As I continue reading the reaction to Donald Trump’s big Muslim hatefest last night, I keep coming back to Andrew Sprung. He does the best job I’ve seen of describing Trump in a nutshell:
The manifest depravity of this speech, which raised demonization of Muslims to something approaching Nazi levels, does highlight something basic about the choice before us that’s perhaps hiding in plain sight.
The speech rendered all the more obvious truths about Trump that have long been obvious: 1. He is obviously promising to abrogate the Constitution in fundamental ways. 2. He will say anything that he senses will inflame his followers and throw the media into a frenzy. 3. His solipsism is so extreme that there is no boundary line in his mind between what works for him and what is true. 4. He’s such a transparently self-aggrandizing fraud that anyone, regardless of education or political engagement, should be able to see through him in two minutes.
His proposals to proscribe a religion adhered to by a fifth of humanity, round up and deport 11 million people, muzzle the press, and commit war crimes are not subtle. You don’t need a business degree to see that Trump University and the Trump Network (a vitamin-selling scheme involving a urine test) — were fraudulent to their core.
A few days ago I wrote a post semi-jokingly suggesting that the word fascist should be removed from the English language. I didn’t say it at the time, but in the back of my mind was this: people who throw around the term are often just cowards who are unwilling to come right out and call their target a Nazi. That’s understandable: Mussolini may have been a bad sort, but he didn’t send 6 million Jews to their deaths. For obvious reasons, you want to be careful comparing people to Hitler.
But we’ve now crossed that bridge with Trump. He’s not just a fascist. Nor a fan of McCarthyism. He’s not a bully or a fraud or a demagogue. He’s all those things, but he’s crossed the line into something much more. It’s not as if Trump is getting ready to set up an American version of Auschwitz or something, but his speech last night sure did sound eerily like something Hitler could have delivered circa 1933. And his statements since have been even more overtly Third Reichish, conjuring up cabals of treacherous elites who “know what’s going on” but refuse to do anything to save America from the dangers surrounding her.
Trump may be a toy Hitler, more swagger and bombast than genuine danger. But movements like his have a dynamic all their own, and they can spiral out of control fast given the right circumstances and the right person. The right circumstances are impossible to forecast, but obviously they’re hardly out of the question sometime over the next few months. And Trump, whose first instinct is to double down when he’s criticized, is all too likely to become the right person. Yesterday’s speech wasn’t Trump’s first step in the direction of industrialized racism, it was about his third or fourth. He needs to be thoroughly crushed before he takes the seventh or eighth.