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.

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  1. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    cdor (View Comment):
    onservatives would love it, especially if the less were that part of government they don’t like, but I doubt anyone would win a national election on that platform.

    I agree. The best policies are usually unpopular. I am excited about Trump’s attack on regulations though.

    • #91
  2. lowtech redneck Coolidge
    lowtech redneck
    @lowtech redneck

    Zafar (View Comment):
    It probably won’t be antisemitic. It probably won’t use race as its defining marker. It will wear a different face.

    When fascism comes to America, it will be called “anti-fascism”-origin disputed

    Otherwise known as “Social Justice”.

     

     

    • #92
  3. lowtech redneck Coolidge
    lowtech redneck
    @lowtech redneck

    Franco (View Comment):
    In our new age of political narcissism where everyone wants to be the next Ghandi, MLK, Harvey Milk , Rosa Parks from their keyboard hub connected to some forum, predicting the next Hitler is surely going to be a pastime.

    I bet 85% of these people have had the fantasy that they found a time machine, went back and assassinated Hitler saving the world and then somehow getting a ticker tape parade, in both eras.

    Absent that, they can certainly do their part to prevent the next fascist takeover, even if it means smashing windows and kicking in faces.

     

    Have you ever watched The Last Supper (1996)?

     

    • #93
  4. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    Chris Campion (View Comment):

    . I found you to be a very nice and thoughtful person but of course that could have been the Grey Goose.

    Nice article.

    Did Rob know you guys were at his house drinking his liquor?

    DocJay and Roman brought the Grey Goose. And Doc can’t have been that trashed if he correctly recalls the brand. I do, because I gave the Russian grief for drinking frog vodka.

    • #94
  5. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    I’ve been thinking further about the phrase “Trump Derangement Syndrome,” and I do think that there is a problem with it.  Not with the word “derangement.”  That word could not be more appropriate.  No, the problem is with the word “Trump.”  Because it really has nothing to do with Trump.  If Trump resigned tomorrow, the leftists would be even more hysterical and deranged about President Pence.  At least that’s how it seems to me.  And if Pence resigned, they would be equally hysterical and deranged about President Ryan.  We hear that Trump is Hitler.  We heard that Bush was Hitler.  We heard that Reagan was Hitler.  Anyone with an R next to their name is Hitler.  So this is not Trump Derangement Syndrome.  This is Leftist Derangement Syndrome.

    • #95
  6. Blue Yeti Admin
    Blue Yeti
    @BlueYeti

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    Chris Campion (View Comment):

    . I found you to be a very nice and thoughtful person but of course that could have been the Grey Goose.

    Nice article.

    Did Rob know you guys were at his house drinking his liquor?

    DocJay and Roman brought the Grey Goose. And Doc can’t have been that trashed if he correctly recalls the brand. I do, because I gave the Russian grief for drinking frog vodka.

    And right after this, the two of them rolled Rob’s house. Sad!

    • #96
  7. James Gawron Inactive
    James Gawron
    @JamesGawron

    Mickey,

    If your liberal friends need adult liberal bed times stories read to them so they can drift off to never-never land then let them get a top notch shrink. As I’m sure they make between 5 times and 500 times as much money as I do, I’m sure they’ll be able to afford it. Just one more thing.

    Don’t ever tell me about their whining nonsense again.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #97
  8. Jules PA Inactive
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    Larry3435 (View Comment):
    be even more hysterical and deranged about President Pence.

    Agreed, yes, they would be more hysterical and deranged.

    And as they say, dissent is part of the fabric of our culture, but only their dissent, not anyone else’s dissent.

    • #98
  9. Larry Koler Inactive
    Larry Koler
    @LarryKoler

    Trinity Waters (View Comment):

    Isaac Smith (View Comment):

    Zafar (View Comment):

    Mickey Kaus: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.

    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.

    Maybe it might even wear anti-racism as its face, imposing a fascist vision in the name of battling racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, Climate Change, etc. One sign of that might be violence in the streets at any sign of a pushback against their program.

    This is what I was going to say, but I’m glad I read all the comments and found yours, Isaac.

    What mystifies me is how so many people who ostensibly read Goldberg’s book don’t recognize that the current Democrat party, led by HRC, aka Satan, is exactly what Liberal Fascism predicted. Maybe they need to read it again! From Wilson’s deep admiration for fascist government in Europe to Obama the Goner’s ACA, the thread is intact.

    Trump broke the thread and that’s the cause of the hysteria coming from otherwise sensible people. This is the face of true change, the breaking of fascism’s long historical rise as the “right side of history” has imploded in their brains as would any other serious case of cognitive dissonance. They’ve been taught their whole lives, as have their progenitors, that Progressivism, Fascism, Illiberalism, BLM, and many other manifestations of fascism’s offenses against liberty, are normal. They actually don’t know what they don’t know, which I realize is trite, but it’s nonetheless true, which is why Trump emphasized that our children are being denied education in its true sense.

    Trump and his entire movement differ, so must be relegated to the….create your analog to the Gulag here.

    P.S. Some insist on calling it the Democratic Party. It is anything but democratic. They are the Democrats, the party of slavery. Words matter.

    Isaac and Trinity: EXACTLY!

    • #99
  10. Columbo Member
    Columbo
    @Columbo

    Great post Mickey Kaus. What distresses me most is that this derangement syndrome is still coming from the supposed big thinkers of the President’s own Party …

    http://www.bizpacreview.com/2017/01/21/bill-kristol-profoundly-depressing-vulgar-hear-american-president-proclaim-america-first-438497

    It’s profoundly depressing and vulgar to hear an American president proclaim America first’.

    • #100
  11. GFHandle Member
    GFHandle
    @GFHandle

    I haven’t seen anything by Mickey Kaus here before, so I offer a hearty WELCOME, Mickey!

    • #101
  12. cdor Member
    cdor
    @cdor

    Columbo (View Comment):
    Great post Mickey Kaus. What distresses me most is that this derangement syndrome is still coming from the supposed big thinkers of the President’s own Party …

    http://www.bizpacreview.com/2017/01/21/bill-kristol-profoundly-depressing-vulgar-hear-american-president-proclaim-america-first-438497

    It’s profoundly depressing and vulgar to hear an American president proclaim America first’.

    Don’t know what to think about Bill Kristol anymore…actually I don’t think much of Bill Kristol anymore. I know one thing, his interview podcasts were real snoozers. This is the guy that did his best to make Hillary Clinton the 45th President by putting McMullin in the Presidential race in Utah. It’s a real head shaker.

    • #102
  13. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    GFHandle (View Comment):
    I haven’t seen anything by Mickey Kaus here before, so I offer a hearty WELCOME, Mickey!

    I’m glad to see him here, too.  I follow him on Twitter, where I long ago put him into the private list of maybe 20 people that I pay attention to more than any of the others.

    • #103
  14. Carol Member
    Carol
    @

    Full Size Tabby (View Comment):
    But he was also a middle-aged white man with a Southern accent who seemed unperturbed by this weeks news. …

    I was bemused by this part:” But he was also a middle-aged white man with a Southern accent who seemed unperturbed by this weeks news. …”

    What news did he think the plumber should be perturbed by? And, did he really expect the plumber to discuss politics with him? At the plumber’s hourly rate?????

    And also – welcome Mickey!  You are the only liberal I can stand to read anymore ( sometimes Kevin Drum).

    • #104
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