Category Archives: American Fascism

The Oklahoma City Massacre: Where Right-wing Hatred Ran Deep

 

On April 19, 1995, just after 9  in the morning, another very important incident occurred in Oklahoma City.  It was the second anniversary of the Waco massacre. A rush of people was moving into the Alfred P. Murrah federal building at that time. Many of them were children. There was a day care in the building.

Timothy McVeigh wanted people to remember what had happened at Waco 2 years earlier. He wanted people to remember what happened there for a thousand years. Sort of like the proposed 1,000-year reign of the Nazis in Germany.  I suspect both episodes might  be remembered for a thousand years. Heinous crimes have a habit of staying in memory. Good deeds rarely get such sustained attention.

McVeigh had 5,000 pounds of explosive ammonium nitrate and nitro methane in the back of his rental truck. He lit a 2 minute fuse under the day care centre in the federal building. Think about that: he parked the truck, locked it, immediately under a day care center filled with kids. McVey walked away to a get-away vehicle.  The explosion killed 168 people including 19 children. It was called, “the worst act of terrorism in American history.” And it was home grown.

I remember when I heard about it that day. My immediate reaction was that it must have been initiated by some radical Islamic terrorists. A lot of Americans had the same presumption. We were wrong. It was set by radical domestic right-wing terrorists! This was home grown terrorism.

As Justin Ling said, “Oklahoma City followed years of apocalyptic declarations and incitement from the fringes of right-wing radio.”  This is what president Bill Clinton said at the time in response: “They leave the impression by their very words that violence is acceptable. You ought to see some of the things that are regularly said over the airwaves in American today.  Clinton ought to know. He and his wife Hillary were subjected to hate on the airwaves of America for years. they still are.  Perhaps no one in America has been more hated by the American right-wing than the two of them. They were frequently accused of hideous crimes such as accusations that they killed and ate—yes ate—hundreds of children. These were the wildest untrue and hateful accusations that could a have been hurled in America. This too went on for years.

Hatred runs deep in the American right-wing.

And of course, these wild accusations were made, as always, without any evidence to back them up.  The American right-wing does not need evidence to set them off. All they need is unsubstantiated claims and hate which are enough to light the fuse to the hate.

Yet Rush Limbaugh challenged Clinton the very next day on his radio show:

“Talk is not a crime and talk is not the culprit here. Talk didn’t buy the fertilizer, and the fuel oil. Talk didn’t drive the van and talk didn’t rent the van. A person did. A lunatic did.”

Yes, but talk ignited the flame that lit the fuse! Hateful talk can do that. Years of hateful talk can have an effect. The German Nazis proved that in Germany, as did the fascist Hutus in Rwanda, as did Donald Trump in America.

Talk is cheap, but hateful talk is costly.

American on the Edge of Fascism

 

I posted about a judge in Colorado evaluating all of the evidence, hearing arguments from both sides and concluding that Donald Trump was engaged in insurrection.  As a result I submitted that it was astonishing to think that Trump supporters  still don’t believe that he was engaged insurrection. To me it seems obvious.

The judge however said she was not sure that this section applied to the presidency so refused to ban Trump from the upcoming presidential ballot in 2024.

The American Constitution, unlike the American people,  takes insurrection very seriously. In s. 3 to the 14th amendment to that constitution it says:

“Section 3

No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability”

 

What does this section mean? Donald Trump’s lawyers argued that this meant the section did not apply to the president. It only applies to every other officer of the United States, the lawyers argue.

In effect if Trump wins this argument then he has absolute immunity from criminal prosecution for conspiring to overturn the 2020 election. Think about that, a former president is arguing in court that he cannot suffer any legal consequence for participating in an insurrection!

Laurence Tribe a well known Harvard Professor of law and constitutional expert said this decision by the Colorado Judge was “bizarre.” I am not that bold because I find the wording in s. 3 perplexing, but Professor Tribe had no such doubt. This is what he said when interviewed by PBS Newshour about this decision:

“it would turn the presidency into a dictatorship. It would basically mean that the revolution that we fought against King George failed, and that the American experiment in constitutional democracy, with no one being above the law, lasted 225 years, and then ended. I don’t want that to happen.”

