“By the end of his first 100 days as the nation’s 45th leader, the wall with Mexico would be designed, the immigration ban on Muslims would be in place, the audit of the Federal Reserve would be underway and plans to repeal the Affordable Care Act would be in motion, Trump pledged. “I know people aren’t sure right now what a President Trump will be like,” he said. “But things will be fine”
-Washington Post 5/5/2016
Missing from the Post’s early May analysis were:
Trump’s calls for arming Japan and South Korea with nuclear weapons;
His urging that we “re-negotiate” America’s solemn oaths to pay her debts in full;
His willingness to threaten countries whose economies (not to mention their militaries) will be critical to both world peace and our own economic success;
His anti-free-trade advocacy for a brand of neo-isolationist protectionism that once brought us the joys of the Great Depression;
His uncanny ability to alienate both the Labor left and the Conservative right in Great Britain; and
His argument that women seeking abortions should be “punished”, as well as those who help them.
Worse than what Trump has said, however, has been the appropriation of his words and mindset by truly evil people both here in the United States and abroad.
His counterpart in the recent Austrian presidential elections, to cite one example, represented a party quite literally founded and led after World War Two by former SS officers.
Trump is an unabashed admirer of Putin.
Still worse, things Trump says are all too often taken seriously by the worst of us.
We know there will be some who will gladly answer his call to murder the families of suspected terrorists.
We know there are some, even in our military who would happily violate international law and our own Uniform Code of Military Justice to “serve” the President by engaging in practices that go far “beyond” waterboarding and other forms of torture.
Even more distressing in this scenario are those Republicans who, after clearly calling Trump out in no uncertain terms during the Republican primaries, now, for whatever reasons, are “rallying ‘round.”
Their slogan, “Better Trump than Hillary.”
The phrase reminds this writer of nothing so much as the French right in the mid and late 1930’s, facing the aftermath (demographic, social and economic) of a devastating world war, the impact of The Great Depression, and the resurgence of a Germany that had never really admitted defeat.
The leader of that French Government was a “socialist” in what we would now describe as the Bernie Sanders/Willy Brandt/Tony Blair sense of the word.
He was also a Jew, like the still hated Alfred Dreyfus, the first to hold the highest electoral office in France.
His name was Leon Blum.
The French royalist right, big business and heavy industry, much if not all the French Catholic Church, and French anti-semites of all stripes, all found at least one good reason to hate Blum.
He had, after all, introduced the 40-hour week, empowered labor unions, kept France out of the Spanish Civil War. And he wasn’t a Christian.
What the French right couldn’t find was a leader of their own who could hold a candle to him
When asked why they voted for the likes of men who would later tried as war criminals and traitors, their answer was always a call to party, or religious, or national loyalty, couched in the knee-jerk recital of what became their slogan, “Better Hitler than Blum.”
Trump is not Hitler.
He does, however, attract, encourage and empower all too many folks of a similar mindset to those who supported National Socialism then and its paler modern anti-semitic and anti Muslim analogs.
Urging others to vote for him out of pure hatred for Clinton or liberalism bears more than a striking resemblance to the self-destructive mindset of the French right of the thirties.
Some of Trump’s most patriotic and articulate Republican opponents were right about him early on.
Nothing has changed.
But if he is elected President, much will change . . . and, odds are, for the worse.