Colson: Trumpism, Fascism and our lean to the right
Fascism. Ugly word, bad vibe, eh?
But that’s the word that currently is being bandied about the blogosphere and even in the staid pages of the New York Times, in relation to everybody’s least favorite presidential candidate, Donald Trump.
They’re not calling him a fascist, directly — most of them aren’t, anyway.
Naturally, there are a few writers for whom Trump’s candidacy has loosed the dogs of war in a literary sense, setting up a free-for-all in political name-calling.
One is David Benjamin, the brother of a (late and lamented) childhood friend of mine who currently splits his time between Madison, Wisc., and Paris, France; a publisher of a couple of books; and a blogger whose “Weekly Screed” columns are a hoot to read.
Anyway, in his most recent Screed, he decided to take off the “p.c.” gloves and go at The Donald on The Donald’s home turf — insulting verbiage being the main mode of communication.
Benjamin wonders (as have I) why it is that none of Trump’s political adversaries in the quadrennial circus known as the presidential race have gone at Trump on his own terms.
When Trump bashes his female opponents by insulting their looks, their sexuality, their bodily functions, why does he get a pass from being on the receiving end of similar taunts and jibes?
David, bless his pointy blog, gleefully points to a few such vulnerabilities that Trump prefers to be considered off-limits.
His “hair,” for instance — although I hesitate to call that pile of obviously synthetic stuff on top of his head, hair.
I mean, it’s obviously a construction project of some kind, clearly pouffed sculpted from front to back, and it sure seems to look like the mother of all toupés.
Can it be that, underneath all those fibers of dubious origin, the guy is really as bald as an egg?
Or, as David put it, is Trump actually “a cueball with fringe?”
Anyway, I digress from my original thoughts about fascism, just long enough to invite you to check out David’s Weekly Screed (#768) of May 29.
Back on track, I note that my Concise Columbia Encyclopedia, a handy desk-reference I’ve used since college, defines fascism as including “opposition to democratic and socialist movements; racist ideologies; aggressive military policy; and belief in an authoritarian leader.”
I don’t know about you, but that seems to me to fit Trump’s verbal ejaculations and general comportment to a “T.”
As noted, the “fascist” label has been loosely tethered to the Trump phenomenon by a variety of commentators, and just as loosely rejected by some Trumpeteers.
Take that tired old warhorse of the neocon world, Newt Gingrich, the man who engineered the “Contract On America” … er, I mean the “Contract With America” that was the opening shot of resurgent right-wing activism in the early 1990s.
Recently he responded to the growing chorus of “Trumpism = Facism” by pointing out that Trump’s candidacy has none of the trappings of, say, Hitler’s rise to power in the 1930s (I have to point out that Gingrich has let it be known that he wouldn’t turn down the job of being Trump’s veep, if asked).
Trump has no brownshirted young thugs roaming the streets of big cities, smashing homes and businesses of Jews, Gingrich hollered (though Trump does have a bunch of hyped-up bikers making up part of his security detail at rallies — think Hell’s Angels, Altamont, the Rolling Stones, 1969).
Trump does not have the “political structure” that Hitler put together, Gingrich continued, nor does he have the “ideology” that came frothing out of the mouths of the Hitler youth.
Maybe not. Even someone as densely ignorant of historical currents as Donald Trump would recognize that taking on any of these organizational attributes would mean instant political death even in these desensitized, undereducated times.
But Gingrich once again has missed the forest for the trees.
By retreating into his pose as a historical expert, and heatedly protesting that Trumpism is nothing like Nazism in its details, Gingrich overlooks the fact that Trump’s statements and immigration “policies” are a lot like what Hitler and his cronies were saying during the 1930s.
Which, of course, was Gingrich’s intent. As long as he can keep everyone fixated on minutiae, he hopes we’ll miss the truth of the matter, which is that Trump’s candidacy has opened up a Pandora’s box of self-serving, violent, intolerant thinking in this country.
Do I believe we’re headed down the road to conversion to a fascist state?
Not really. But I have been wrong before, and I could be again.
And we have the ingredients for the rise of fascism bubbling away in our national cauldron right now — economic decline, social unrest, racist scapegoating on a national scale, and a growing conviction among the undereducated that anyone who isn’t white is out to get those who are white.
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Perhaps it’s because we are in the abbreviated days of winter and I instinctively know that the sun is shining down-under. But every January I go through a nostalgic period where Australian wine dominates my mind.