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It’s Not 1934
Wanted: A name for the hypertrophied fear of Trump that’s overcome so many — maybe most — of his opponents. Do you really need examples? There was the ThinkProgress editor terrified of his plumber:
He was a perfectly nice guy and a consummate professional. But he was also a middle-aged white man with a Southern accent who seemed unperturbed by this weeks news. … I couldn’t stop thinking about whether he had voted for Trump, whether he knew my last name is Jewish … I couldn’t shake the sense of potential danger. I was rattled for some time after he left.
More recently, here’s Adam Gopnik in one of those New Yorker paragraphs so classily convoluted you don’t notice the embedded hooey:
Assaults on free speech; the imprisoning of critics and dissidents; attempts, on the Russian model, likely to begin soon, to intimidate critics of the regime with fake charges and conjured-up allegations; the intimidation and intolerance of even mild dissidence (that “Apologize!” tweet directed at members of the “Hamilton” cast who dared to politely petition Mike Pence); not to mention mass deportations or attempts at discrimination by religion—all things that the Trump and his cohorts have openly contemplated or even promised—are not part of the normal oscillations of power and policy. They are unprecedented and, history tells us, likely to be almost impossible to reverse. … [**]
The best way to be sure that 2017 is not 1934 is to act as though it were.
Of course, you don’t need these examples if you have Democratic Facebook friends. Just read their posts — alarms about journalists jailed and killed, brownshirts, ethnic cleansing, pervasive surveillance, people living in fear, exterminationist violence, the whole nein yards. They’re scared.
The thing is, they’re not poseurs — they’re sensible citizens. They are, many of them, my friends. They’re in no way ignorant. That’s why the dismissive label “Trump Derangement Syndrome” doesn’t seem an accurate description (in addition to being belittling and ineffective). If they see the seeds of authoritarianism in Trump’s “Hamilton” tweet — or more plausibly in his suggestion that he might pick and choose which reporters can attend briefings … well, sure. Those are seeds. There’ve been seeds before, of course. There were the seeds of authoritarianism in Truman bullying a press critic who panned his daughter’s singing. There were more than seeds in Roosevelt’s NRA, in Nixon’s wiretapping and J. Edgar Hoover’s longrunning COINTELPRO surveillance and harrassment of dissenters.
It’s not deranged to extrapolate from seed to tree, and to worry that the relative handful of alt-righters (50,000?) and smaller handful of anti-Semitic trolls (1,600?) might produce something very bad. You can imagine a world where Jews are attacked by their plumbers. My mother grew up in such a world (Frankfurt, Germany in 1933) and I’m here because her parents had the good sense to flee.
It’s thinking that such development — from seed to tree — is at all likely today that seems … well, wrong. Let’s call it wrong! We have strong counter-majoritarian institutions (including an independent judiciary) and a culture that supports them. The idea that Trump is going to mobilize some army of thuggish supporters to intimidate the press, the courts, the opposition party and half of his own party seems a fever dream, no less feverish because of its rational basis.
Yet those who adhere to this unnamed tendency — let’s call it ’34ism, unless you can come up with a better name *** — allow the power of their terrifying dream to overwhelm sober consideration of everything Trump does or intends to do, good or bad (on trade, taxes, regulations, immigration, etc). We’re supposed to draw up sides — condemning (and ostracizing) those who are “complicit” in Trump’s administration and welcoming those who “stand on the right side of history” — even before we know whether the authoritarian seed will grow or wither, disregarding all the other positively auspicious seeds (reform of trade, control of borders, fewer foreign miliary adventures, ending the Republican threat to Social Security and Medicare, etc.) that might flourish instead. In Slate 34ist Yascha Mounk’s head it’s practically Life During Wartime already, with brave Trump critics fired from their jobs, sleeping on the couches of their secret colleagues in the Resistance. Keep the car running.
Suggested alternative: See what happens first! Don’t let the reaction to Trump be dominated by one extremely unlikely bad possibility, at the expense of nurturing the far-more-likely good possibilities.
Coming in next post: How does 1934ism go away? Is it enough that the brownshirts don’t appear? (Spoiler: Maybe not.)
**– The Hooey: Gopnik says authoritarian measures against critics “are unprecedented and, history tells us, likely to be almost impossible to reverse.” This is fatuous on both counts. 1) Even direct assaults on free speech are far from unprecedented –e.g. the Sedition Act of 1798, passed not too long after our nation’s founding, or the imprisonment of Eugene Debs for opposing World War I. 2) They also haven’t been that hard to reverse. The Sedition Act was repealed in Thomas Jefferson’s term. It’s highly doubtful that Debs could be imprisoned under current First Amendment law — the opposite of what Gopnik declares “history tells us.”
*** — Better name ideas appreciated — just put them in the comments section below, or tweet them to @kausmickey. Thanks.Published in General
“The dark night of fascism is always descending in the United States and yet lands only in Europe.”
― Tom Wolfe
Meanwhile some of your Lefty friends are all palsy with guys who would really put them in camps, or applaud an Israeli city going up in a fireball.
