While ordinary people flood the streets to voice their rejection of president-elect Donald Trump, the Liberals have been tripping over each other in a rush to appease the fascistic demagogue. President Obama said after meeting with Trump that he wants to ensure the president-elect is “successful.” Vice President Joe Biden, after a meeting with his successor Mike Pence, declared he was confident the government would “be in good hands.” The New York Times, a paper that savaged Trump throughout the election campaign, has since the election become conciliatory toward him. The Liberals’ capitulation has been hypocritical and cowardly, and in this it was wholly predictable.
At its most basic, a liberal government is one that is produced by capitalism, that is constituted by some degree of democratic process and that at least ostensibly defends the rule of law. The Liberals I refer to are the Democrats and those Republicans who either supported Hillary Clinton or withheld their support from Trump. The two major capitalist parties have collapsed into one another, neither hiding any longer that they represent the same class of super-wealthy oligarchs. Having lowered their political masks, both the Democrats and the Republicans have seen their legitimacy wither in the eyes of broad layers of the population.
This withering of trust in the Liberals, and in the political system itself, became most apparent early in the primary campaign. Clinton, promising more of the same neglect that the people had endured under eight years of Barack Obama, failed to generate sufficient enthusiasm among an increasingly restive electorate. Recognizing the levels of anger and frustration among the people over income inequality and a nonexistent economic recovery, the Democrats sent Bernie Sanders among the crowds of discontented voters with his fake “political revolution” against “the billionaire class.” There, he drew to himself the electricity of millions of Americans who demanded change. And, just as he said he would from the start, in the end Sanders, the lightning rod, attempted to ground all that political energy into the dead earth of the Democratic Party, endorsing and then campaigning for Clinton.
For their part, the Republicans failed to generate or capture any energy at all with their candidates. Tax cuts for the wealthy, the “job creators” as the Bush administration had called them, and trickle-down economics had lost all credibility with American voters. Into this weakened liberal political system stepped Donald Trump.
Trump, with his rudeness and his demagoguery, gave voice to the anger and hostility many felt toward the Liberals. Trump told it like it was. Trump would shake things up. Trump was his own man, and that was of particular importance. The future shyster-in-chief made much of his claim that he was financing his own campaign and so was beholden to no one. This appearance of independence from corporate interests meant something to voters. Some of the more backward layers of the working and middle class voted for Trump in part because of his virulent xenophobia. Some, still backward, voted for him in spite of that xenophobia.
But Trump’s ascendance to the Republican nomination, and now to the White House, was not the result of a massive wave of white-male hysteria, as the Liberals and corporate media would have us believe. In the presidential election, Trump garnered about the same number of votes as Mitt Romney had in his 2012 thrashing by Obama. If we include the staggering ranks of those who voted by not voting, Trump failed to win even a plurality of the electorate. At last count, though he won the electoral college vote, Trump lost the popular vote by some 1.7 million. Only disgust with the system and the rejection of the Liberals can account for his victory.
Historically, when a liberal government has lost the confidence of broad layers of the population, the resulting political instability often yields the ascendance of an authoritarian party. We can see recent versions of this dynamic in Turkey and the Philippines. And while Trump is no Hitler, lacking the Fuhrer’s fanaticism, a comparison between 1932 Weimar Germany and 2016 America is instructive. The Weimar Republic, suffering from high unemployment, social inequality and austerity, saw a failure of confidence in the leftist but non-revolutionary Social Democratic Party. The result in 1932 was a division of popular support between the Communist Party on the left and the Nazis on the right. It is crucial to note, however, that while Nazi rhetoric and tactics had already signaled the brutal character of the party, in the 1932 elections the Nazis benefited from the support of many whose hopes for a reinvigorated Germany led them to vote for the party in spite of and not because of this character. The United States in the past year has undergone a similar political polarization, with Trump’s fascism earning him many protest votes and the campaign of Bernie Sanders exposing greater support for a genuinely left-wing program (which was not what Sanders ever intended) than the country has seen since the 1930’s.
The comparison does not end there. Certainly the ruthless, murderous conduct of Hitler and the Nazis finds no equivalent in American politics. The Nazis’ brutal suppression of the Communist Party, outlawing the party and sending communists to concentration camps, will not soon be replicated by the Trump administration against its political rivals. We will recall, though, Trump’s threat to jail Hillary Clinton and the call of some of Trump’s supporters to have her executed for treason. Also, given Trump’s penchant for violent rhetoric and the thuggish cast of characters he has assembled around himself, such as Rudy Giuliani, Sheriff David Clarke and alt-right strategist Stephen Bannon, we can speculate as to how a Trump administration would respond to a genuine, organized left-wing political challenge. For now, no such challenge exists. The millions of Sanders supporters have dispersed, many of them returning to the sleepy bosom of the Democratic Party. And popular protest shows little inclination to galvanize into a radical movement as long as it allows itself to be corralled by the megaphones of the Ford-funded, corporation-friendly, official apparatus of Black Lives Matter.
The most chilling point of comparison between our own situation and the collapse of the Weimar Republic lies in the marriage of an overtly authoritarian Trump administration and the police-state infrastructure that has been so carefully constructed under the Bush and Obama administrations. When Trump takes office in January, he will have at his disposal a panoply of laws, agencies, facilities and technology that will allow for outright totalitarian rule at the flip of a switch. Whereas Hitler had to fashion his totalitarian state, Trump will inherit his ready-made.
For instance, since October of 2006 when the Military Commissions Act was signed into law, you and I have been living under a presidential-military dictatorship. The MCA purports to authorize the president and the secretary of defense to seize any person, including any citizen; to hold them in any military facility indefinitely and without trial; to torture them to the point of organ failure or death, and to do all of this in secrecy. Add to this law the anti-privacy and repressive measures of the Patriot Act, the squelching of a free press in section 1021 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2012, the universal electronic surveillance by the National Security Agency, drone assassination of U.S. citizens, and a host of other totalitarian measures, and a president-elect who speaks nonchalantly about murder, torture, deportation and repression becomes all the more frightening.
The last comparison with Weimar I will make brings us back to the beginning of this article. The collapse. When once the Nazis gained power, all opposition groups folded, including the press. The Communists, as large in number as the Nazis and in possession of their own paramilitary force, showed no courage and simply submitted to their own suppression. The Social Democrats also bowed in submission, and papers that had once castigated the Nazis prostrated themselves before Hitler after the Reichstag Fire and the declaration of the state of emergency. Our liberal political establishment, including the corporate-controlled press—pusillanimously and cynically—is now bowing before Trump and his gathering of the most right-wing, authoritarian government in our history.
Resistance to fascism in the U.S. will begin with the people, not with the Democratic Party and not with corporate-controlled, fake protest groups. Such popular resistance and its organization are critical if we are to have any hope of mitigating the effects of global warming; establishing basic human and civil rights such as to health care, housing, clean water, the rule of law and democratic processes, and bringing an end to imperialist war.
Photo source: salon.com