Strom Thurmond's, and their Southern Democratic/Dixiecrat/American Independent ilk ... actually, he is even more like Louisiana's Huey Long (a Democrat) or worse, really, for Trump is an out-and-out Fascist. There is no exaggeration, here, for anyone that knows anything about the history of post-WWI Germany and the rise of Hitler, or Italy in the late 19th century up to the rise of Mussolini. Do not be deceived by his adopting and adapting what might be otherwise described as liberal, progressive, or even socialist points-of-view. Or his pandering to an anti-government theme. Despite their anti-government narrative, a narrative fostered by those who know better, many of his supporters do not even know what socialism is, or just how much they depend on government. Remember the Tea Party types who said, "Keep the government out of my life and don't take away my Medicare," etc. Trump is anti-government, too, that is, unless it works to his benefit, or unless he is the government. It is already clear Trump knows nothing of the U.S. Constitution, cares nothing for it, or for the rule of law in general. He would make his own law. Trump is an authoritarian, one who identifies the greatness (or potential greatness) of the state with himself. This is what he means by making America great again. How patriotic of him to suggest it is not great now ... and only he can make it so. Given the right circumstances, one can imagine him arresting the Supreme Court, declaring martial law, and rounding up dissenters and all manner of people he dislikes. He could potentially change everything about which Americans have rightly been proud and even ideals for which they have fought and died, perhaps most notably in WWII. He represents a danger to the entire world, too. Imagine his having power over the Justice Department (Atty. General/FBI), intelligence agencies, and the military--a military more powerful as measured by money than at least the next 7 largest combined! Does anyone honestly believe he would care what the legislature thought if it was not in agreement?
Many in the GOP leadership have begun to denounce him, finally, and even the media (which he continues to manipulate brilliantly) and punditry have caught on; but Republican candidates continue to refuse to say they will not support him if he is the nominee, or at best, they waffle around using weasel words, saying he won't be nominated, so they will of course support the nominee. There is cynical political calculation here, in addition to simple, unadulterated cowardice, for they are aware that if they did so--said they won't support him-- that it might cause him to renege on his agreement (agreement from a man who has filed bankruptcy 4 times ... oh yes, under corporate cover) to support the nominee if he loses, and having been treated (in his perception) "unfairly" by the establishment (all who disagree with him), and thereby cause him to run as a third-party candidate--ensuring (they think) a Democratic/Hillary Clinton victory. Given some untoward events, Trump's loss to the Dems or Republicans is by no means a forgone conclusion, notwithstanding a third party. So Democrats who hope for just that, a third party, should not be so confident. This is not necessarily a G. H. W. Bush and Ross Perot redux, which handed the election to Bill Clinton. Trump is vastly more skilled, politically, than Perot, though he has some of the same appeal and constituents. By the way, Hitler and his supporters also claimed to be treated unfairly in the early 30s by the Hindenburg government and the German political establishment in the face of his increasing popularity in the both the Reichstag and among the population (but he was still in the minority at that point). In any case, a courageous and responsible Republican leader would be willing to risk losing the election with the opportunity to cleanse the party of its irrational, Tea Party, and erstwhile Confederate elements, those who left the Democratic Party in droves after the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts and transformed the once progressive Republican Party, the party of Lincoln. Let Trump form a third-party with his neo-Confederates. Then the Republican party might be able to recover its moral bearings, and become a responsible center-right party, and without having sacrificed many of the values upon which it was originally founded by abolitionists, modernizers, ex-Whigs, and ex-Free Soilers in 1854. What has become of the party of Abraham Lincoln? Trump and his followers must be marginalized and cast aside and steps taken to see that this insidious movement withers away.
I hold the left, center-left, and so-called moderates partly responsible for helping to create this climate with some of their own nonsense, but that is another story that I don't want to focus on here. And certainly their culpability pales by comparison to the cynical but rational and monied right (e.g, Lee Atwater, Karl Rove, Koch brothers, Roger Ailes, energy industry, firearms manufactures, etc.), which for many years has fostered, fomented, financed, tolerated, and exacerbated the alienation, fears, and prejudices of white, uneducated workers (the Sarah Palin-Tea Party crowd), and in recent years, even significant parts of the remaining middle class (recently described by Pew as a minority), making ripe the opportunity for a person like Trump---whom they only have now just realized they cannot control and insert a Mitt Romney or Jeb Bush (center-right moderates in sheepskin) to protect their interests without their "man" getting too wild and woolly. They have encouraged and sponsored much of the lunacy of right-wing radio, television, and blogosphere, giving the illiterate, alienated, worried, and disaffected a sense being well informed and fueling their anger and anxiety. They have truly hoisted themselves by their own petard with their cynical support of Willie Horton, Swift Boat, Gun and God, anti-gay, family values nonsense to incite the fervor of the base. For the most part, the so-called Republican establishment created the environment, laid the groundwork for this new Fascism, unwittingly I think, through their cynical politics in supporting various fantasies and fueling the anger of a radicalized base in a craven effort to protect their interests without considering the consequences. The chickens have come home to roost. Now these same people need to gather the gonadal material to help us take steps to squash the Frankenstein they've created. And those of us who hew left or liberal need to ensure that we do not divide ourselves to elect "the perfect" candidate (a Chimera, anyway) over the better than a Fascist. That thinking--voting idealistically and without regard to reality--helped to give us W over Al Gore (I refer to the Ralph Nader supporters in Florida). That was bad enough, but this could give us something unimaginably worse. Even unpalatable to the Bushes. This is a practical issue. As practical as one gets. I suspect if he is the nominee a large number of Republicans might defect in the general election, ceteris paribus. However, things may not remain equal, and if some more sensational, tragic events occur, I fear the very worst. What is more, even if he loses, this time, look at the stage he and others have already set. So no matter what occurs, there is a long term problem with which we must deal.
Finally, I want to remind people, again, that many of the things being said about Muslims (and Mexicans, for that matter!) are strikingly similar to things that were being said about Jews in the 1920s in Weimar Germany. Including how violent they are, untrustworthy, unpatriotic, etc., etc. If you doubt me, read Der Sturmer, the Nazi news organ, or take a look at Joseph Goebbels' diaries. And of course, mainstream Germans thought these things were all the ludicrous rantings of a minority led by a madman that could never attain power. I have no love of religion, any religion, and that includes the three Abrahamic desert religions. But I do love freedom, and I do not believe in collective punishment or oppressing people who believe things that I don't, for there are all kinds of things others believe that I don't believe, and that I view as wrong or even silly. I am concerned about what people DO, how they act, not simply what they profess to believe (how many Jews, Christians, or Muslims take their texts literally? Precious few. Thank goodness.). In those instances where acts are taken to dangerous extremes they must be dealt with by just means. Most members of the Bertrand Russell Society, I think, believe similarly. Trump is not Hitler. But he is a Fascist, make no mistake, and he and his growing posse of believers pose many dangers to freedom and all freedom lovers, and therefore the religious and non-religious alike. And people who speak glibly of the Enlightenment and Islam not having had a sufficient dose of it shouldn't get too cocky. Some of our "enlightened" post-Enlightenment predecessors have caused many more millions to die than any religion, per se, including Islam, which for centuries was far more tolerant than Christendom. Guided by a sense of history, reason, and morality, we must do what we can to stop Trump.