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“The American Fascist”: Why Donald Trump Presents Such A Profound Danger To The Future Of America And The World

I’ve been reluctant to use the  “f” word to describe Donald Trump because it’s especially harsh, and it’s too often used carelessly.

But Trump has finally reached a point where parallels between his presidential campaign and the fascists of the first half of the 20th century – lurid figures such as Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Oswald Mosley, and Francisco Franco – are too evident to overlook.

It’s not just that Trump recently quoted Mussolini (he now calls that tweet inadvertent) or that he’s begun inviting followers at his rallies to raise their right hands in a manner chillingly similar to the Nazi “Heil” solute (he dismisses such comparison as “ridiculous.”)

The parallels go deeper.

As did the early twentieth-century fascists, Trump is focusing his campaign on the angers of white working people who have been losing economic ground for years, and who are easy prey for demagogues seeking to build their own power by scapegoating others.

Trump’s electoral gains have been largest in counties with lower than average incomes, and among those who report their personal finances have worsened. As the Washington Post’s Jeff Guo has pointed out, Trump performs best in places where middle-aged whites are dying the fastest.

The economic stresses almost a century ago that culminated in the Great Depression were far worse than most of Trump’s followers have experienced, but they’ve suffered something that in some respects is more painful – failed expectations.

Many grew up during the 1950s and 1960s, during a postwar prosperity that lifted all boats. That prosperity gave their parents a better life. Trump’s followers naturally expected that they and their children would also experience economic gains. They have not.

Add fears and uncertainties about terrorists who may be living among us, or may want to sneak through our borders, and this vulnerability and powerlessness is magnified.

Trump’s incendiary verbal attacks on Mexican immigrants and Muslims – even his reluctance to distance himself from David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan – follow the older fascist script.

That older generation of fascists didn’t bother with policy prescriptions or logical argument, either. They presented themselves as strongmen whose personal power would remedy all ills.

They created around themselves cults of personality in which they took on the trappings of strength, confidence, and invulnerability – all of which served as substitutes for rational argument or thought.

Trump’s entire campaign similarly revolves around his assumed strength and confidence. He tells his followers not to worry; he’ll take care of them. “If you get laid off …, I still want your vote,” he told workers in Michigan last week. “I’ll get you a new job; don’t worry about it.”

The old fascists intimidated and threatened opponents. Trump is not above a similar strategy. To take one example, he recently tweeted that Chicago’s Ricketts family, now spending money to defeat him, “better be careful, they have a lot to hide.”

The old fascists incited violence. Trump has not done so explicitly but Trump supporters have attacked Muslims, the homeless, and African-Americans – and Trump has all but excused their behavior.

Weeks after Trump began his campaign by falsely alleging that Mexican immigrants are “bringing crime. They’re rapists,” two brothers in Boston beat with a metal poll and urinated on a 58-year-old homeless Mexican national. They subsequently told the police “Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported.”

Instead of condemning that brutality, Trump excused it by saying “people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again.”

After a handful of white supporters punched and attempted to choke a Black Lives Matter protester at one of his campaign rallies, Trump said “maybe he should have been roughed up.”

There are further parallels. Fascists glorified national power and greatness, fanning xenophobia and war. Trump’s entire foreign policy consists of asserting American power against other nations. Mexico “will” finance a wall. China “will” stop manipulating its currency.

In pursuit of their nationalistic aims, the fascists disregarded international law. Trump is the same. He recently proposed using torture against terrorists, and punishing their families, both in clear violation of international law.

Finally, the fascists created their mass followings directly, without political parties or other intermediaries standing between them and their legions of supporters.

Trump’s tweets and rallies similarly circumvent all filters. The Republican Party is irrelevant to his campaign, and he considers the media an enemy. (Reporters covering his rallies are kept behind a steel barrier.)

Viewing Donald Trump in light of the fascists of the first half of the twentieth century – who used economic stresses to scapegoat others, created cults of personality, intimidated opponents, incited violence, glorified their nations and disregarded international law, and connected directly with the masses – helps explain what Trump is doing and how he is succeeding.

It also suggests why Donald Trump presents such a profound danger to the future of America and the world.

 

By: Robert Reich, The Robert Reich Blog, March 8, 2016

March 14, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Fascism, White Working Class | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Like Pandas At The Zoo”: Such a Curiosity, Those White Working-Class Voters

The headline: “Millions of ordinary Americans support Donald Trump.” Immediately, I bristled.

Here we go again.

“Ordinary” Americans. We know what that’s supposed to mean. Plain people. Malleable people. Nothing-exceptional-about-them people. Every four years, these white working-class voters become objects of curiosity like pandas at the zoo.

