Is Trump a Fascist?

U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames

July 18, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young – RTX1KTWT

The internet seems to think he is. You can’t swing a cat without hitting a Facebook post that compares his policy on Islamists to Nazi policy on Jews.  After Trump’s rally here in Charleston last night, somebody who goes by “SporeHux” posted a comment on YouTube:  he quoted Hermann Goering:

“The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.”

No comment.  None needed.  Trump had just declared his intention to close the country to Muslims. It’s just common sense.

Someone named “Donald Trump” replied to SporeHux: “Non sense you idiotic moron. I will have you building my wall as soon as I become President.  Hitler was way kinder then I will be against Muslim radicals and terrorist.”  Could that be the real Donald Trump?  He’d round up the Islamists and gas them?

We know Trump’s comfortable mocking the disabled. But it seems unlikely that, as president, he’d advocate killing them. And he doesn’t mind gay people.  Back in August, MSNBC’s Emma Margolin mused that Trump might be the “most LGBT-friendly Republican” in the race.47_benito mussolini

Then there’s the name: Donald.  It doesn’t ring like “Benito” or “Adolph.”

On the playgrounds of my youth, Donald had a comical chime, on account of the powerful Duck association. Daffy was edgier.  Daffy was a duck to be reckoned with. But that’s a name to be earned, not given.

Has Donald earned Daffy? Or is he just Dangerous?

daffy_duck_vs_donald_duck_arenaLindsay Graham called Trump a “xeno-phobic, race-baiting, religious bigot.”  That sounds pretty dangerous in a billionaire, let alone in a president.  What would Trump do in the oval office?

George Will, who has done the candidate the courtesy of taking him seriously (which almost no one on the Right seems to do), foresees an george_will_2_3.jpgOrwellian dystopia under President Trump.  If Trump is serious about his immigration policy, he’ll need to a create giant cadre of national police (Will euphemistically calls it an enlargement of “the federal government’s enforcement apparatus”) to deport millions of  homeowners, taxpayers, and even citizens.  Yes, Trump advocates deporting American citizens–so long as they’re children.  Then he’d construct a sort of Ministry of Thought Police to determine who among them should get back in.  So says George Will.

Yesterday, George Will used his Washington Post column to tell us that support for progressive taxes is nothing more than an “aesthetic judgment” (those who prefer a progressive to a flat tax are trying to legislate away what they consider an “unlovely” income inequality).  So when George says a Republican is dangerous, we better take notice.

I printed a ticket.  I recruited my daughter.  I printed her ticket.  The website said the doors would open two hours early, at 5pm.  Come at five if you want a seat.  I didn’t want a seat.  I am not a fan, after all.  I am no booster bedecked in the Trump team colors (blue), who’s willing to sit for two hours in a plastic folding chair to wait to see him.

Besides, I’d reasoned, I’ve been to plenty of political rallies, and they never start on time. Getting there two hours early would really be getting there three or four hours early.  We were finishing up dinner–homemade pasta–at 6pm.  We needn’t hurry out to the old Caravan with the cockamamie headlight.  We had plenty of time.  He probably wouldn’t even show up before eight.

The Trump Element

We parked on the grassy verge of the road approaching Patriot’s Point at 6:30 and joined the trickle of people walking dangerously in the dark, one foot on the pavement, one foot off, feeling like we were the late arrivals to a ball game.  We reached the parking lot.

We had the proverbial line experience.

“Is this the line?”

Someone’s good-natured nod over the shoulder revealed the truth:  this was the snakey mid-section of a line that doubled back on itself for a hundred yards, then turned round the cars at the far side of the parking, its tail disappearing off on the other side somewhere.  Cutting through cars, we found the real end.

Thousands ahead of us, all clutching their tickets.  I could see the WWII aircraft carrier a couple of hundred yards away, a looming darkness under a string of bulbs that arched like Christmas lights from deck to superstructure and back to deck.

The crowd did not seem like those pictures of Nazi rallies.  Well, sure, it was racially pure.  I mean it was all white.  I counted five black people among the thousands, and three of those were selling Trump paraphernalia.  It didn’t look like there were any Hispanics, though there was one white guy in a sombrero who tried to start a chant of “Viva Trump!”  He gave it up.  People smiled, but no one played along.

A good number of young men in clusters of four or five looked like frat boys.  But a lot of people in the crowd looked just like me:  upper-middle class, mild-mannered.  They looked like the kind of people who would caucus in Iowa.  I saw several other fathers with teenaged daughters.  My daughter saw three or four classmates.

“Now everyone’s going to think you’re conservative,” I teased her.

“Oh, I think they know my politics,” she answered.

20151207_184711Other than the “Bikers for Trump” couple hawking their tee shirts, practically no one looked working-class.  It wasn’t even as edgy as a Steelers’ tail-gate party.  You couldn’t even call it a “crowd.” No one told us how to line up.  There were none of those strap-and-stand barriers that corral people in airports.  People snaked themselves.  No one pressed forward.  No one shoved.  No one cut in line.

Middle-aged men chuckled good-naturedly as the woman selling anti-Hillary buttons came up and down the line.  But they didn’t buy any.

