I am also not one to exaggerate. I had never, until now, called any election “the most important one of our lifetime.” Not since the 1860 elections, with Lincoln defeating the forces of slavery has any election weighed more heavily on the fate of our democracy. This time we must decide between our democracy, however flawed and imperfect, and Trumpism — the latest manifestation of fascism and Nazism. I first remember Harry Truman’s 1948 election. Since then, I have lived through seventeen Presidential elections, thirteen Presidents, one assassination, and three impeachment proceedings that led to one resignation and two acquittals in the Senate. None of the first twelve men who sat in the Oval office fully lived up to the expectations of the people who voted for them. Nor did they prove anywhere near as bad as those who voted against them feared. They were all good, flawed, human beings, doing what they believed would be good for our country. Those first twelve Presidents built a system out of the rubble of World War II that brought the United States and the world unprecedented levels of democracy, unprecedented wealth, and of the greatest importance, 75 years without a war between major world powers.
The jury of history has not yet voted on the last one but if he wins in November I fear he will be remembered as the man who ended our 231-year-old experiment in democracy. Half a century ago, Nixon invited the southern Democrats, the “Dixiecrats,” into the GOP exploiting their racial outrage over LBJ’s civil rights programs. Nixon never thought that they would take over the Grand Old Party and convert it into a verisimilitude of the Dixiecrat Party, a party that existed to keep blacks in their place. The new “Dixiecans” slowly unified the significant minority of white Americans who fear American blacks threaten their position in American society. Dixiecan politicians enrage middle and lower class whites against blacks to stay in power. Dixiecans also depicted immigrants as a threat to white America. Trump rode to power on that hatred. (NOTE: Many who voted for Trump in 2016 did not share his racist appeal; he exploited their frustration at the failure of an ossified bipartisan political system to prevent job loss at the hands of the financial class. Mrs. Clinton never got that memo.)
Trump did a remarkably good job of artificially juicing the economy with deficit spending. It would have ultimately collapsed but not before the elections in November. But then deus ex machina, Covid19 arrived and stripped the Emperor of his new clothes. He and his henchmen now face an increasingly likely defeat in November. Desperate, Trumpists have taken whole chapters out of Mussolini and Hitler’s playbook.
This demands a short primer on how fascism, of which Trumpism is the latest iteration, comes to power. First, create both foreign and domestic enemies and link them. We have a justifiable beef with “Marxist” China, so exaggerate it into an existential threat. Then, neatly link it to the Black Rights Movement (BLM) because a few BLM members dabbled in Marxism in school. Thus the Trumpist campaign narrative: “You see, this election is, essentially, a choice between Donald Trump and Karl Marx.” Although it is rather difficult to make “Uncle Joe” Biden look like “Uncle Joe” Stalin they tell us that a “senile”, Biden will be controlled by the modern-day Marxists who “hijacked” the Democratic Party. The “Marxists” will then destroy America’s institutions. A neat trick, because Marxism is a purely economic theory that has nothing to do with race. But, every argument and every diatribe against Biden raises fear of, you guessed it, black people. The Trumpists even blamed the spray-painting of the word “idol” on a statue of the Virgin Mary in Queens, NYC, on black Marxist-Anarchists. The only people I have met who would have done it are fringe Evangelical Protestants who condemn any sacred representation. They have done this in the past and will do it again. The Trumpist shills blamed blacks for doing it although the cops have not been able to find the “black guy” who did it. Mussolini wrapped himself in the glory of Rome. Trump glorifies the Confederacy as part of protecting the American way of life against (you guessed it) MARXISTS!
Different times, similar bogeymen. Creating a common enemy, Hitler linked the Jews to Marxism. Trump links blacks to Marxism – knowing that his supporters wouldn’t know a Marxist if they saw one. Trumpists, like the Nazis, attack the press. Sending unidentifiable federal cops to “dominate” (Trump’s words) our cities and intimidate protestors of all kinds recalls the imagery of Nazi brownshirts and Fascist blackshirts beating innocent people. The resemblance to Portland horrifies.
I doubt most Trump supporters would know a Marxist if they met one. The Trump propaganda machine does not recruit economists but it does recruit white supremacists. They make “Marxism” a code word for Black Lives Matter. Trumpists have linked fear and resentment of black people to Marxism in exactly the way that Hitler linked Jews to the imaginary Marxist enemies of Germany. And for those who still doubt the connection to fascism, Trump dispelled that stating that he need not accept the results of the election.
Why should we see Trump as Mussolini and not Hitler? Hitler was cold and calculating and had a plan that he had been working on since the 1920’s. Hitler to his credit fought for his country. Besides a strong physical resemblance to Trump, Mussolini just loved a parade, had no comprehensive economic or political platform other than “making Italy great again” and fled Italy to Switzerland to avoid military service in World War I. And, before Trump, he put his son-in-law in charge of everything.