These are the people I come from. Many of their children grew up to do the same kind of work their parents did — but for less money and benefits and with fewer job protections. Make that no job protection — unless they’re in a union, which is increasingly unlikely. As NPR reported last year, nearly a third of American workers belonged to a union 50 years ago. Today 1 in 10 are union members.

I wonder how many of my fellow liberals in the pundit class have ever stepped foot in a union hall. We all talk about the importance of organized labor, but how many of us union kids are left? It matters, I think, in telling this story. If you don’t know any working-class voters, then it’s much easier to portray them as angry, racist and xenophobic — lemmings slogging their way toward the cliff’s edge, dragging their expired lives behind them.

Earlier this week, I shared on Facebook a photo of an abandoned union hall tweeted by MSNBC reporter Tony Dokoupil. “It’s like touring the Titanic,” he wrote.

The room was dark and still, but folding chairs still circled a dozen or so round tabletops, as if the union’s annual Christmas party were just around the corner. My father was a utility worker, and the union hall was the one place where I could always count on seeing my parents relaxed and happy. They danced and laughed and let us kids eat as much dessert as we wanted. We were a boisterous collection of families celebrating our bigger family. Even as children, we understood why we were sticking with the union.

This Trump phenomenon has made me testy, I fear. “Why start off angry?” my mother would say if she were alive. “There’s already enough of that in the world.” She was your typical working-class mom, believing each of us had the power to change the world with kindness.

That headline I hated topped a Guardian story I appreciated by Thomas Frank, the author of “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” In the story, which is gaining traction on social media, Frank takes to task the many liberals who cast white working-class Trump voters as mere reflections of his darkest inclinations.

The problem, Frank writes, is that too few of us are actually asking these voters what is on their minds.

“When people talk to white, working-class Trump supporters, instead of simply imagining what they might say, they find that what most concerns these people is the economy and their place in it,” Frank writes. “I am referring to a study just published by Working America, a political-action auxiliary of the AFL-CIO, which interviewed some 1,600 white working-class voters in the suburbs of Cleveland and Pittsburgh in December and January.

“Support for Donald Trump, the group found, ran strong among these people, even among self-identified Democrats, but not because they are all pining for a racist in the White House. Their favorite aspect of Trump was his ‘attitude’, the blunt and forthright way he talks. As far as issues are concerned, ‘immigration’ placed third among the matters such voters care about, far behind their number one concern: ‘good jobs/the economy’.”

This is not to say that many of them are not also racist, sexist and xenophobic. Just as with any other demographic group, there is the worst among them, and we have seen too many of them at their ugliest.

But most of them know that their current appeal to presidential candidates and the gawking media is as fleeting as it is intense. They know what’s coming.

Win or lose, Trump will continue to enjoy a privileged, high-profile life, leaving behind the ordinary Americans who thought he meant it when he said, “I love you people.”

They will return to the same stack of bills and low-paying jobs and the stress that is unraveling their lives. They will keep their prayers simple: May the car last another season; may the baby’s cough not turn into a prescription for antibiotics; may love prevail.

Forgotten again by the media, the ordinary Americans will say goodbye to loved ones and bury their dead. They will bow their heads, maybe recite the prayers of their childhood. They will close their eyes tight and try not to think about how broken dreams have a way of sucking the life out of you long before you die.

 

By: Connie Schultz, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Columnist and Professional in Residence at Kent State University’s School of Journalism; The National Memo, March 10, 2016

March 12, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Unions, White Working Class | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Electoral Gamble”: Why Working-Class Whites Can’t Propel Donald Trump To Ultimate Victory

If there’s one thing we know for sure about Donald Trump, it’s that he’s a candidate for white people.

This would seem to be an almost insurmountable problem in an increasingly diverse America, but some are beginning to suspect — either with hope or fear, depending on whom you ask — that Trump could win a general election by pulling in large numbers of working-class white voters who are responding to his message of alienation, anger, and resentment. As The Wall Street Journal recently put it, “Trump’s success in attracting white, working-class voters is raising the prospect that the Republican Party, in an electoral gamble, could attempt to take an unexpected path to the White House that would run through the largely white and slow-to-diversify upper Midwest.”

Indeed, if Trump were to win the White House, this would seem to be the only way. But it’s not going to happen.

The idea rests on a number of misconceptions, the first of which is that there are millions of blue-collar whites who would otherwise have voted Democratic, but who will vote for Donald Trump instead. As Chris Matthews said in January, “I think there’s a lot of Reagan Democrats waiting to vote for him.” The “Reagan Democrats” to which he refers were Democrats who crossed party lines to vote for Ronald Reagan in 1980.

