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Just What The Neighborhood Needs: Another Book About A Fascist Named Trump.

This weekend my wife and I drove around the small towns in New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine. If we drive past a nice consignment store, my wife will go in and look around. If the same town has a gun shop, I’ll walk through the place. And if there’s a bookstore, we’ll both go in.

When I went into bookstores while Obama was President there was always a display with books about Obama not born in the United States, or Obama as an enemy of the Constitution, or Obama as some other threat to the American way of life.

That display has now been replaced by a display which contains books about Trump the Fascist and Trump as a Fascist threat to the American way of life. And one of the leading titles in that respect is a book by Jason Stanley of Yale University, How Fascism Works, which is often cited as the leading source for how and why Trump represents a Fascist threat.

Unfortunately, the book was published in 2018, and although the paperback edition came out in 2020, it doesn’t appear to have been revisited by the author in the light of what happened at the end of 2018. What happened is the great Fascist MAGA movement which captivated and scared political academics like Stanley and political pundits across the liberal fruited plane, completely and totally collapsed in the mid-term elections where Trump got clobbered and his Fascist politics support came to a quick end.

Trump made over 60 rally appearances during the 2018 campaign, and he told every audience that he regarded the mid-term election as a national plebiscite on him. If he really believed that to be the case, I can’t imagine how he could run in 2020 without promoting the idea that the election was stolen from him. What else could he possibly say?

The problem with Stanley’s book and the other pundits who have contributed to the cottage industry about Trump as a Fascist is that it suffers from a fundamental methodological mistake, namely, the idea that we can use the past to explain or understand the present. There is simply no (read: none whatsoever way) that we can use what happened in Germany in the years before and after 1933 with what has been going on in the United States since Trump announced his run for the Presidency in 2015.

We were coming out of a serious recession, but the economy had returned to where it was prior to 2008. In Germany, on the other hand, a ruinous, post-war inflation had wiped out the financial resources of an entire generation which would never be replaced. There were still non-German troops occupying locations within the Ruhr, and the country was saddled with a reparations debt that couldn’t be overcome.

Finally, and here was the most important difference between Germany in 1933 and the United States in 2016, the German democratic government that was replaced by Hitler’s totalitarian regime has been in existence for a whole, big fourteen years. In other words, the checks, and balances that we take for granted in the functioning of our government had no tradition or even a real existence in the German system or the political culture or the average German mind.

This complete lack of understanding about politics and how a government works was something that William Shirer found in virtually every social class and grouping in Berlin where he was posted as a European correspondent from 1931 until 1940, when Germany’s invasion of France forced him to leave and come home. Stanley doesn’t mention Shirer’s work on Hitler, nor does he seem to have consulted any of the other standard histories of Nazism, such as the work of Franz Neumann or Saul Friedlander, just to name two.

Because this book seems to avoid taking Fascism on its own terms, it misses the most fundamental difference between how Hitler imposed a Fascist regime on Germany versus what Trump tried to do in the United States. Stanley devotes chapters to basic Fascist politics like the reincarnation of a mythic past, the importance of hierarchy and male domination, anti-intellectualism, law and order, ending welfare and most important, the idea that everything is rooted in ‘us’ versus ‘them.’

Obviously, these themes were part and parcel of Trump’s rhetoric and Trump’s appeal. But and this is the most important but of all, Hitler turned these political ideas into government policies through the use of actual or threatened use of physical force.

Hitler made no secret of the role that violence would play in his rise to power. He created the SA in the early 1920’s to first provide security at Nazi Party rallies but quickly had them going up against rival organizations, particularly left-wing unions, in street fights and other mass violence. By the mid-1920’s Hitler formed a more tactical group within the SA known as the SS, and by the early 1930’s the SS had enrolled more than 30,000 members who were the shock-troops providing physical assaults on any and all so-called enemies of the Third Reich.

The SS also became a quasi-police force operating on its own terms, and out of this group came the Gestapo, the political police who enforced whatever authority Hitler wanted enforced with or without any judicial sanction at all. These groups were called ‘organs’ of state security but they were actually ‘organs’ of organized, state-sanctioned violence that maintained the authority of the regime.

What did Trump have for street-level shock troops? The Proud Boys? The Three Percenters? Are you serious?

The only time in his entire Administration that Trump called out armed force to quell what he claimed would have otherwise been a threat against his authority was when he made that stupid PR walk from the White House over to St. Mark’s Church, an event which drew nothing but public ridicule on both sides of the political aisle.

Right now, I have somewhere around 60 guns lying around my house. There is absolutely not the slightest chance that I would ever pick up one of those guns, go down to the local Wal Mart and start shooting up the place. Want to call me a gun nut and a threat to the community? Go right ahead.

Want to call Trump a Fascist? Go right ahead. You can probably get a book published if you promote the idea that he’s such a threat.

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