If you don’t want to hear the term “Beer Hall Putsch”, definitely don’t listen to the latest Ricochet Podcast.
Welcome Mickey! Good piece. Have read and enjoyed your stuff over the years; even agreed with it occasionally. Like the way you stuck the Medicare and Social Security thing in there!
Google tells me that “Chrysophobia” is an irrational fear of the color orange.
Seems to be appropriate. :)
I seem to remember how W was going to usher in a bible thumping theocracy and ban abortions and fun.
I’ll second these comments. Welcome aboard!
A friend of mine posted something on Facebook about how John Boehner was going to impose a theocracy because he said nice things about the Bible and Christianity! John “whiskey-and-cigarettes” Boehner!
Welcome aboard Mickey.
I can’t believe the headlines I’m seeing everywhere I look–so much out and out lying and distortion going on. No wonder so many people are afraid of a guy who has said on numerous occasions he admires the single-payer health insurance available in other countries like Canada. I’m not saying I agree with him, but he is not going to hurt people, and for heaven’s sake, these are things the Democrats want.
The press has really reached a new level of irresponsibility and shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater.
Good idea, and I hope you’re right.
And I (too?) am irritated at the tendency to cast current struggles in a WWII film guise.
But consider: fascism does not have to, if fact probably will not, visit the West twice with the same face. Anti-semites and neo-Nazis in the US are a nostalgia focused fringe joke in bad taste.
If fascism comes to the US it will not be because of them (the very very few), but because of a meme, or idea, that appears fair and attractive (and unburdened by Nuremberg) to the many.
It probably won’t be antisemitic. It probably won’t use race as its defining marker. It will wear a different face.
Only a total jerk would think that the cast of Hamilton was polite.
hey! Mickey Kaus…didn’t I used to read your stuff in the New Republic, before it got weird?
I’m so glad you’re here!
Don’t worry, Zafar. If they put you in a camp I’ll convert to Islam and come with you. We’ll have fun! I’ll teach you to knit.
I remember comparing Communism to a beautiful women and Nazism as an ugly man. “Communism is much worse,” I said, “because she is beautiful and she appeals to many different people.” Fascism will come as something nice — something positive.
This is a condensed summary of Jonah Goldberg’s book, Liberal Fascism.
Doesn’t Zafar live in Australia? The camp will probably have a beach.
Every Republican is slandered as a wannabe-Nazi, theocratic, evil genius who is somehow also an idiot. Compared to the milquetoasts that have ran on the GOP ticket since the first Bush, I suppose someone like Trump, who can’t be cowed by the usual name-calling, is rather unsettling. If Romney is a wannabe-Nazi, then Trump must be a wannabe-Satan (if they believed in such things).
It’s all very tiresome.
P.S., welcome to the site, Mr. Kaus. You’ve long been my favorite Democrat on the web.
It’d be a “progressive” face. No doubt about it. But thankfully, we have most of the guns.
Welcome, Mickey. Wonderful post. Thanks for showing us that there are still some rational liberals out there.
Mr. Kaus has been a member since the beginning, 2010! But I guess his presence has been on the podcasts, not in posts until now.
Have we all forgotten that Nazis were socialists. ( National Socialist German Workers Party) Its the left that mostly creates totalitarian government. They reject free markets and individual freedoms and force adherence to what they are touting much like BHO did with Obamacare.
Are they still pushing that nonsense? I’m glad I haven’t listened to that pap since October.
It was a pleasure to see your name on Ricochet. Welcome. Your “The End Of Equality” is one of my 20 or so “touchstone” books. Your call to pursue equality by limiting the social spheres in which money matters has particular resonance right now. Thank you again.
Nazilexia- a disorder that results in the confusion of people, events, and places for Nazis.
Weimarmania- an obsession manifesting in the compulsion of expressing the opinion that one is living in the last days of the Weimar Republic.
I’d take these poor paranoids more seriously, or at least more sympathetically, if they had seen the “seeds” in Lois Lerner, or in the failure of the DOJ to prosecute the Black Panthers for voter intimidation, or the failure of the press to do its job. I don’t know your friends, but if they are not ignorant, as you claim, then they are blinded by hyper-partisanship, which amounts to ignorance.
Don’t you remember how when Obama came into office, the Dixie Chicks were released from Gitmo and Fahrenheit 911 was finally allowed to be shown in theaters?
And yet, it was the Nazis that were both Democratic and Socialist. This really can’t be pointed out enough.
I agree with you. How many on the Left spoke out against the Obama administration’s use of the IRS to cripple conservative groups. Did they defend the exec who gave 1,000 to Prop 8 and then was fired. Did they say after gay marriage was legalized countrywide that tolerance should be given to Americans who disagreed with it? No, they were intolerant and bigoted against conservatives. Their scary scenarios will not occur, but it’s clear that they will abuse power without conjunction when they have it.
Welcome to Ricochet Mickey. I’m a fan and hope you post here frequently.
Hi Mickey, I met you at Rob Long’s house three years ago. I was so trashed but you were kind enough to occupy my scrambled mind. I found you to be a very nice and thoughtful person but of course that could have been the Grey Goose.