Years ago, and for most Americans it is as if it were written in another century, Sinclair Lewis, wrote a fictional story about Fascism coming to America. In his story, his main character is a fellow by the name of Buzz Winthrop, a democrat, perish the thought, who encouraged and fomented fear. He promised that every man would be the king of his castle and that there would be wholesale economic changes. Patriotism was exalted above any individual freedom. He promised to have America return to its traditional values. Sound familiar!
The character was probably modeled after the Kingfish himself, Huey Long. A man, Franklin Roosevelt said was the most dangerous man in America. Huey Long appealed to the downtrodden, those whose lives seemed hopeless. His appeal was in essence class warfare, where the roles would be reversed, and the down and out would rise above their station and be all powerful over the wealthy class. This was not what the wealthy class wanted to hear, and perhaps not surprisingly he was assassinated.
Today, we are at a crisis point in American history. Fascism seems to have come to our shores. It is homegrown or so we think! Donald J. Trump is our very own Mussolini, our very own Adolph Hitler, without the violence at this point, and perhaps our very own Silvio Berlusconi.
Trump is the ultimate plutocrat. A plutocrat is a person whose power derives from their wealth. A plutocracy is a society controlled by a small minority if its citizens.
His cabinet in waiting, is made up of billionaires and multi-millionaires, with the rest of his rogues gallery of characters being Generals. This is an interesting mix, a witches brew, a very cauldron of individuals who are against whatever division of government that they are intended to manage. For education we have an individual who has been nominated who is against public education, for Labor Secretary we have nominated a person who is against the minimum wage and who is against unions. For the EPA, we have a climate denier. For Attorney General we have a person who is against equal rights, and for the right to have public accommodations where each person would have a right to be served or allowed to have a room for the night. Well, you get the picture.
We even hear a new phrase used, authoritarian democracy. I suppose this is an attempt to normalize a dictatorship and if you are the autocrats in power, you know the ones who want corporate America to decide what is best for America, they want you to enjoy the fact that you no longer have a say in your own government. The two terms are completely contrary to each other, democracy and authoritarian. You can not have an authoritarian leader and have a democracy. Who are we kidding?
Germany, and the rise of Hitler saw the every day citizen flock to his banner. After all they were being promised jobs, and pride in themselves. The absolutely ruthless and unfair aspects of the Versailles Treaty were being eliminated. These changes were all welcomed by all of the German people. At a time of political chaos they were being promised order and safety and above all they were told that they were not only as good as anyone, they were told that they were better than anyone. This was obviously something that appealed to the every day German. The army and the corporate leaders of Germany joined forces to help lead Germany to be under the spell of Hitler. He had charisma, which is a trait, that every wanna be dictator should have a huge supply of, and he offered his closest allies , the ability to satisfy their own ambition.
Although we may not see an identical comparison between Hitler and Trump we can see some of the same strategies. Hitler actually believed in what he was doing. He wrote, “Mein Kampf,” and basically laid out in great detail what he planned to do in the future. Written in 1924, his actual conduct did not differ from what he said he was going to do.
With Donald Trump we just don’t know what to expect. We can already make the conclusion that the American people and world leaders should ignore what he says, and react to what he actually does or attempts to do. There is no road map such as a book that gives us a clue other than, ” The Art of the Deal.” At least the book gives us an insight into his views on business, but does that book give us any view into what he will do as a President of the United States. This question will remain unanswered until he officially takes office.
Up to this point, Trump has shown that he is perhaps caught in some time warp where he is stuck in the 50’s. His views on women and minorities seem to reflect a white man’s version of what the world should look like based upon what life was like in the 1950’s. But also his views on the environment and his disrespect for any rules that might inhibit bad behavior that would restrict corporate profit have a distinctive 1950’s feel to it.
He demonizes the press. Trump may attempt to give the public only his view of what he is doing, by giving access to only those who will be friendly to his actions. Clearly the chances are increasing that Trump will attempt to have his own Goebbels give the public what he wants the public to know about him and his actions.
The obvious similarities between Hitler and Trump come from Trump wanting to have his own list of evil doers that he wants to punish and fulfill the fears that he has helped to create. Hitler used as a scapegoat his own loathing of Jews, Gypsy’s and the infirm and disabled. Trump has signaled that Mexicans, and Muslims will be the obvious target of his minions for abuse and hate. We shall learn right away if Trump intends to act on his campaign promises.
The first 100 days of the Trump Presidency will tell us a lot of what he will intends to do. He will not find it so easy to do what he has said he wants to do. His campaign sought to divide us and this he was very successful in doing. Is he going to be the authoritarian leader who will seek to change America by executive order?
What will be the reaction of Trump’s followers? Will they gleefully go along with losing their basic freedoms for the promise of an easier time with order, jobs and safety promised?
For those who follow Trump, it is my worry that they will be willing to lose the freedoms that they do not understand that they have. A less educated electorate can give up freedoms that they just do not understand.
Take the separation of church and state for example. A citizen today may not understand why in the very first amendment to our Constitution we have the language that Congress shall pass no laws respecting a religion. By being uninformed as to why this is important they may be willing to forego our legal protections for the promise of living a life according to the Bible. And whose definition of what the Bible says would we then listen to?
Fear is ever present in the daily lives of many Americans. Never have we seen so much fear and uncertainty in the early days of any new Presidency.
Will we repeat the history of the past, and have a government that is fascist? Can it happen here in America? Will Sinclair Lewis’s fictional story become our new 21st century reality. Our own reality horror show is a distinct possibility.
Will the system of checks and balances protect us from our own bad impulses in this time and place in history, 2017. History and the American people wait for the answer.