At 7:20, after standing in the pleasant cold evening for about 40 minutes, with still a couple of hundred yards of a very slow moving line in front of us, a murmur began.  People were streaming his speech.  My daughter pulled out her iPhone.

“Google Trump Yorktown,” people were spreading the word helpfully.

There he was, on the tiny screen of the phone, looking like he’d been talking for awhile.  My daughter and I huddled close to try to hear.  I had that double consciousness you feel outside a stadium when you listen to the broadcast about what’s going on inside.  Only we couldn’t hear the crowd.  We could see the blank darkness that was the ship, and we could make out a square glow amid-ships from an open bay, but we couldn’t hear a thing.

I looked around, expecting to find some outrage among the ralliers, but there was nothing unruly about the crowd.  Thousands had their tickets.  They stood in line, looking at their phones, shuffling forward a few feet every few minutes.  Maybe they still thought they’d get in.

Later, watching the speech on YouTube, Trump addressed the problem.  Thousands are still outside, he said, mentioning it as evidence of his popularity.  We could wait an hour to start.  But they’ll never get in anyway.  


That seemed flippant, I thought.  Inconsiderate.  

I wonder now, somewhat naively, what my “ticket” was for?  Reading the fine print, I see it makes no promises.  It doesn’t even say “admit one.”  It just says it’s “free” and “Register 1 ticket per person.”  I guess the “ticket” is basically my receipt for having handed my email and house address to the Trump Campaign.

I feel like I was conned.  (Check out Trump’s Charleston deal in today’s Post & Courier–for another con, this one screwing local taxpayers.)

But no one in line last night seemed to mind.  They shuffled a few feet forward in their winter coats and sweaters.  7:30 and he was already half an hour into his speech.  At least he’ll make the trains run on time, I thought, congratulating myself on my wit.

“I just got word,” one salesman called out excitedly.   He had a headset on like he was a lesser football coach, maybe for the kicking team.  “Word just came down, my $20 Trump hats are now on sale . . . for $10!”

No one bought a reduced-price hat.  But they stayed in line.

Surely they knew he’d be done talking by the time they got to the door or to the metal detector or to whatever gate was holding us up.  The atmosphere outside wasn’t even carnivalesque.  There was hardly any camaraderie, no singing, no fellow-feeling shared by the people suffering together out in the cold, no outside-the-stadium-too-poor-to-buy-an-NFL-ticket pep-rally going on, just a genial crowd of white people shuffling politely in line.

My daughter and I gave up.  We jumped the storm ditch and walked over to the protestors.  They were huddled behind a yellow police tape, audible only to one bend in the line, just beyond a thirty-foot missile.

Stragglers from the Trump line occasionally went over there to take pictures, like you do to zoo animals.  I wanted to go shake a couple of hands.  There were only about five or six, mostly young, holding up posters with scribbled words I couldn’t even read.

“You can’t come closer than twelve feet!” the one older man yelled with alarm.  He was with the protesters on the other side of the yellow line.  It seemed very strange that he might be scared of me.

“I just wanted to thank you,” I said sheepishly.

“Oh!” one of the young women laughed, realizing I was not a threat.  “Then you can come back here!” She lifted the yellow police tape jokingly.

My daughter and I walked back to the Dodge and drove home.

The Speech

I had bad dreams.  I woke at 2:30 in the morning and couldn’t go back to sleep, so I came downstairs to watch on YouTube the speech I missed at the Yorktown.

circa 1935: Hermann Wilhelm Goering (1893 - 1946), (Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images)

circa 1935: Hermann Wilhelm Goering (1893 – 1946), (Photo by Three Lions/Getty Images)

He is very slick.  The Göring quotation seems pretty apt.  America’s in grave danger.  Enemies from outside–ISIS and Mexicans–threaten our way of life.  And enemies among us–liberals, the media, Lindsay Graham, Jeb Bush, proponents of gun control, etc.–have ruined America.  A lot of people are liars–generals, reporters.  A lot of people are idiots–especially people in government.  I know them, he confides to the audience, which laughs with him.  They’re not very smart.

Trump’s wife is smart.  She predicted that if he ran for president, he’d win.  The people are smart. He has great faith in the American people, because they are so “incredibly smart.”  (This pleased the crowd inside the aircraft carrier.)  Trump wants to be the people’s president, he tells the all-white crowd.

Trump will “fix” America.  It’s all pretty simple.  He’ll “negotiate” away the trade deficit with China.  He’ll balance the budget.  He’ll do something about Iran, and it had something to do with his skills as a deal maker.  He’ll build a real wall along the whole Mexican border.  He’ll spend billions more on the military until no one will ever think about messing with us. He’ll protect the 2nd Amendment.  It’s common sense.  We need to arm ourselves.  If only those French people had had some guns.  The 1st Amendment he’s not so fond of.  Liars hide behind it.  And we need to institute racial profiling.  It’s just common sense, people.   America used to be great.  It sucks now.  Trump will make America great again.

TexasWhen I decided to check out the Trump rally, I thought I’d see the kind irresponsible, gun-toting people who intimidated that mosque in Irving, Texas.  But none of that. This was a decent, self-regulating crowd of upper-middle class white people.  People like me.  And at five in the morning, an hour before dawn after the day that lives in infamy, I worry to myself: Is this how fascism starts in America?

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