Monday, July 27, 2015

What Donald Trump's Surge Says About the GOP

As a one time GOP activist more than two decades ago, I am continually appalled by what the Republican Party has become.  It's not only ugly, but dangerous and the driving forces behind the GOP today are greed - individual and corporate - and hatred of others, with the list of those deemed "other" being extensive and encompassing pretty much everyone other than white far right Christians.  A piece in Salon looks at the phenomenon and looks at why Donald Trump is surging in the GOP polls.  The piece also draws apt parallels between today's GOP and fascism of the 1930's .  Here are highlights:
In the political discussion of today, there always comes a risk of being discounted as a crackpot when using a word like “fascist” to describe a political opponent. The word, much like “socialist,” has been so abused since the fall of fascism that it lost its meaning quite some time ago.

In a recent article by Jeffrey Tucker, however, it is argued, quite justly in my opinion, that Donald Trump, whether he knows it or not, is a fascist (or is at least acting like one). Much like Mussolini and Hitler, Trump is a demagogue dedicated to riling up the people (particularly conservatives) with race baiting, traditionalism and strongman tough talk — and, according to polls, it’s working — for now. Tucker writes:
“Trump has tapped into it, absorbing unto his own political ambitions every conceivable resentment (race, class, sex, religion, economic) and promising a new order of things under his mighty hand.”
The thing is, his style — full of race baiting, xenophobia and belligerent nationalism — is not unique to Trump; he is simply the most blatant and vocal about it. There’s a reason he’s leading in the GOP polls: the party’s base likes what he’s saying. The people are angry about illegal immigrants murdering white women (anyone who has followed Bill O’Reilly over the past week knows what I’m talking about), homosexuals destroying the tradition of marriage, and so on. Much like fascism reacted to modernity and social progress in the early 20th century, right-wingers are reacting angrily to social progress of the new century.

So is the GOP becoming the new fascist party? That might be an exaggeration, but it does share many similar features, and Trump, with his demagogic style, is simply exposing how very similar the passions of the GOP base are to the passions of fascism of the early 20th century.

The modern GOP is a party of unwavering and dogmatic patriotism mixed with traditionalism and intolerance. The social progression we have been witnessing over the past decade in America, most clearly with the acceptance of the LGBT community, seems to be triggering a reactionary movement on the right. We see this most recently with the religious freedom controversies and the angry protests of the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling. Fascism of the early 20th century was also largely a negative reaction to modernity . . .

The modern GOP is also somewhat contradictory. Its followers, for example, promote free market ideals and despise welfare for the poor, while exclaiming the worship of Jesus Christ, whose teachings are almost socialistic.

Overall, however, the GOP has a pretty straightforward idea of its platform. Like fascism, tradition is holy — the tradition of marriage, family values, Christian ideals. . . . Another similarity is its belligerence.

Beyond these values, the GOP tends to preach and practice intolerance, xenophobia, nationalism and anti-democratic values (i.e., voter suppression). In many ways, the GOP is anti-enlightenment, and embraces passion over reason. The dangerous denial of climate change and other scientific facts seems to come out of the corrupt alliance of anti-intellectual traditionalism and corporate influence (i.e., oil and gas).

The GOP are obviously not fascists, but they share a family resemblance. As stated above, the base have many similar passions — traditionalism, nationalism, intolerance towards immigrants or minorities. They react with hostility towards the social progress of others and largely believe in a ‘survival of the fittest’ ideology.

Donald Trump is no doubt a wealthy buffoon — but he is a buffoon who understands the underlying passions of the GOP base. Fascist leaders also understood these passions, and knew how to exploit them for political gain. These passions may seem irrational, but they should not be underestimated. 

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