Friday, May 24, 2024

Do You Want a ‘Unified Reich’ Mind-Set in the White House? (David Austin Walsh, NY Times column)

DONALD JOHN TRUMP is a fascist insurrectionist imbecile.  When someone tells you who they are, believe them.  From The New York Times:


Do You Want a ‘Unified Reich’ Mind-Set in the White House?

A photo of Donald Trump raising his fist in the air. His arm is obscuring his face from the side.
Credit...Doug Mills/The New York Times

Dr. Walsh is a postdoctoral associate at the Yale program for the study of antisemitism and the author of “Taking America Back: The Conservative Movement and the Far Right.”

It is hard to be shocked by Donald Trump anymore. The former president’s trial over hush money paid to a porn star has made history, and his performance in court has been so farcical that Mr. Trump was threatened with jail time for contempt of court. He has called his political enemies “vermin” and said that immigrants are “poisoning the blood” of America. Mr. Trump’s transgressions against American political norms are by now almost a cliché.

Yet when Mr. Trump posted on Monday a video on his Truth Social account that featured mock headlines about his re-election in 2024, including one that predicted that “what’s next for America” was the “creation of a unified reich,” it was a shock of a different order, a suggestion that our country was on a glide path toward Nazi Germany in a second Trump term.

Mr. Trump’s penchant for flirting with authoritarianism and fascism is well known — he praised the neo-Nazi marchers in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017, has dined with the white supremacist Nick Fuentes and, of course, instigated the Jan. 6 riot. But the “unified reich” video shows a different kind of danger in another Trump presidency.

The Associated Press reported that the references in the video “appear to be a reference to the formation of the modern Pan-German nation, unifying smaller states into a single reich, or empire, in 1871.” A Trump campaign representative claimed that the video was posted by a campaign staff member while the candidate was in court. That underscores the bigger problem in the Republican Party today, one that goes far beyond Mr. Trump: a generation of young Republican staff members appears to be developing terminal white nationalist brain. And they will staff the next Republican administration.

This is a problem that other Republican candidates have faced as well. Last July the Ron DeSantis campaign fired a speechwriter and former National Review contributor, Nate Hochman, for promoting a pro-DeSantis video featuring Nazi imagery; and scores of Republican aides on Capitol Hill have been outed by reporters as “groypers” — a term used to describe fans of Mr. Fuentes.

Not every young Republican campaign staff member is a fascist. But the far right is a significant part of the Republican Party’s political coalition. Mr. Trump sailed through the G.O.P. primaries and has probably secured the nomination. The presence of so many extremist elements in positions of power and influence is the price to be paid in the party’s bargain with MAGAism: Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar addressed a white nationalist conference in 2022, and an investigative report from 2020 found that at least 12 Trump administrative aides had ties to neo-Nazi and anti-immigrant hate groups.

The contemporary American right might not be a monolith, but it functions like a “popular front,” which traditionally refers to the broad coalition between leftists and liberals in the 1930s unifying against a common fascist enemy. But similar dynamics existed on the right throughout the 20th century and continue.

This is not a new dynamic in conservative politics. The popular-front approach was the staple organizing principle of the American right during the 20th century. In fact, the right-wing popular front gave birth to modern conservatism, unifying a disparate group of right wingers, including luminaries like Senator Joseph McCarthy, Gen. Douglas MacArthur and William F. Buckley Jr. and more obscure — and more radical — figures like the magazine owner Russell Maguire, the classics professor Revilo Oliver and the American Nazi Party chief George Lincoln Rockwell. What bound this motley coalition together was shared opposition to communism, socialism and New Deal liberalism.

Extremists and fascist sympathizers could be found even in the commanding heights of the movement — and other conservatives knew it. Mr. Maguire, a Connecticut businessman and arms manufacturer, purchased The American Mercury magazine in 1952 and turned it into one of the most influential conservative journals of its day, inveighing against the threat of international communism, creeping liberalism and collectivism. It was perhaps the most widely read conservative magazine of its era, with a circulation of over 100,000 at its peak in the mid-1950s (by contrast, Mr. Buckley’s National Review struggled to reach 20,000 readers by the end of the decade).

But Mr. Maguire was also an outspoken antisemite who helped distribute books claiming that a Jewish plot threatened to subvert America. The editor of The American Mercury, William Bradford Huie, defended his professional relationship with the publisher because Mr. Maguire’s money was helping to get the conservative message out. “If suddenly I heard Adolf Hitler was alive in South America and wanted to give a million dollars to The American Mercury,” he told a reporter, “I would go down and get it.”

Still, there were political limits to openly embracing the swastika only a few years after World War II, which suggests that appeals to a “unified reich” will backfire on the Trump campaign. Both Mr. Maguire and Mr. Buckley had employed Mr. Rockwell at their magazines in the late 1950s. Mr. Rockwell, who according to his autobiography had embraced Nazism as early as 1951, approached Mr. Maguire in the late 1950s to finance a “slow, secret Nazi buildup” throughout the country. To Mr. Rockwell’s dismay, Mr. Maguire — a millionaire — offered him only $1,000. The political costs of organizing under the swastika were too high.

After Mr. Rockwell began making public appearances as a Nazi, he quickly became one of the most hated men in the country. Ironically, many of his political stances — opposition to the civil rights movement, support for segregation and intense antipathy to communism — were relatively popular in America in the 1960s, but explicitly tying those politics to Nazi imagery was a dead end. Whatever behind-the-scenes political influence Mr. Rockwell amassed working for The American Mercury or National Review was extinguished when he embraced the swastika.

Times have changed. While the far right has not been the decisive political force that put Mr. Trump in office, he has benefited from its support in some states — and has never paid a clear political price for boosting extremists. Despite his extensive record of political extremism, Mr. Trump still won over 74 million votes in 2020 and has maintained a consistent polling edge over President Biden in 2024.

Contemporary far-right activists like Mr. Fuentes clearly see Mr. Trump’s campaign as another opportunity to build power and influence. And unlike in decades past — where the far right was an important part of the right-wing popular front but did not exert hegemonic control — MAGAism is today the dominant strain in conservative politics.

If elected, Mr. Trump has promised to not govern as a dictator “except for Day 1” of his administration and to “root out the communists, Marxists, fascists and the radical-left thugs.” These are not empty words; the Heritage Foundation’s Project 2025 proposals are a road map to use executive authority to purge the federal government and replace current civil servants with conservative loyalists.

The likeliest candidates for those positions are campaign staff members and other activists. Given that it now seems to be almost commonplace for Republican staff members to have ties to white nationalists and neo-Nazis and that the Texas G.O.P. recently voted against barring them from associating with antisemitic individuals or groups, we should be very concerned about the potential role of far-right aides in a second Trump administration.

A unified reich in America may still be just a fantasy, but those fantasists could soon be in positions of real power.

David Austin Walsh is a postdoctoral associate at the Yale program for the study of antisemitism and the author of “Taking America Back: The Conservative Movement and the Far Right.”

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1 comment:

John said...

If so called conservatives vote for him again regardless of the 91 felonies...I don't wanna hear about law and order, rule of law, and justice. The people who do so are purely about having a right wing police state to justify their power and really nothing else that's gonna bring the greatest amount of good for the most people. Trump already stated his intention to create a federal force to pursue imagined persecutors. It's his dumbass that's delusional and brought it on himself. That's the only political element to it.