June 10, 2016


Republican leaders who support Trump are modern-day Neville Chamberlains : With the rise of Trump, the party obsessed with the lessons of appeasement is now replicating his same exact mistakes. (James Kirchick June 9, 20/16, Washington Post)

To be sure, Trump is not Adolf Hitler. But he is the most unabashedly authoritarian presidential nominee in American history, and the most openly racist major-party candidate since Alabama Democratic Gov. George Wallace ran on a segregationist platform in 1964. Indeed, one has to reach back nearly two centuries to the presidency of Andrew Jackson to find a historical analogue to Trump. Jackson was a populist, a conspiracy theorist and an ethnic cleanser the way that Trump -- who pledges to deport 11 million Mexicans and vows to ban Muslims from entering the United States -- aspires to be.

Trump's unique unfitness for the presidency was apparent early in the primary process and has nothing to do with mundane policy matters (though his lack of knowledge about even the most basic government functions should itself be grounds for disqualification). His cruel mockery of a physically disabled New York Times reporter at a campaign rally last fall was absolutely chilling. Trump's refusal to disavow the endorsement of the Ku Klux Klan should have immediately invalidated him in the minds of decent people, regardless of their politics. No other candidate has earned such open and unabashed support from the rancid throng of American neo-Nazis.

Don't take it from me that Trump represents an unparalleled threat not just to American democracy but world peace. Listen to erstwhile Trump opponent and now supporter Marco Rubio. During the heated primary campaign, Rubio famously said that we could not turn over "the nuclear codes of the United States to an erratic individual." Rubio, who has since endorsed Trump, is no less correct in his assessment today than he was when he originally made it four months ago, meaning that his partisanship is greater than his patriotism. For what disagreement with Hillary Clinton could Rubio possibly have that would rise above the existential? Is the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee's plan for universal pre-kindergarten education so offensive to limited-government sensibilities that it's worth risking nuclear war to see it stopped?

Trump's hesitant defenders insist that America's system of checks and balances will restrain his authoritarian impulses. "I still believe we have the institutions of government that would restrain someone who seeks to exceed their constitutional obligations," McCain said in his tepid endorsement of Trump. "We have a Congress. We have the Supreme Court. We're not Romania." Never mind the pathetic spectacle of McCain -- who refused to exploit the Jeremiah Wright controversy in his campaign against Obama in 2008 -- succumbing to Trump, a man who mocked his five years in Vietnamese communist captivity while referring to his own draft-dodging sexual escapades of the time as his "personal Vietnam." When your argument in favor of a candidate is that Congress and the Supreme Court will prevent him from behaving as a tin-pot dictator, then perhaps you should reassess your position. For can anyone sincerely deny that, were it not for those checks and balances, Trump would rule in the mold of a Hugo Chávez?

When I covered the former Soviet Union for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, I never imagined that the political lexicon of places like Belarus and Kyrgyzstan would be applicable to my own country. Yet now I find terms like "strongman," "ethnic violence" and "political instability" slipping into my copy.

Today's Vichy Republicans also fail to comprehend, or choose to ignore, how Trump's victory will legitimize bigotry in the American political process. Five decades after passage of the Civil Rights Act, Trump's presence in the race has already normalized, in the form of his proposed Muslim ban, an explicitly unconstitutional religious test for entry into the country and, in his racist attack on Judge Gonzalo Curiel, ethnic tests for federal appointments. With its impending nomination of Trump, the GOP will transform from the party of racial equality, women's suffrage and global American leadership into a rump, ethno-nationalist faction promoting religious and ethnic loyalty tests, misogyny and the unraveling of the American-led liberal world order.

Since conservatives are usually so quick to make Hitler analogies, they should be more forbearing when the parallel does not put them in a positive light.

To be fair to Chamberlain and the Germans, Hitler wasn't Hitler until he got the opportunity.

Posted by at June 10, 2016 8:00 PM