Monday, March 14, 2016

The fascism of the oompah-loompahs

Now that Donald Trump has become the most likely winner of the GOP presidential nominating contest, the attitude toward him from most of the major media outlets has transformed from one of disdain to one of outright fear and concern. Where before the hook was "How could modern America actually be nominating this guy for president?", now it's become "How could modern America actually be looking like 1930s Italy or Germany?!" And that is a many-layered question and, consequently, a many-layered response.

First off, there's a certain segment of America that's always looked like 1930s Italy or Germany. Always. From the time of the Alien and Sedition Acts to the Know-Nothings, determined that immigrants shouldn't ruin the glory that was America, the Immigrant Nation, there's always been a portion of the electorate only too happy to blame their problems on "the other." The modern manifestation of it was, of course, Nixon's Southern Strategy, where it was convenient to sweep up racist Southern Democrats' votes because the Johnson Democrats new policies wouldn't let them continue in the historic tradition (i.e  telling poor white folks that their misery, created by rich white folks, was actually caused somehow by poor black folks.) Trump's other is two-fold: it's not only poor Mexicans stealing your jobs but it's also Muslims coming here to kill you (who are, inevitably, Arabic Muslims because how else could you tell them apart from non-Muslims at the border? Plus, what other kind of Muslims are there?!)

Psst. Don't look here.
Interestingly, though, the original fascists, Italy's National Fascist party, didn't really have an "other". There was no racial or religious component to the Italian Fascist ideology. It was simply hyper-nationalist: the idea that Italy should be great because ancient Rome was great and ruled most of the ancient Western world at one point. Sounds like Trump, right? "Make America great again!" Why? No reason. Just because America should be great because it's... America. City on the hill. Greatest nation evah.

It was only later that the racial elements become dominant in the popular conception of fascism because they were so integral to the German brand of the ideology, tied up in the concepts of eugenics and the Master Race and so on. Germany couldn't be great because some ancient precursor had been great. There's wasn't one. Germany had to be great because its people were inherently great. And because die Juden were keeping it from being great. Of course, Godwin's Law springs into effect as soon as any comparison is made between Trump and the Nazis because, of course, no one can be as bad as the Nazis! (Certain regimes, like Stalin's USSR and Pol Pot's Cambodia, beg to differ. Actually, they probably wouldn't beg.) But I don't think anyone is saying (now) that Trump is as bad as the Nazis. They're drawing a comparison between the movement supporting him and the historical movements that emerged around people like Mussolini and Hitler because the similarities abound.

Take, for example, the polls that indicate the number of Trump supporters who dislike Muslims, in general. This is indicative of a populace who's been given a boogeyman without any foundation in reality. It doesn't help that the leader of their particular political movement of the moment fuels that fire by suggesting that he'd institute a way to register and track Muslims in the US. I mean, obviously you probably won't tag them with a yellow Star of David like they did back in the day, but I guess a yellow crescent would be OK? Maybe? The hilarious part of this is that the "news" outlet so responsible for creating the boogeyman that Trump is so interested in tracking, Fox News, has been one of the leading voices trying to kill the Frankenstein's monster that they created, usually kind of sidling their way into the idea that Americans aren't really racists (read: fascists.) But, of course they are.

The Tea Party began as a response to one man: President Obama. And, no, it's not because Obama is a socialist. Far from it. As I've mentioned before, nothing in Obama's record or anything he's done in the Oval Office would indicate that he's a socialist. What he is, of course, is black. The kneejerk response to this disruption of the social hierarchy ("It's not just black people takin' OUR jobs! Now they've taken THE job!") was to form a party that spoke for the Common White Man, since neither of the major parties was interested in doing that anymore (Just FYI: They never really have been.) Hence, the Tea Party and the immediate labels of Obama being a Muslim, a socialist, not an American (Remember one of the loudest voices proclaiming the birth certificate controversy? One Donald J. Trump...) or anything else that would get an immediate response from the bulk of the electorate that is both ignorant and has been encouraged to think that they have no impact on the political process and no avenue by which to change that status, other than to vote for rich, white guys who promise to change it. Somehow.

Fascism, of either stripe, is not new to Americans. It's been here for a long time. The fact that it's now the dominant aspect of one half of the major party is as inevitable as the Mississippi changing course. A lot of people just don't like to admit it because things like systematic racism (in the name of freedom!) and registration (in the name of freedom!) and internment camps (in the name of freedom!) just don't tend to ring out the tones of the Land of Opportunity and Liberty for All. But those have always been nice illusions, too.

So, yeah, calling Trump a fascist is not a label that anyone should shy away from. He could also be labeled "demagogue" because he's that, too. But the bigger question is why it takes the public and the assembled media so long to admit the truth that's been right there in front of them. The real question isn't why a buffoon who looks like the loudest and most abrasive of the Oompah-loompahs is a leading candidate for president. It's why the apparently most popular candidate opposing him is a war criminal (among a host of other less-than-salutary activities over the past 20 years) and why that whole situation seems to be acceptable to the bulk of the populace. It's just like what happens after every time someone pulls a gun and commits a mass murder: "There's nothing we can do!" says the only industrialized nation in which this happens on a regular basis. At some point, you'd think people would get tired of it.