 

Now I have to agree with Professor Tribe that this would be bizarre, but frankly I find many aspects of the American Constitution, which so many in America consider Holy Text, to be bizarre. Remember that according to constitution the president  has the authority to pardon anyone from a a criminal offence without giving any reasons or justification. Trump used this last time he was in office to pardon a slew of his corrupt cronies. Some have even argued that the Constitution would allow Trump to pardon himself if he was convicted. What could be more bizarre than that? Sometimes I really wonder if the US can be said to have the rule of law at all. Like so much holy writ, the American Constitution is far from perfect.

We have already heard that Trump will make it his job to destroy all of his enemies if elected. How could he be stopped?

This is what Professor Tribe says about the possibility that Trump’s argument succeeds:

“I think it would be a disaster for the freedom of every one of us to have anybody completely above the law. We have in this case someone who said he would terminate the Constitution. He will make his presidency about vengeance. It’s what fascists do.

 

That is precisely what fascists do all right, and America seems to be headed in that direction thanks to the undying support of millions of Americans for Donald Trump. No matter what he does they will continue to support him. It doesn’t matter if he engages in insurrection. It doesn’t matter if he shoots someone in Times Square. It doesn’t matter if he sexually abuses a woman in department store, his true believers will continue to believe.

Can 40 million listeners be wrong?

 

In 1929 America and the rest of the world experienced a crash. The 1920s, called the Roaring Twenties, when wealthy people leaped enthusiastically in to popular endeavors such as Speak Easys and led the country into financial disaster and common people were desperately unhappy about it.

Father Coughlin stepped out of the fiery preacher role on radio and became the “conduit for a real and very understandable anger.” He rode a populist wave of anger. He became the voice of outrage and had spectacular success on the perfect medium for anger—the radio.  Anger has been the bed rock of talk radio ever since, particularly right-wing talk radio.

In the language of today, Father Coughlin was a populist—he was anti-communist but also anti-capitalist. He supported some unions, but not the more radical unions. He started out left, though not extreme left. As Justin Ling the host and writer of the CBC podcast Flame Throwers said, “Coughlin’s audience was estimated at 40 million listeners. At that time that was a third of America. Limbaugh at his height would have only about 1/20th of America.” This is much more than Fox News obtains today. These were huge numbers! And all this from a Canadian priest!

Meanwhile money poured into the church he was restoring and he arranged for it to build a huge iron cross, one the KKK could not burn.Coughlin turned to a politician he could support. It was someone who distrusted the political class like he did. So, he turned instead to someone who distrusted the bankers and big business. This was a champion of everyman. Not a far right politician.  This political leader was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the author of the new deal.

Coughlin was clear, “It is either Roosevelt or ruin,” he said. FDR was a shrewd politician and “he saw in the radio priest, a new way of meeting the masses.” Coughlin saw in FDR a vehicle for his new social justice calling.  Justin Ling pointed out “As President, FDR recognized the visceral yet intimate power of radio. Through his fireside chats he entered into America’s living rooms as a trusted guest.” Coughlin inspired the President who followed suit. As Ling said, “Coughlin is no longer that small town Catholic  fighting anti-Catholic bias.” Later Coughlin abandoned FDR when he started making deals with the bankers rather than throwing them out as he done earlier. Later, when FDR made a deal with Stalin (and Churchill) Coughlin was furious. “Coughlin was vehemently anti-Communist.” He changed his slogan to “Roosevelt and ruin.”

Coughlin started his own political party and then turned to the dark side–the far right. He blamed Jews for their own persecution. He also adopted various conspiracy theories such as the one that Jewish bankers were part of an international cabal. He also cited the conspiracy theory of the elders of Zion which falsely claimed that Jews were part of a international Jewish conspiracy to rule the world. He claimed that Jews and Communists together were determined to take over America. Coughlin gave up on left wing causes and turned instead to supporting Hitler and the Nazis. He went about as far right as he could go.

He came to be called “the father of Hate radio.” Though someone else grabbed that crown from him about 100 years later.  We will get to him. Coughlin began to be abandoned by his erst while supporters. Many called out his mistaken litany of facts that were not facts at all. Federal regulators warned him that they would not allow the airwaves to abused in that manner. As Ling said, “In today’s world he was cancelled and de-platformed.” The radio star was done, but his influence lived on to be used by other pundits from other political persuasions.

