Monday, February 29, 2016

Making Fascism Respectable Again

Super Tuesday could well be Trump's electoral equivalent of the March on Rome.  The show of popular force may well push the old guard elites to pledge fealty to a demagogue.

Just when I thought that this current political situation couldn't be crazier or more depressing, last week brought news of two very curious and very telling official endorsements of Donald Trump.  The first came from David Duke, America's most well-known white supremacist.  (Since that endorsement white nationalist groups have been making calls on his behalf.)  Now it had been pretty obvious that Trump was appealing to white nationalists, but it was something else that those connections were now completely out in the open and laid bare for all to see. (And now this weekend Trump was unwilling to disavow the endorsement of the KKK.)

A more shocking endorsement came days later from Chris Christie, the first powerful Republican to endorse Trump, who did so despite the recent Duke endorsement.  Other Republican politicians, not wanting to be Johnny-come-lately to the now probable Trump nomination jumped on the bandwagon, including Maine governor Paul LePage, former Arizona governor Jan Brewer and Alabama senator Jeff Sessions.  Thus a man who endorses the deportation of eleven million American residents, coercing Mexico into building a border wall, colonizing Iraq to take its oil, banning Muslims from America, and murdering the relatives of accused terrorists, is now getting the backing of powerful, established figures in one of the country's major parties.  After Super Tuesday, expect more to follow.

Trump has been unleashing nascent forces in American life that right wing politicians have gestured towards, but have never totally embraced.  The essence of fascism is redemptive nationalism wedded to militarism and authoritarianism centered around a charismatic leader.  Trump is the first American politician to embody that essence to achieve the heights that he has climbed.  Like all good fascists, he has few specific ideas, but acts as if he can achieve what he wants through pure force of will.  He treats any political obstacles as illegitimate, and removing them as more important that following the rule of law.  For instance, this week he pledged to change libel laws (which don't exist on the federal level) so that he could sue hostile media outlets out of existence.

Fascists have been able to take power historically once old-line conservative elites are willing to make a deal with them, since fascists are fringe enough that they usually can't quite make it to the top on their own.  The old conservatives elites make these deals once they realize that the masses are sick of them, and thus think they can keep power by allying with, or even controlling, a populist demagogue.  We seem to be on the cusp of entering that phase.  I think the next month will pretty much decide it.  If Trump keeps winning primary election, I doubt many in the Republican party will have the decency to stand in his way.

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