Pierre Tristam, http://www.pierretristam.com, recently wrote a piece entitled
Donald Trump’s Fascism and His Appeasers
First, definitions from my dictionary.
Fascism: a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition
Nazism: the body of political and economic doctrines held and put into effect by the Nazis in Germany from 1933 to 1945 including the totalitarian principle of government, predominance of especially Germanic groups assumed to be racially superior, and supremacy of the führer
I generally avoid modern comparisons to people and movements of WWII because I guess I want that all to be behind us. Every “bad” man is not Mussolini (Fascism) or Hitler (Nazism) –that doesn’t make them any less bad. Anyway, I will pluck a few examples of Tristam’s argument. See what you think.
“It can’t happen here?” … It Can’t Happen Here was the title of Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novel that imagined a fascist senator who beats Roosevelt to the presidency on a promise to … make America great again … Lewis is probably the best known “muckraker” of his time. In his most famous work, The Jungle, 1906, he eviscerates the meat packing industry in Chicago. Throughout the narrative he lays bare the working conditions of the poor–many/mostly immigrants. For me, this book never gets old.
The paramilitary vigilantes who … “patrol” the Mexican-American border on this side of paradise … call themselves the Minutemen. Xenophobia then, xenophobia today.
If the poison has always been around, it’s never been enough to poison the entire country. Sinclair Lewis himself thought America too strong a democracy to allow a fascist take-over. He’s right … I agree, and I do not believe Trump is or ever could be a Fascist. It’s just that so many of his seemingly off-the-cuff remarks echo a set of circumstances that caromed the world into war.
Appeals to bigotry have never been far from national campaigns: Al Smith was demolished for his Catholicism in 1928, John Kennedy almost was in 1960, Nixon and the first Bush couldn’t have been elected without coded appeals to prejudices against blacks … Are we really a nation of covert bigots and racists? Have we always been? How can we stem this tide of hatred?
In Trump’s case, racism is the overriding allure, the buxom gravity center of his says-it-like-it-is charisma. His supporters deny it. They have to, like drunks who haven’t yet owned up to 12-stepping. But take away the racism, the Mexican-bashing, the dehumanizing of immigrants, the insults to a world of Muslims, the ultra-nationalism, and there’s not much left beside the Mussolini-like jabbing jaw … Trump is not Mussolini, but he is a panderer. He reached for and grabbed the least common denominator of voters and preaches to it. My prediction, as if anyone cares, is that Trump will get 23% of the popular vote and we will not here from him again.
Tristam says that “ultimately the danger of Trump’s candidacy [is] not that he will win, but that even in losing, he is corroding that buffer against the unacceptable.” He has lowered the standard of discourse, and that’s a pity. Tristam concludes: “It can’t happen here? My friends, Trump or no Trump, it is happening here.” Now that’s a scary thought.