As Ling said, “Coughlin was radio’s first real celebrity. He weaponized bombast but met his listeners where they were at. He sat in their living rooms and echoed their concerns. He helped to propel presidents to power. He tried to have a say in running the country from behind a microphone.”  He did all this by unleashing the power of hate. He was soon followed by many others.

The genie of political radio was out of the bottle and would never get back in. as Ling said, “Coughlin fell into conspiracy theories and hate as a way to energize and galvanize his support, and he would not be the last.” Once politicians, pundits, and frauds saw the power of hate, others followed as surely as night follows day. He proved how powerful the toxic combination of racism, hatred, and conspiracy theories could be.

 

 

 

We are Doomed

 

Not every one likes Bill Maher.  I know he is the worst interviewer on television.  Often he does not let his guests speak, but speaks up for them instead.  As well, when he lets them speak, he has some very interesting guests from all ends of the political spectrum from Steve Bannon to Nancy Pelosi.  And he sometimes makes some very interesting points.

For example, he was the first one to predict that Trump would never resign after he was elected president. He said that almost immediately after the election in 2016!  Now every one knows that. But not many said that in 2016. But Maher has also appreciated, as few others do, that this refusal now has important consequences.  Americans seem to be tolerating, if not encouraging,  this refusal even though the peaceful transfer of power has for long been considered the most important characteristic of democracy. It is what distinguishes democracy from autocracy.

And now millions of Americans have demonstrated clearly that they don’t think this element of democracy is important. They don’t care! I have found this astonishing. Many have not. Many shrug their shoulders as if it didn’t matter.

Maher said “Well we had a good run.”  On November 8, 2022 Americans had a chance to vote for democracy. As Joe Biden and many Democrats said, “Democracy is on the ballot.”  And they were right. And it didn’t matter to millions Americans. Inflation was more important than democracy. Bill Maher predicted this 4 days before the election as if it was a foregone conclusion. This is what he said,

“Tuesday is the election and I know I should tell you to vote in the most important election ever. So, O.K., yes. You should vote.  And it should be for the one party that still stands for democracy preservation. But it’s also a waste of breath because anyone who believes that is already voting and anybody who needs to learn that isn’t watching and no one in America can be persuaded about anything anymore anyway.”

On this point Maher is right.  No one will change their mind. Trump was right when he said he could stand in Times Square, murder someone and it wouldn’t make any difference to his supporters. They are that determined to vote for him no matter what he says or does. that gives him a lot of rope.  Look at the mountains of evidence revealing his nefarious deeds. Yet, his supporters are filled with religious devotion that cannot be altered. No one can be convinced out of a theological devotion. That in itself is enough to kill democracy.

Maher gave another pertinent example—the January 6th hearings. Those hearings provided Americans with an overwhelmingly convincing narrative that Donald Trump had no respect for democracy as he led the charge against democracy and his devoted followers followed. As Maher said,

“The January 6th hearings it turned out changed nobody’s mind. Democrat Jamie Raskin said the hearings “will tell a story that will really blow the roof off the House.”  No that was Hurricane Ian. Hearings roof not blown. The Committee did a masterful job laying out the case but we live in Partisan American now. So it’s a little like doing stand-up when half the crowd only speaks Mandarin. No matter how good the material is it’s not going to go over. After all the hearings the percentage of Americans who thought Trump did nothing wrong. Went up 3 points! That’s America now.”

 

Again, Maher is right. The truth did not matter! All that mattered was that millions of people are devoted to Trump and nothing—absolutely nothing—will turn them away from their religious leader. The overwhelming narrative is irrelevant.

I am a Canadian; I have no dog in this hunt. But I do. America is the leader of the modern world. Maybe not for much longer, but for now that is true. If America coughs the rest of the world catches a cold.

 I am posting this as the election is drawing to a close. I don’t know any results. I hope Maher is wrong; if fear he is right.

Are we doomed?  Let’s see what happens tonight.

Is Civil War in the US possible?

