By Jason Taylor
I watch these early days with a mix of horror and fascination. On one level, and certainly to his fans, Trump looks like a wunderkind. He calls leaders of business, they come, and voila, they announce that they will open new factories, cancel plans to build abroad, and promise a gazillion new jobs (after one meeting with the wonder-king).
He calls international leaders to the White House — Trudeau, Nieto — and one expects them to come out proclaiming that they, too, want to negotiate NAFTA in order to give America a better deal. It is easy, even for this moderate, to begin to think that “wow, all Trump has to do is sit down and speak and all the changes he promised happen zip, zip zip.” Yet, I have lived enough to know that words are not actions and that the devil is in the details.
Trump was a frightening campaigner, an even more frightening president-elect, and in his first three days a terrifying president. Watching Congressional Republicans, especially the “leaders,” tiptoe around Trump; seeing Trump surrounded by white men while deciding the fate of men, women, and children around the globe; hearing Trump repeat obvious lies, and watching his assemblage of extremely rich men to run the government should keep us all awake at night.
Words matter. And the Trump team knows it. Bannon knows it. Conway knows it. Believe me when I say that much of the language has been researched and tested. This isn’t happening by chance. Both Bannon and Conway are, at the end of the day, “operatives” who have spent years honing a message — and then selling it. In Trump, they found the ultimate “sales guy,” the sort who will slap you on the back and tell you whatever you want to hear, so that he can make the sale. And like all people of that ilk, he then takes his commission and moves on. He cares not for his base, or anyone else.
I am sure many Germans said the same of Hitler — ideas they could get behind, but only if they ignored his blatant appeals to xenophobia, his acceptance of violence in his name, or the persecution and murder of Jews and other minorities, and the fascistic appeal to so-called patriotism. Anyone and everyone should be alarmed by Trump’s rhetoric, his proposals, his past history, and his team’s efforts to hide behind “alternative facts” otherwise known as lies and propaganda.
Either learn from history or repeat it. The rise of Fascism in Germany between the two wars tells us about the dangerous place America is in today with the rise of Trumpism.
The first amendment to the constitution states: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
The first amendment places the primacy of the people’s right to learn the truth about their government and to oppose it when it does not act in their interest first among all amendments. It is essential that we question the perspective of news organizations. There is no such thing as “unbiased” reporting. Everyone and every organization has a perspective and subtly or not so subtly articulates that bias.
Consider this scenario: 1) about one third of the American electorate are enthusiastic Trump supporters. 2) “The Fox News channel absolutely crushed their two main competitors, MSNBC and CNN, in Inauguration Day ratings, more than tripling their combined total.” 3) “Donald Trump Supporters Overwhelmingly Choose Fox News Channel For Inauguration Viewing” and 4) How did Fox report on the million women marches across the country: CNN 235 references, MSNBC 256 references, Fox News 66 references.
The History Channel is running a series on Hitler. Everyone should watch. There are many frightening parallels- repeated presentation of false facts, rallies before large crowds, calls for nationalistic pride, minorities falsely blamed for national problems, reduction in civil rights and due process, speeches filled with baseless rhetoric delivered with constant gesticulation, insistence on increased military strength, deliberate lies about (and at times incarceration) of political opponents and, most importantly, a cry to make the country great again. Trump is not Hitler, but what his style tells us about the American electorate is truly frightening.
We watched for the last year or more as Trumpism spread like a cancer throughout the American Body Politic. We saw and heard with our own eyes and ears as Mr. Trump demagogued his way from coast-to-coast doing his best Mussolini imitation. Many respected pundits and politicians from both Parties issued dire warnings about the existential dangers which Trump posed to the very essence of our democracy.
And yet when the dust settled on November 9, Mr. Trump was our president-elect. Putin, Comey and “fake news” most likely provided the winning margin, but this election should NEVER have been close enough for those factors to matter. In the final analysis, American citizens, in their frustration, fear, ignorance and bigotry chose a charismatic megalomaniac, a rank demagogue, a life-long con artist and a profoundly ignorant man to be our next president.
We the People have sewn the wind. Now we shall reap the whirlwind.
It will be brutal to watch and endure as neo-fascists, charlatans and unprincipled goons such as Bannon, Miller, Flynn, Conway, Price, DeVos, Sessions, et al. wield their sledgehammers to inflict maximum damage on the last eighty years of social and political progress forged with the blood, sweat and toil of our ancestors.
It seems to me that many of Trump’s most fervent supporters are those who are most easily distracted by the entertainments targeted at the masses. The excitement of current sports playoffs or the newest reality television show are easy to digest. The complexity of global trade agreements or the impending consequences of climate change, not so much. Fox News and its ilk has stepped in to do that thinking for them.
Our greatest danger comes from our uninformed population.
Trump is a monster, there is no getting around it. His raised fist is quite similar to the raised fist of Mussolini. I can hope that our democracy can stop this dangerous monster before it is too late.