May 12, 2016

NO ONE EVER MEANS NEVER AGAIN:

Going There with Donald Trump (ADAM GOPNIK, 5/11/16, The New Yorker)

There is a simple formula for descriptions of Donald Trump: add together a qualification, a hyphen, and the word "fascist." The sum may be crypto-fascist, neo-fascist, latent fascist, proto-fascist, or American-variety fascist--one of that kind, all the same. Future political scientists will analyze (let us hope in amused retrospect, rather than in exile in New Zealand or Alberta) the precise elements of Poujadisme, Peronism and Huck Finn's Pap that compound in Trump's "ideology." But his personality and his program belong exclusively to the same dark strain of modern politics: an incoherent program of national revenge led by a strongman; a contempt for parliamentary government and procedures; an insistence that the existing, democratically elected government, whether Léon Blum's or Barack Obama's, is in league with evil outsiders and has been secretly trying to undermine the nation; a hysterical militarism designed to no particular end than the sheer spectacle of strength; an equally hysterical sense of beleaguerment and victimization; and a supposed suspicion of big capitalism entirely reconciled to the worship of wealth and "success." It is always alike, and always leads inexorably to the same place: failure, met not by self-correction but by an inflation of the original program of grievances, and so then on to catastrophe. The idea that it can be bounded in by honest conservatives in a Cabinet or restrained by normal constitutional limits is, to put it mildly, unsupported by history.

To associate such ideas too mechanically with the rise of some specific economic anxiety is to give the movement and its leader a dignity and sympathy that they do not deserve. In France, Jean Marie Le Pen's voters are often ex-Communists, working people who also believe their national identity to have been disrupted by immigration. That does not alter, or make more sympathetic, the toxic nature of his program; the ideology that it resonates to is an ancient and persistent one, that thrives through good times and bad. That Trump can dominate an increasingly right-wing nationalist party with a right-wing, white-nationalist creed is neither surprising nor all that complicated. Anyway, the notion that a class cure can be had for a nationalist disease was the persistent, tragic delusion of progressive politics throughout the twentieth century.

The question is about action and here, as has been said before in this space, the best parallel in modern politics occurred in the French Presidential election of 2002, when the left and right joined to form a Republican Front--ironic term--designed to keep Le Pen from power. The lines of a similar Republican front seem dismayingly harder to see here. Almost every intelligent conservative knows perfectly well who Donald Trump is and what he stands for. But NeverTrump is a meaningless slogan unless one is prepared to say ThisOnceHillary.

The good folks in conservative circles who won't go where the necessary disdain for Trump leads remind one of the anti-anti-communists.
Posted by at May 12, 2016 7:04 PM

  

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