The problem with this belief is that the Reagan Democrats are gone. Where did they go? They became Republicans. The phenomenon of Reagan Democrats was largely about race, the continuation of a process that began when Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act. Those socially conservative whites who had voted Democratic in the past shifted their allegiance, and they didn’t go back.

You can argue, and many people have, that the alienation of the Democratic Party from the white working class is a serious problem for them, and it’s part of what produces off-year defeats in years like 2010 and 2014. But because of the country’s changing demographics, the white working class becomes a smaller and smaller portion of the voting public with each election, particularly in presidential election years when turnout is higher across the board. That’s why Barack Obama could lose the white working class in 2012 by a staggering 26 points (62-36), and still win the election comfortably. So if you’re going to argue that Donald Trump will ride these voters to victory, you’d have to believe that he’d do not just better than Mitt Romney did with them, but hugely better, so much so that it would overcome the advantages the Democratic nominee will have with other voters.

Consider, for instance, the Latino vote. Mitt Romney won only 27 percent of Latinos in 2012, an abysmal performance that convinced many Republicans that if they didn’t “reach out” to this fast-growing segment of the electorate, they might be unable to win the White House any time soon. Latinos will be an even larger portion of the electorate this year than they were four years ago. Now think what will happen if Donald Trump, the man who made venomous antipathy toward immigrants one of the cornerstones of his campaign, becomes the GOP nominee. Not only would it be shocking if he got 20 percent of their votes, his nomination will almost certainly spur higher turnout among Latinos than we’ve ever seen before.

That’s another problem with the blue-collar whites theory of a Trump victory: It rests on the idea that he’d bring out large numbers of those voters who don’t vote often, but also requires that people opposed to Trump won’t be similarly motivated to turn out. “I find it just so implausible that we could have this massive white nativist mobilization without also provoking a big mobilization among minority voters,” political scientist Ruy Teixeira recently told The New Yorker. “It is kind of magical thinking that you could do one thing and not have the other.”

Now let’s talk about that Rust Belt. Even if you believe that Trump would do better in those states than recent Republicans have, it wouldn’t be enough unless he was absolutely crushing the Democrat everywhere. The reason is that Democrats start in an excellent position in the Electoral College. In 2012, President Obama won reelection with 332 electoral votes, a cushion of 62 more than he needed. That means that if the Democratic nominee can hold most of the states Obama won — including swing states heavy with Latinos, like Florida, New Mexico, and Colorado — she could lose Pennsylvania (20 electoral votes), Ohio (18 votes), and Michigan (16 votes) and still be elected president.

I suspect that many people have been led to believe that Trump could ride white working-class votes to victory in the fall because he has performed particularly well with such voters in the Republican primaries. It only takes a moment to realize the problem with this logic. The people voting in Republican primaries are overwhelmingly, guess what, Republicans. Yes, there are Republican-leaning independents voting in those primaries, too, but they’re mostly people who call themselves independent but consistently vote Republican. They’re already in the GOP’s camp; Trump would need them, plus a whole lot more.

That’s not even to mention the moderate Republicans who are repulsed by Trump and would either vote for the Democrat, vote for a third-party candidate, or just stay home. Donald Trump’s problem in the general would be that he has all kinds of voters who will oppose him, and be highly motivated to do so; he is easily the most unpopular candidate in either party. He might pick up a few extra votes from those who respond to his nativism and race-baiting, yet used to vote for Democrats. But there just aren’t enough of them, and it won’t be anything approaching what he’d need to win.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, March 8, 2016

March 9, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, GOP Voters, White Working Class | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“I’m No Math Genius, But…”: In Elections, Addition is Always Better Than Subtraction

In the November/December 2015 issue of the Washington Monthly, I wrote a review of Stanley Greenberg’s book America Ascendant. One of the main points Greenberg makes is to outline a reform agenda that Democrats should embrace to win the support of white working class voters.

Greenberg provides polling and focus group data to show strong support from Americans (not just Democrats or Republicans) for the following items: Americans want to protect Medicare and Social Security. They want paid sick days, and access to affordable child care for working mothers and families. They want equal pay for women. They want an affordable college education. And, finally, they want long-term infrastructure investment to rebuild America and create middle-class jobs, while raising taxes on the very rich so they pay their fair share.

I was reminded of that when I read an article by Phillip Rucker and Robert Costa about how Republicans – especially Trump and Cruz – are pinning their presidential hopes on wooing white working class voters. But they have a totally different approach.

