Friday, November 27, 2015

And what NOT to be grateful for: The "Trump effect"

Predicting the future is not advisable if you have a need to be correct. Most predictions fail. Who foresaw the internet? Global warming? The rise of ISIS? The end of days? In the language of statistical inference, all these and more are either "misses" or "false alarms." But there is one "hit" I would like to mention - the rise of American Fascism. I could credit writers of science fiction or Sinclair Lewis (It Can't Happen Here).

Along the latter lines, I will venture a prediction: future historians will look back on the campaigns of the 2016 election and identify Donald Trump as the force that opened, once again, America to political practices and policies that run exactly opposite to America's announced values. And we are not even into 2016 yet. There is more to come, as detailed by Michael Gerson's (Washington Post) column in today's Daily Star.

The presidential candidate who has consistently led the Republican field for four months, Donald Trump, has proposed: forcibly expel 11 million people from the country, requiring a massive apparatus of enforcement, courts and concentration camps; rewrite or reinterpret the 14th Amendment to end the Civil War-era Republican principle of birthright citizenship; build a 2,000-mile wall on our southern border while forcing Mexico to pay the cost.

He has characterized undocumented Mexican immigrants as rapists and murderers and has opposed the speaking of Spanish in America.

Trump just showed the way. He's followed by more and more rabid rhetoric from his Republican primary opponents.

Republican candidates have proposed: to favor the admission of Christian over Muslim refugees from the Middle East; to "send home" Syrian refugees, mainly women and children, into a war zone; to "strongly consider" the shutting down of suspicious mosques; to compile a database of Muslims and (perhaps) force them to carry special identification showing their religion. They have compared Syrian refugees to "rabid dogs," ruled out the possibility of a Muslim president, and warned that Muslim immigration to America is really "colonization."

There are, of course, Republican presidential hopefuls who have vigorously opposed each of these proposals, arguments and stereotypes. But Donald Trump has, so far, set the terms of the primary debate and dragged other candidates in the direction of ethnic and religious exclusion. One effect has been the legitimization of even more extreme views — signaling that it is OK to give voice to sentiments and attitudes that, in previous times, people would have been too embarrassed to share in public. So in Tennessee, the chairman of the state Legislature’s GOP caucus has called for the mobilization of the National Guard to round up Syrian refugees and put them in camps. Many Republicans are now on record saying that Islam is inherently violent and inconsistent with constitutional values (while often displaying an ironic and disturbing ignorance of those values).

It gets worse.

"We’re going to have to do things," says Trump with menacing vagueness, "that we never did before." And if disrespect for institutions is common, Trump is its perfect vehicle — combining the snark of Twitter with the staged anger and grudges of reality television.

But in all this, it is easy to miss Trump’s policy ambition. He would spark trade wars with China and Mexico and scrap the world trading system — which Republicans have helped construct since World War II — replacing it with an older kind of mercantilism. He would make the seizure of Middle Eastern oil the centerpiece of his regional strategy — turning a spurious liberal charge into a foreign policy doctrine, and uniting the Arab world in rage and resentment.

And Trump would make — has already half-made — the GOP into an anti-immigrant party. ...

Gerson closes with a judgment and a question for conservatives and the religious right..

It does not take much political talent to turn this sense of cultural displacement into anti-immigrant resentment. Only a reckless disregard for the moral and political consequences.

As denial [of a Trump presidency] in the GOP fades, a question is laid upon the table: Is it possible, and morally permissible, for economic and foreign policy conservatives, and for Republicans motivated by their faith, to share a coalition with the advocates of an increasingly raw and repugnant nativism?

I would put it differently. Who among those conservatives and theocrats would embrace a Fascist America?

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