One of the two respected jurists William S. Cohen who wrote about the disappointing actions of Republicans complaining about the Justice Department warrants at Donald Trump’s home, is a former secretary of defense and former Republican senator from Maine who was such a moderate Republican that he served as Secretary of Defence in the Democrat Clinton administration. The other, William H. Webster is a former director of the FBI and the CIA and a retired judge of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit. He served under both Democrat and Republican administrations, including that of Donald Trump.  These are not partisans.

 

These men have pointed out that the Republican leaders, disrespect for maintaining law and order is serious, and can have very serious consequences.  They even suggested those actions might lead to Civil War! Remember these are not fringe leftists clamouring about the possibility of Civil War. These are respected lawyers who served both Democrat and Republican administrations in national security matters and they are not alarmists. They remind us that fears and warnings of Civil War are not outlandish, given the conduct of Republican leaders and the former president. They are real possibilities.

 

The opinion of Cohen and Webster was based on their personal experience and also their reading of respecting historian Barbara F. Walter who in her book “How Civil Wars Start: And How to Stop Them,

 

“Walter raises valid concerns about the United States slipping into a place where civil war is possible. She writes about a netherworld of anocracy — between democracy and autocracy — a breeding ground for political violence, where the grievances and resentments of a large white underclass have greatly increased the potential for civil war.

 

These predictions once sounded like the fever dreams of far-right lunatics who would welcome such a bloody conflict; today, such predictions are coming from responsible voices such as Walter and others who have carefully studied this phenomenon around the world.”

 

 

Please note how Cohen and Webster refer to “these valid concerns” and that such opinions are not “the fever dreams of far-right lunatics.”  These concerns are brought forward by the upper echelons of American jurists and public servants. Again, this is serious stuff and should be taken seriously.

Some people have suggested Merrick and Wray should not have issued and executed the warrants at Mar-a-Lago, because the risk of causing civil unrest, which Trump in fact has been encouraging, again, but these two jurists rightly point out that, “our nation’s senior law enforcer, a man who has an impeccable record of fairness and impartiality as a distinguished jurist, cannot tailor his judgment to accommodate the rage of the lawless.

Genuine believers in the rule of law, like Merrick and Wray, must do their duty, rather than bowing to the reckless cries of lawless insurrectionists and their Republican enablers. There was a time when conservatives were dedicated to law and order. This is not one of those times. If there are no longer many conservatives, the radical left or the radical right will the vacuum.

The Rage of the Lawless

 

 

Did you read the article in the Washington Post by two outstanding lawyers and public servants, namely William S. Cohen and William H. Webster? the y commented on the right wing hysteria that followed the Department of Justice issuing warrants to enter and seize government documents from Donald Trump’s home at Mar-a-Lago Florida.

William S. Cohen is a former secretary of defense and former Republican senator from Maine. He was a moderate Republican who served as Secretary of Defence in the Democrat Clinton administration.

William H. Webster is a former director of the FBI and the CIA and a retired judge of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit. He served under both Democrat and Republican administrations, including that of Donald Trump.

Neither is a left-wing radical. These are respected lawyers and public servants.

These two hard-headed experienced lawyers with deep knowledge of the law and national security issues have jointly issued a severe warning in the Washington Post. They commented how unusual it was for an Attorney General like Merrick Garland together with FBI director Christopher Wray to have  authorized the execution of search warrants of the home of the former president Donald Trump. Wray was a Trump appointee after Trump dismissed former director James Comey. Webster and Cohen said they both had full confidence that the warrants by these men who were “both honest and honorable men,” were justified.

.Even though it is clear to them that the warrants were rightfully issued, and executed, Cohen and Webster were highly critical of the actions of leading Republican leaders who together with the former president did their best to inflame the Trump supporters. As Cohen and Webster said,

Prominent Republicans reacted with predictable fury and heated threats of retaliation against the attorney general — unprecedented acts of vitriol based on the belief the FBI’s conduct was politically motivated rather than legally necessary. In doing so, they recklessly and knowingly undermined respect for a “law and order” institution and the men and women who risk their lives to protect us.”