Trump is making the most visceral, raw appeal to people who feel left out of the economic recovery and ignored by the political establishment. He espouses hard-line views on immigration that border on nativism, protectionist trade policies and a tough approach with countries like China, Japan and Mexico that he portrays as thieves of U.S. manufacturing jobs…

Trump’s campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, said the candidate’s words for the working class are deliberately personal. “People don’t feel like these jobs have disappeared,” he said. “They’ve been stolen, and they don’t mind if someone is speaking forcefully about taking them back for blue-collar Americans…”

“None of [the candidates] are saying what they should be saying — ‘Get them out of here’ — except Trump,” said Tim Labelle, 73, a retired auto mechanic who voted for Obama in 2008. “They’re taking our jobs, and they’re gonna take over our whole country if we don’t put an end to it.”

Interestingly enough, Mitt Romney is suggesting another approach – one more in line with what Greenberg outlined.

“As a party we speak a lot about deregulation and tax policy, and you know what? People have been hearing that for 25 years, and they’re getting tired of that message,” Romney said in a recent interview. He added, “I think we’re nuts not to raise the minimum wage. I think, as a party, to say we’re trying to help the middle class of America and the poor and not raise the minimum wage sends exactly the wrong signal.”

So the question becomes: what is the more effective strategy for appealing to white working class voters? Is it the one focused on a nativist appeal or the one that addresses their real economic challenges?

The advantage of the former is that it is animated by emotions – fear and anger – as opposed to a more thoughtful appeal to reason. That carries a lot of currency these days apparently. But to the extent that it might be successful immediately, it is destined to be a problem over the long term. That is because it is, by definition, an either/or formulation that is built on an us/them divide. The more candidates like Trump and Cruz embrace an appeal based on wooing white working class voters by denigrating people of color, the “whiter” their party becomes. That does not bode well given our country’s rapidly changing demographics.

On the other hand, the reform agenda outlined by Greenberg and the proposal Romney embraced about raising the minimum wage are just as appealing to the rising American electorate as they are to white working class voters. In that way, it is focused on a both/and rather than an either/or. I’m no math genius, but when it comes to winning elections, I’m smart enough to know that addition is always more effective than subtraction.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, January 14, 2016

January 14, 2016 Posted by | Economic Recovery, Fearmongering, Middle Class, White Working Class | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Triple-Loaded Statistic”: Are Trump Supporters Angry Enough To Vote?

When you consider that the rise and shockingly persistent presence of Donald Trump as a Republican presidential candidate was one of the two or three most important political news stories of 2015, it’s amazing how long it’s taking to get a firm grip on the kind of people who have lifted him to the top of so many polls. Polls that did not examine the educational levels of respondents managed to miss Trump’s special appeal to the non-college-educated (a.k.a. white working class), and led to persistent claims that he’s the candidate of “moderates.” Other polls have excluded significant numbers of Trump fans from their samples because those people have not regularly participated in Republican primaries and caucuses in the past. Putative Trump voters have been compared to the Wallace voters of the 1960s and 1970s and the Perot voters of 1992. A clear fix on them is elusive.

But today the New York Times‘ estimable analyst Nate Cohn offers a new profile of Trump supporters based on data supplied by Civis Analytics, a Democratic firm that has conducted a large number of interviews with self-identified Republicans and Republican-leaners during the period of Trump’s ascendancy.

To understand what Cohn has found, however, you have to look past the headline I suspect editors imposed on him: “Donald Trump’s Strongest Supporter: A Certain Kind of Democrat.” In the second paragraph, Cohn does indeed report: “His very best voters omic Polityare self-identified Republicans who nonetheless are registered as Democrats.” But you have to read far, far down into the piece to understand the limited meaning of that startling data point:

Registered Democrats make up just 8 percent of self-identified Republicans in the states with party registration, according to the Civis data. And Mr. Trump still leads, and leads comfortably, among higher-turnout voters and registered Republicans.

So the headline is based on a triple-loaded statistic: Exclude states with no party registration (e.g., much of the South), and focus only on the small minority of self-identified Republicans who are registered as Democrats, and Trump does better (43 percent) than he does among self-identified Republicans who are registered Republican (again, only in states with party registration), who give him 29 percent of his support. The natural inference from the headline — that Trump supporters are typically Democrats — is neither asserted by Cohn nor supported by the Civis data.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, what do we actually learn about Trump supporters? Cohn says they are “less affluent” and “less educated,” which we already knew; this is almost certainly why they have not internalized the economic policy views of GOP elites. The first thing of considerable interest Cohn adds is that they tend to be concentrated in the South and middle Atlantic states, in contrast to Perot voters, who were most numerous in New England and the West.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, December 31, 2015

 

January 2, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, White Working Class | , , , , , | 1 Comment

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