Fears of terrorism are at an all-time high and debate continues to rage over whether it’s right for the United States to welcome thousands of Syrian refugees.
A new Reuters/Ipsos study revealed more than 50 percent of Americans “don’t identify with what America has become” and feel like strangers in their own land.
Meanwhile, our chattering class is all aflutter about a dangerous ideological threat to our way of life.
Is it radical Islam?
Not a chance — it’s “creeping fascism.” In particular, the alleged fascist tendencies of Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump.
New York magazine asked if The Donald is a fascist. Slate claimed he is one and it is right to call him so. Salon cheered on the development for finally recognizing the Trump menace for what it really is. The Daily Beast’s executive editor, upon concluding that Trump is fascist, called for a massive boycott against the mogul’s businesses in order to take a stand against the authoritarian menace.
Conservatives have also joined the chorus, with several figures worrying the billionaire’s over-the-top rhetoric is starting to resemble the words of a certain twentieth century German demagogue.
John Kasich’s campaign released an ad cementing that comparison by implying that if Trump is elected, his policies will eerily follow the dictates of Adolf Hitler.
It would all be quite ridiculous if the fascist accusation wasn’t percolating through the entirety of our public discourse. Fascism — for those who might be unaware of its definition outside of a synonym for dictatorial jerk — is typified by extreme nationalism, belligerent militarism, authoritarian government and, depending on the national version, some form of racism.
While a popular ideology in Europe during the turbulent interwar years of the 1920s and ’30s, it has not been a serious political force since the fall of the Third Reich. Even at the height of its mainstream interest, fascism never found much of an audience here in the States.
But, according to a lot of very scared pundits, this long dormant movement is rising from the grave in a “Make America Great Again” hat. They say Trump is a fascist due to his call for more surveillance on the Muslim community, his desire to deport millions of illegal immigrants, his authoritarian persona and for the few scuffles that have broken out at his rallies.
However, these ideas are in reality not too far off from the actions and traits of several past presidents.
While it is clear that a Muslim registry was an idea dreamed up by a reporter, it’s not too radically different from the anti-terror protections pursued by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. We do have a terror watch list that includes an estimated one million individuals, many of whom are placed on there simply for being a known adherent of Islamic fundamentalism. We have also put many American mosques under surveillance for possible links to radicalism.
Ignoring the hyperventilation over registries, Trump’s proposal of keeping an extra eye on mosques and individuals associated with radical Islam builds off current security procedures. But then again, before the Left embraced Bush 43 as a hero against Islamophobia, they labelled him a fascist. So maybe Trump is a fascist under some liberal definitions.
When it comes to The Donald’s plan for dealing with illegal immigrants, it truly is a plan that merely requests that our government enforces its own immigration laws. Trump’s idea bases itself on an operation that was initiated by President Dwight Eisenhower which successfully deported nearly two million illegal Mexican migrants in the 1950s.
The man who approved this measure was the same general who spearheaded the U.S. effort to defeat the Nazis in World War II. So much for basing ideas on known fascists.
It is true that Trump renders a rather authoritarian figure, but so have a large number of American presidents — both great and terrible. Those leaders include Abraham Lincoln, who won the Civil War and freed the slaves, and liberal icon Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
Believing that a President Trump can get his way entirely evinces a strong disbelief in America’s system of checks-and-balances that has kept us dictatorship-free for three centuries. Unless you believe our history is a tale of creeping totalitarianism, a strongman president doesn’t present much of a threat to the U.S.’s well-entrenched political culture.
The scattered instances of small-scale violence at Trump events — which includes a disruptive Black Lives Matter protester getting taken down during a speech given in Alabama — is being taken as a sign that paramilitary aggression is going hand-in-hand with The Donald’s candidacy. That assertion is just plain silly, and there are no Trumptroppers around to match the large-scale gang violence of Mussolini’s blackshirts. Nor is there any indication that such formation is possible in the future. (RELATED: Trump: Black Lives Matter Protester Allegedly Punched At Rally ‘Should Have Been Roughed Up’)
Lastly, Trump is not exactly fulfilling the fascist penchant for military adventurism. He is one of the more dovish Republicans in the race when it comes to foreign interventions. You’re more likely to hear ecstatic visions of bombing foreign countries from Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump.
What all this “Trump is a fascist” talk amounts to is a diversion from a dangerous ideology that actually poses a threat in this century. The same people who are calling The Donald a fascist this week were describing him as a moderate Republican a short time ago. At most, his ideology can loosely be described as populist-nationalism — which isn’t synonymous with National Socialism.
In spite of our chattering class’s anxieties, the real ideological threat to the West is still radical Islam. But in some ways, it appears far more comfortable — and certainly more politically correct — to worry about a long-dead ideology than the enemy before us. It’s similar to how the 2002 Tom Clancy film “The Sum Of All Fears” changed the terrorists from Muslim extremists to anachronistic neo-fascists — that didn’t upset anyone and conformed to a left-wing worldview.
As the mayor of Dallas recently argued, the people we should always fear are white men, not Arab militants shouting “Allahu Akbar!”
Additionally, it’s rich that the same leftists wringing their hands over phantom Trumptroopers taking all our freedom away have created a culture that’s infringing on the rights of Americans to voice their opinions. As our present campus insanity and the stunning poll that shows 40 percent of millennials supporting free speech suppression demonstrate, there is a legitimate threat to liberty in our country.
But it’s not coming from the Right.
What many of these liberals need to realize about Trump is how he appeals to a large portion of Americans who believe they no longer have a place in this country, as evidenced by the previously mentioned Reuters/Ipsos poll.
The poll makers dubbed this phenomenon “neo-nativism” and attributed the unease to rapid cultural and economic change that has left large swaths of citizens with dim economic prospects and on the proverbial “wrong side of history.”
Reuters and Ipsos also argued that the findings show why Trump has such staying power in spite of the universal condemnation he receives from the press and numerous political figures.
As shown by President Obama’s comments on this constituency opposing his refugee policies, our leaders prefer to dismiss these people as bigots and, according to Oprah Winfrey, hope they die out soon. (RELATED: Obama Takes Harsher Tone With Republicans Than ISIS At G20)
While some of our elites might like to reassure themselves that they can defeat Trump with ludicrous accusations of fascism, his populist-nationalist message is resonating with many people who feel that our leaders have abandoned them.
If these scared pundits would like to defuse The Donald’s appeal, it’d be more wise to address the anxieties of the “silent majority” than to affirm Godwin’s law of every Internet discussion eventually leading to Hitler.