 

And that is the real problem. Republicans claim to be the party of law and order, but repeatedly, in service of their former leader and president, Donald Trump, they do all they can to “reckless and knowingly” undermine “respect for law and order.” Every who saw what happened in Washington D.C. at the Capitol on January 6th knows what the effect of disrespecting law and order can lead to—violence, chaos, and insurrection. This is serious stuff, but Republican leaders seem to have forgotten it in their rush to pay obeisance to Donald Trump at the expense of the country.

As important as this issue is because it could lead to violent insurrection, Cohen and Webster think it is even more important to consider what they called “the far larger issues surrounding the conduct of the former president.” These two respected jurists acknowledged that the House Select Committee investigating the Jan.6 2021 incident, which I call an insurrection and others call a riot, acknowledged that this committee

“…has produced compelling evidence that Trump and his supporters engaged in an orchestrated six-step plan to prevent the peaceful transfer of power, culminating with the assault on the Capitol.

We share disgust and deep disappointment that the Republican Party’s decency and respect for the rule of law has been defined down to a cultish devotion to a demonstrably unprincipled man of greed and blind ambition.”

 

As a society we must learn how to contain the rage of the lawless. If we can’t do that, everything else is pretty futile. Is that not what conservatism is all about?

Trump Calls for Insurrection (Again)

 

Did you hear what Trump said? Just a couple of days ago, on September 15, 2022 Donald Trump was interviewed by a Mr. Hewitt on the radio and was asked what would happen if he was indicted. This is what Trump said said,

I think if it happened, I think you’d have problems in this country the likes of which perhaps we’ve never seen before. I don’t think the people of the United States would stand for it.

 

Then he was asked by Mr. Hewitt what kind of troubles, Mr. President? Trump responded this way:

“I think they’d have big problems, I just don’t think they’d stand for it.”

It was chilling. I thought of January 6th 2021. Don Lemon asked Phillip Mudd, a CNN analyst and former counterterrorism analyst if that was a threat.  Mr. Mudd’s answer was about as direct as you can get.  This was his answer:

Yes! I don’t know if that is a subtle enough answer Don. That’s a yes, Don. Let me be clear about what this is.  In the world of extremism which I followed for decades, that is what I would refer to as validation. So we saw on January 6th there were a lot of people who watch leadership. Whether it’s Lindsay Graham or other members of the White House, or the president of lawyers, who watch leadership and determine whether that leadership is validating the citizen’s belief that they were robbed. You don’t have to tell someone to go out there and commit an act of violence for them to say, ‘Well if we were robbed then it is my constitutional right and responsibility to go to the Congress and storm it.’ That is the president of the United States having witnessed January 6th saying, ‘Well let me have a redo of that. That redo will happen if I ever get indicted.’  To me as an extremist follower that is not a political statement, that is a statement that anybody who follows extremists can understand. That is validation…”

 

Juliette Kayyem, a CNN National Security Analyst agreed completely. She said,

“It is not even hinting anymore. We used to use the word “dog whistle” when we talk about Trump. This is now directing. Don’t just listen to Trump’s words. Imagine what his supporters are hearing. They are hearing the call to action…We need to call it what it is that we have a former president who is inciting violence as an extension of his political defeat. That’s what it is now.”

 

I know Trump’s supporters don’t believe anything CNN says, but I think they got this right from Trump’s own words. I listened to his words and I agree with the CNN interpretation. This was the only logical interpretation of what Trump said. This was a call to violent action if he was charge with a criminal offence  without mentioning the word. The message was absolutely clear, just as his words were absolutely clear to his supporters on January 6th. They knew what to do. And Trump was threatening to do it all over again if he was charged! This was doing what Donald Trump always does when he is cornered. He does not back down. He doubles down.

Americans must realize what Trump is doing. He is doing the same thing Hitler did after the German Reichstag burned down. The German people knew what to do and they did it.

Now the question is what will the American people do? Will they acquiesce with this dangerous slide into fascism?  I know many of his supporters will do that. They will accept that with the enthusiasm they showed on January 6, 2021.

I am not sure of what the majority of Americans will do, but I am uneasy.

