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Thursday, March 24, 2016


Anonymous writes:  " Professor, maybe you can help me out here and fill in some details. When people say something like this:

"I am genuinely frightened that Trump is a fascist whose election could destroy what remains of American democracy....But just recall what Germany and Italy looked like eighty years ago."

And then their only prescription is to vote for Hilary and then support a grassroots Bernie movement, that makes me question just how much those words really mean. Think about what you are suggesting. If what you are saying is true, we really should be stocking up on weapons right now, no joke. Because if the next Hitler or Mussolini is possibly coming, we are going to have to fight him with something other than blog posts and votes. That is just a fact. 

This disconnect between the threat and the response makes the whole argument harder to take seriously, from my point of view."

Anonymous is quite correct, of course.  At this point, there is every reason to believe that Trump can be defeated by standard political means -- campaigning, voting, etc.  But if, God forbid, he were to be elected and were to begin to act in the way that his rhetoric suggests he might, it would indeed be time for much stronger measures of resistance, including efforts to persuade the military and local police forces to refuse to obey illegitimate orders, and perhaps also requiring armed resistance.

What  would I do?  I honestly do not know.  I would hope that I would not simply hunker down and tell myself, "At least this time they are not coming for the Jews."


Chris said...

Don't you think Trump will just be impeached within minutes, worst case scenario weeks, of being elected.

Neither party wants him.

Robert Paul Wolff said...

Alas, impeachment is an act of the House; conviction occurs in the Senate. The House would never impeach him.

Michael Llenos said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Thank you for your response, Professor. I apologize for the length of these two comments in advance, but I would like to share why I think Trump himself is basically no threat at all while the possible response he might engender is very much a threat.

As Chris said, if Trump is elected the legislature will have their collective finger hanging over the impeach button from day one. If Trump gets too out of line for their taste, they will impeach him no problem. Why wouldn't they? Fear of losing their offices the next election? That's not a threat. These reps are completely fungible and disposable. They are in to do a job, and if they get fired because they do their job and the public turns on them for some reason, there are entire industries waiting to catch them when they fall and shunt them into cushy consulting jobs.

Let's say Trump gets really bad though. Let's say he starts trying to assert himself as a despot. What makes anyone think he has the tools to do this? America is not weak like Germany and Italy in the 20s. It is also enormous. It takes more than a cut rate authoritarian and a bunch of militias to turn America fascist. If Trump is what he says he is, the Defense Department will hate him for cutting their budget and curtailing their adventures around the globe. If Trump is what he says he is, the money will hate his guts as well. You aren't turning America fascist without money and weapons like you wouldn't believe. If he tries, they will destroy him. Maybe literally.

People act like Republicans are afraid of Trump. I think that is a wild over-index on the fact that the other Republican candidates looked clueless as to how they should deal with him in the primaries. That does not mean Trump has power though. That might mean Trump is like a 14 seed in the NCAA tournament that plays a 12 man rotation, full court presses all game, and shoots tons of 3s. They might beat a better team because in the short term the better team does not know how to play the game the way this team plays it. In the long term, the better team is better. Trump is zagging while these other guys are zigging. But I think you need more than an unorthodox campaigning routine and an authoritarian temperament to be an actual despot.

Anonymous said...

Part 2:

Did you see this quote from Mike Murphy, Jeb Bush's campaign guru, in the Matt Labash piece for the Weekly Standard:

But when asked what unintended consequences he sees if Trump is elected president, he says that political consultants who handle overseas elections in sketchy places with corrupt politicians, as he himself has done on occasion, have a joke. "We like to say law, order, freedom — pick one, amigo."

I don't know how you interpret this quote, and to be sure this guy is quite the bullshit artist himself, but that doesn't sound like fear to me. That sounds like a threat.

And that is the outcome I fear: the response to Trump if he tries to assert himself too much. That response could very likely take the form of fascism as well, only this time it would be fascism by a broad alliance of Republican and Democratic centrists who deposed Trump and are looking to restore order and fill the power void. It would be a neoliberal fascism.

Republicans? Sure. That's believable. But liberals? Fascism? I don't think the idea of liberals embracing fascism is that weird. You read these studies of political personality types and they make it seem like liberals, with their intellectual flexibility and open-mindedness, are almost like the opposite of authoritarians. But I don't think that is quite true. I think that just means liberals usually don't have the personality that drives for authoritarianism, like a Fascist or a Stalinist does. But that does not preclude liberals being situational fascists, just as liberals have been situational war-mongers.

So if I ask myself: what would a fascism supported by liberals look like?, I ask: what does their war-mongering look like? I think the answer is: Interventionism. So fascism supported by liberals might look like interventionism, only directed inward instead. You know, like if some carrot-skinned Berlusconi fancies himself the next Mussolini.

I think a neoliberal fascism would be far scarier than Trump being a fascist, just because I don't think Trump has the tools to pull it off. If you think about what neoliberals would have at their commend though: defense, surveillance, corporate backing, an extensive prison system, a militarized police force in every decently sized town, administrative control of virtually the entire educational system, and on and on and on.

BruceK said...

It seems to me that Bruning was Hitler's best recruiting sergeant, or perhaps second after the Communist party. If so, voting for him was voting to delay Hitler's triumph, not to prevent it.