Although he is still a clown, nobody laughs at Donald Trump anymore — which may be the real purpose of his candidacy, at least as far as he is concerned. The casino mogul is pleased to instill fear among Republican elites, as he dominates their presidential nominating contest — and forces them to face a hard question about the man who is exciting such belligerent enthusiasm among Republican voters:
Is Trump a real live fire-breathing fascist?
From Newsweek to Salon to the Daily Caller, commentators of various colorations have found ample reason to apply that often-discredited label to him. While these observers hesitate to lump Trump in with totalitarian dictatorships and historic crimes against humanity, they are clearly concerned over his strongman appeal, his populist rhetoric, and his rejection of GOP free-market orthodoxy.
Genuine conservatives aren’t wrong to fret, but they seem unwilling or unable to grasp the clearest evidence that Trump is channeling toxic currents from the past — namely, his appeals to racial bigotry, his truculent attitude toward other nations, and his extremist “solution” to illegal immigration.
Obvious clues to the noxious nature of Trumpism keep cropping up across the political landscape like poison mushrooms. In Boston’s “Southie” neighborhood, once headquarters of the openly racist anti-busing movement known as ROAR (Restore Our Alienated Rights), two white males severely beat an older Hispanic man. When arrested, one of the thugs told police, “Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported.”
Rather than deplore this ugly assault, Trump’s impulse was to praise the zeal of his supporters. “It would be a shame,” he said when first told of the beating, then added: “I will say that people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again. They are passionate.”
At a big rally in Mobile, Alabama, Trump welcomed Senator Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, R-Ala., the only prominent politician singled out for praise. Sessions is a dubious figure whose federal judicial nomination was once rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee over his record of racially inflammatory behavior and remarks — which included calling a white civil rights lawyer “a disgrace to his race” and opposing the Voting Rights Act.
Today, he is the chief Senate opponent of legal immigration to the United States.
Opposition to legal as well as illegal immigration is a foundation of the white nationalist movement in the United States. So perhaps nobody should have been too surprised when a loud voice in the Mobile audience greeted Sessions’ arrival by screaming “White Power!”
Again, the reaction of the Trump campaign was telling. Campaign manager Corey Lewandowski responded that he wasn’t aware of the “white power” shouter. “I don’t know about the individual you’re talking about in Alabama,” he insisted. “I know there were 30-plus thousand people in that stadium. They were very receptive to the message of ‘making America great again’ because they want to be proud to be Americans again.”
Asked about the Boston beating, Lewandowski acknowledged that violence is “unacceptable,” continuing: “However, we should not be ashamed to be Americans. We should be proud of our country, proud of our heritage, and continue to be the greatest country in the world.” Like his boss, Lewandowski isn’t subtle. His dog-whistle about “heritage” and being “proud” was heard loud and clear by the white supremacist underworld, which is rallying behind Trump.
The troubling tone in Trump’s language can be detected when he talks about foreign policy, too. As David Cay Johnston recently reported, the draft-dodging billionaire boasts that he is the “most militaristic” candidate, and has blatantly advocated attacking other countries to “take” their oil. Imperial warmongering is a classic hallmark of fascism — indeed, it was military aggression by Nazi Germany that led to World War II.
Finally there is Trump’s “solution” to illegal immigration. He promises to deport an estimated 11-12 million people, a plan that would be ruinously expensive and grossly inhumane to even attempt. The only analogous projects on that scale were atrocities carried out by the Turks against Armenians and, later, by the Nazis against European Jews.
Imagine a country that seeks to round up millions of brown-skinned people by force, transforming itself into a police state, while mobs of vigilantes in militias scourge frightened families out of hiding. It is not hard to predict scenes of bloodshed and horror.
No Donald, that isn’t the way to “make America great again.” For most of us — the majority of citizens who have no use for Trump and Trumpism — that isn’t America at all.