Thoughtlessness

 Hannah Arendt also wrote a book about the trial of Adolf Eichmann. She used that famous expression “the banality of evil” to describe him and his kind.  He was a man who facilitated horrid acts of violence against the Jews.  But Arendt said what set him apart was his “thoughtlessness.” To her he looked and acted like a boring accountant.

She had been shocked by how glib he was in court. He talked about exterminating millions of Jews as if it was nothing. What was there for him to admit to, he asked. He suggested, as did Himmler, that they could be reconciled with the Jews.  They had a sense of elation when they considered this possibility. But the feelings were not real. It was, in Arendt’s phrase, “an outrageous cliché.”  She said, “it was a self-fabricated stock phrase, as devoid of reality as those clichés by which people had lived for twelve years.”  As Carol Brightman said, “Clichés and conventional sentiments functioned as armor blocking the consciousness of the accused at just those painful junctures where painful intrusions of reality threatened.” These are some of the enemies of thought. In fact, during the trial Arendt had noticed how Eichmann was not perturbed by his starling contradictions. He was certainly not engaged in thinking. He was not stupid. He was just completely thoughtless.

Arendt was stunned that such horrific crimes could be committed without consciousness. She said she disagreed with Kant, who, according to her believed that stupidity was caused by a wicked heart. She contended instead that “absence of thought is not stupidity, it can be found in highly intelligent people, and a wicked heart is not its cause, it is probably the other way around, that wickedness may be caused by absence of thought.”

According to her teaching assistant Kohn, Arendt believed, as I believe, that “thinking conditions people to resist evildoing.”  Most ethicists do not accept this, but I find it profoundly compelling. I believe, like the American novelist Henry James, that ethics is high reason. Where there is no reason there is no ethics. this is what the sleep of reason is all about.

Arendt was clear when she said that everyone could think. Of course, that does not mean that everyone will think. You didn’t have to have an education to think. She was not elitist.

Arendt got mad when Jews accused her of being self-hating and anti-Jewish as a result of her book on Eichmann. She said that all she wanted to do was to think about what he had done. She wanted to understand him and that was not the same as forgiving him or being soft on the Nazis. It was her job as a philosopher to think about these things. And she thought that was very important. In the film about her, Arendt summed up her thinking this way,

“Trying to understand is not the same as forgiveness. It is my responsibility to try to understand. It is the responsibility of anyone who tries to put pen to paper on this subject. Since Socrates and Plato we have understood thinking to be a silent dialogue between me and myself. In refusing to be a person Eichmann utterly surrendered that single most defining human quality, that of being able to think. And consequently he was no longer capable of making moral judgments. This inability to think created the possibility for many ordinary men to commit evil deeds on a gigantic scale, the like of which one had never seen before. It is true I have considered these questions in a philosophical way. The manifestation of the mind of thought is not knowledge, but the ability to tell right from wrong; beautiful from ugly. And I hope that thinking gives people the strength to prevent catastrophes in these rare moments when the chips are down.  ”

 

For Hannah Arendt, what thinking meant was to train the mind to go wandering.  I love that concept. It brings me back to my concept of meandering.  I love to meander–physically and mentally. That is the essence of free thinking (and there is really no other kind) to meander through thoughts without regard to preconceived ideas, ideologies, or prejudices. Only the free mind can think. I said that. But that is a concept directly inspired by Arendt.

Arendt’s first major book was On the Origins of Totalitarianism. She thought there was something new or modern about totalitarianism. It was not like anything we had seen before. It presented profound change from everything that preceded it. It was much more than tyranny or dictatorship. It cut at individual will. It cut at our individual identity. In fact, according to one of Arendt’s most profound insights, totalitarianism cuts at our capacity to think.

As always, I ask myself how this is relevant to our times. There are not many totalitarian regimes around right now, but there are movements—various forms of populist movements—that tend in the same direction. I think often of the American near fascists—i.e. the Trumpsters, the insurrectionists on Capitol Hill that were looking to hang Mike Pence only because their leader told them that he had been betrayed by Pence.  That was enough to set off ordinary people looking to hang the vice-president of their country! Had they lost the capacity to think? To me it seemed that way.

