Monday, March 21, 2016

"Trump’s Storm Troopers and the Possibility of American Fascism"

Sunday morning on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos Donald "OldBeachApple" Trump was caught lying about an incident at one of his rallies on an audio hook-up while the video of the incident was being replayed simultaneously on that program. Here are snippets from the ABC News report.

In an interview with “This Week” anchor George Stephanopoulos, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump defended his campaign manager for an alleged incident at a campaign rally in Tucson, Arizona Saturday night in which he appears to grab the collar of a protester.

He also called the protesters "sick" and didn't appear to back down about the notion that there would be riots if he were denied the nomination at a contested convention

During the incident, which was captured on video, [Corey] Lewandowski appears to grab the collar of a protester at the same time as a member of Trump's private security team. The protester and his companion had been escorted out earlier in the rally. It is unclear how they came back in.

Despite what can be seen on multiple sources of video, Trump's campaign said in a statement Saturday night that Lewandowski made no contact with the protester and Trump made no mention of any footage during “This Week."

Scriber thinks the instant replay trumps the call by Trump, the would-be ump.

BTW: Trump has campaign staff circulating on the floor of those rallies - unusual, I believe. And this incident is not the first.

Lewandowski, in a move that could be considered unusual for most campaign managers, often patrols the crowd at events.

On March 8, Lewandowski was accused of grabbing the arm of reporter Michelle Fields, who at the time worked at conservative website Breitbart. Lewandowski and the campaign denied having touched her, though a Washington Post reporter supported her claim, and audio seemed to bolster her version of events.

Also recall the punching and kicking of a protester by one of Trump's supporters. And Trump refuses to condemn that violence.

Add to that: Trump predicts riots if he is not the Republican nominee, and when asked for a right-handed show of support, his followers raise their right hands in the manner of the Sieg Heil in Nazi Germany. Other writers have noted the parallels between modern day America and the events leading to the rise of Hitler (Robert Reich, for example).

And all this brings us back to the two themes raised in the title - which is a subtitle of an essay by Bob Dreyfuss at

The first theme is a riff on the Authoritarian America/Nazi Germany parallels. Dreyfuss compares the two point by point.

... what ingredients, if any, are still needed for the emergence of an authentic twenty-first-century American fascist movement? To think about that question, I recently read Richard J. Evans’ book, The Coming of the Third Reich. It spans the era from 1871 to 1933, describing in exquisitely painful detail the gestation and growth of the Nazi party. If you decide to read the book, try doing what I did: in two columns in your head draw up a list of similarities and differences between the United States today and Weimar Germany in the 1920s and early 1930s.

In this edgy moment in America, the similarities, of course, tend to jump out at you. As Trump repeatedly pledges to restore American greatness, so Hitler promised to avenge Germany’s humiliation in World War I. As Trump urges his followers, especially the white working class, to blame their troubles on Mexican immigrants and Muslims, so Hitler whipped up an anti-Semitic brew. As Trump -- ironically, for a billionaire -- attacks Wall Street and corporate lobbyists for rigging the economy and making puppets out of politicians, so Hitler railed against Wall Street and the City of London, along with their local allies in Germany, for burdening his country with a massive post-World War I, Versailles Treaty-imposed reparations debt and for backing the Weimar Republic’s feckless center-right parties. (Think: the Republican Party today.) As with Trump’s China-bashing comments and his threats to murder the relatives of Islamist terrorists while taking over Iraq’s oil reserves, Hitler too appealed to an atavistic, reckless sort of ultra-nationalism.

The second theme in the title is Trump's Storm Troopers. What might that look like in America in the not too distant future? Dreyfuss answers.

The Second Amendment Society

But don’t forget the differences, which are no less obvious. The United States has a long-established tradition of democratic republicanism, which 1920s Germany did not. The economy of the planet’s last superpower, while careening into a near-depression in 2008, is incomparably too strong to be put in the same category as the hyperinflation-plagued German one of that era.

There is, however, another difference between Donald Trump of 2016 and Adolf Hitler of 1921 (when he took over the leadership of the fledgling National Socialist German Workers Party) that overshadows the rest. From the beginning, Hitler wielded the support of a brutal, thuggish armed paramilitary wing, the notorious Sturmabteilung (SA), the Storm Detachment (or storm troopers). Also known as the Brown Shirts, the SA often used violence against its opponents in the streets of Germany’s cities, and its sheer presence intimidated Germans across the political spectrum.

And that got me thinking. Would it be possible for Donald Trump or some future Trump-like figure to build an armed following of his own? Frighteningly enough, the answer is certainly: yes. And it might not even be that hard.

Bear with me a moment here. Back in 2010, in Alexandria, Virginia, radical partisans of the Second Amendment right to bear arms, bolstered by Virginia’s egregiously anything-goes open-carry laws, held a Restore the Constitution Rally in Fort Hunt Park on the Potomac River -- and they came armed. The event was, by the way, scheduled for April 19th, the anniversary of Timothy McVeigh’s 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. At the time, I lived a mile or so from that park, and the combination of fear, anger, and disgust that such a weapons-displaying political demonstration could happen in the virtual shadow of the Capitol was palpable.

Admittedly, only about 50 armed people took part, though 2,000 others held an unarmed, parallel rally in Washington, D.C., where carrying weapons is forbidden. Think about how many more might turn out today in a country where there have already been a number of armed rallies and demonstrations by Second Amendment activists, and in 2016, thanks to effective lobbying by the National Rifle Association (NRA), the majority of states have enacted complete or partial open-carry laws. Meanwhile, all 50 states now have concealed-carry laws, meaning that pistol-packing is lawful in most public places other than Washington, D.C.

So imagine this scenario for a moment: Donald Trump (or a future Trump-esque demagogue) announces that he’s convening a rally in a state where open-carry is permitted -- say, in Dallas, at the Cowboys' AT&T Stadium -- and adds that he wants his supporters to come armed. (Trump has loudly defended the NRA’s interpretation of the Second Amendment during the primary season and on his website there’s a plank called “Protecting Our Second Amendment Will Make America Great Again.”) Under Texas law, it would be perfectly legal for his supporters in the thousands to attend such a rally armed with semi-automatic weapons. And there, at the podium, looking out over the crown of gun-wielding militants would be The Donald, smiling broadly.

And that is a recurring horrifying daydream of mine. #OldBeachApple stirs up the mob and the NRA arms them. Both those things are happening now, in real time.

Dreyfuss has more to say about the conditions that would lead to such a scenario. Put down your Steven King novel and read Dreyfuss' essay to get your juices flowing.

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