Mutual Respect of Tyrants

 

 

To many it seems strange that Stalin and Hitler respected each other. One was a left-wing Communist, and the other supposedly a right wing fascist. They were mortal enemies weren’t they? Well yes, but also no. According to Hannah Arendt, in her book The Origins of Totalitarianism,  the only man for whom Hitler had unqualified respect was ‘Stalin the genius.” She also pointed out, “Hitler recognized in the early twenties the affinity between the Nazi and the Communist movements: ‘In our movement the two extremes come together, the Communists from the left and the officers and students from the right.” Khrushchev in his speech before the twentieth Party Congress said  Stalin trusted only one man, Hitler.

Trump made it clear that the politicians he loved the most were the dictators around the world. He had little use for democratically elected leaders. Like likes like.

 

It is interesting that all 3, Stalin, Hitler, and Trump, found their supporters growing in the same fertile soil. Arendt described this as follows,

“Totalitarian movements are possible wherever there are masses who for one reason or another have acquired the appetite for political organization. Masses are not held together by a consciousness of common interest and they lack that specific articulateness which is expressed in determined, limited, and obtainable goals. The term masses applies only where we deal with people who either because of sheer numbers, or indifference, or a combination of both, cannot be integrated into any organization based on common interest into political parties or municipal governments or professional organizations or trade unions. Potentially, they exist in every country and form the majority of those large numbers of neutral, politically indifferent people who never join a party and hardly ever go to the polls.

 

It was characteristic of the rise of the Nazi movement in Germany and of the Communist movements in Europe after 1930 that they recruited their numbers from this mass of apparently indifferent people whom all other parties had given up as too apathetic or too stupid for their attention.”

 

Isn’t this a perfect description of Trump’s supporters whom Hillary Clinton most unwisely dismissively called a “basket of deplorables” 60 years later? Dismissing these people is outlandishly unwise. It is from such soil that fanatical followers can be found, precisely what political leaders with totalitarian tendencies need. These were “people who had reason to be equally hostile to all parties.”  They particularly despise elites like Hillary Clinton as we saw in the 2016 US presidential election. These are people who are ripe for a “strong man,” to whom they can give undying, fanatical and absolute, loyalty.

And therein lies the danger. Dismissing them is a big mistake.

 

The Attraction of Evil

 

The Nazis “were convinced that evil-doing in our time has a morbid force of attraction.” Arendt here quoted Franz Borkenau, who said the Nazis “were convinced that evil-doing in our time has a morbid force of attraction.” It seemed to me I saw this attraction in the rioters on Capitol Hill.  They seemed to relish the evil.

One of the interesting facts about supporters that Trump has ditched is that they still usually remain loyal. The same thing happened in Russia in the time of Stalin. Few Trump supporters have turned against him even when they were dumped. The most famous case is Mike Pence, but there are many others. For example, the abject loyalty of Jeff Sessions after he was dismissed from Trump’s cabinet was shocking. Their loyalty is often astounding. This is not unusual for tyrannical leaders. This happened glaringly in Stalinist Russia when the Stalinists turned against their own comrades. Again, as Hannah Arendt said,

“The disturbing factor in the success of totalitarianism is rather the true selflessness of its adherents: it may be understandable that a Nazi or a Bolshevik will not be shaken in his conviction by crimes against people who do not belong to the movement or are even hostile to it; but the amazing fact is neither is he likely to waver when the monster begins to devour its own children and not even if he becomes a victim of persecution himself, if he is framed himself and condemned, if he is purged from the party and sent to a forced-labor camp. On the contrary, to the wonder of the whole civilized world, he may even be willing to help in his own prosecution and frame his own death sentence if only his status as a member of the movement is not touched.”

 

Membership in the group can be more important than life itself. At the insurrection in the Capitol on January 6, 2021 there were Trump supporters who carried signs saying they would die for him. I believe them.

The loyalty of the true believer is an impossible loyalty. No less real for that. There are other parallels between Trump and Stalin and Hitler that suggest he is a totalitarian or at least a ‘wanna be’ totalitarian.  Fortunately, he was not smart enough to achieve his nefarious goals. Or at least most of them.

What we really must fear is a new authoritarian leader who is a smarter Trump.

 

Evil can be attractive. Authoritarian leaders understand that. And that is a problem.