Posted by: David Offutt | July 27, 2016

Il Duce Trump to the Rescue

Benito Mussolini, known as Il Duce, was the Fascist dictator of Italy who allied with Adolf Hitler in World War II. Donald J. Trump is the plutocratic businessman who has taken control of the G.O.P.

Benito Mussolini, known as Il Duce, was the Fascist dictator of Italy who allied with Adolf Hitler in World War II. Donald J. Trump is the plutocratic businessman who has taken control of the G.O.P.

Ever since the G.O.P. essentially became the Fox-Republican-TEA Party, its membership and voters have become almost exclusively reactionary, right-wing extremists.  Its goal is to turn back the clock to the good old days when the plutocracy – those with great wealth – ruled the country ostensibly for the white majority of citizens.

 

Moderates were mostly purged from the party during the Reagan presidency and Newt Gingrich’s tenure as Speaker of the House (Sen. Susan Collins of Maine may be the lone survivor).  Conservatives have been a dying breed since the neo-conservative takeover during the Bush-Cheney Era and the arrival of the Koch brothers’ TEA Party (even pundit George Will recently resigned from the party).

 

Ever since World War II, demagogues like Sen. Joe McCarthy (Wis.), Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan have come and gone as the party’s leaders. They all appealed to the paranoid side of voters, but – other than McCarthy – they also addressed our better instincts and did some good things. Sadly, the movement of the party, step by step, has been farther to the dark side, and now a large number of their voters seem perfectly willing to support a fascist nominee for president.

 

Andy Warhol's 1972 portrait of Richard Nixon that hangs in the Whitney Museum in NYC. Nixon defeated George McGovern in a landslide. Then the American people began to understand what kind of man they had elected. Nixon became the first president to resign from office.

Andy Warhol’s 1972 portrait of Richard Nixon that hangs in the Whitney Museum in NYC. Nixon defeated George McGovern in a landslide. Then the American people began to understand what kind of man they had re-elected. Nixon became the first president to resign from office.

Nixon’s southern strategy and Reagan’s “welfare queen” speeches gave a wink and a nod to racism and let voters know where they stood without being blatant about it. No more mealy mouthing around: the party’s recent nominee makes no doubt about who or what he is. Donald J. Trump has made no secret of his racism, bigotry, and misogyny (contempt for women – except for the beautiful women in his life) and made them staples of his campaign – you’ve heard him and read what he’s said ad nauseam.

 

Some insight on how we’ve come to this point and where it might lead can be found in the 1936 novel “It Can’t Happen Here” by Sinclair Lewis. The main character, Doremus Jessup, a newspaper editor, warned some friends against a presidential nominee, “Wait till Buzz (Windrip) takes charge of us. A real fascist dictatorship!” “Nonsense! Nonsense!” snorted Tasbrough. “That couldn’t happen here in America, not possibly. We’re a country of freemen!”

 

Jessup responded: “The answer to that…is ‘the hell it can’t!’ Why there’s no country in the world that can get more hysterical … than America.  Look how Huey Long became absolute monarch over Louisiana…Why, where in all history has there ever been a people so ripe for a dictatorship as ours!” Hopefully, Lewis’s literary work is not prophetic because that’s precisely what happened in his book.

 

While the Donald represents most traditional Republican policies, he's not considered a true conservative: he doesn't advocate destroying Social Security and Medicare, and he opposes Citizens United which ruled that money is free speech and the Pacific Trade Agreement.

While the Donald represents most traditional Republican policies, he’s too up-front about them and he’s not considered a true conservative: he doesn’t advocate destroying Social Security and Medicare, and he opposes the Pacific Trade Agreement. (Photo: Nati Harnak, AP)

Il Duce Trump saw the fear that white Americans (workers and middle class) see in the continuous evolution of American society. He saw their fear of losing their jobs and losing their formerly privileged racial status.

 

He realized the rise of ISIS and the increase of seemingly routine mass murders added to their fears. He recognized that his own xenophobia (fear of foreigners), nativism, contempt for the rule of law, and anti-environmentalism jibed with the G.O.P.’s implied, and sometimes explicit, policies.

 

He was also aware that these issues were red meat to scared voters, so he played the role of their savior to the hilt. At the convention, as on the campaign trail, the Donald mugged his best Mussolini imitation, thrusting his jaw forward after his every lie or exaggeration to hear the roar of the crowd.

 

Il Duce was popular after he came to power in 1922 because he got the trains running on time. He said, "Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power."

Il Duce was popular after he came to power in 1922 because he got the trains running on time. He said, “Fascism should more appropriately be called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.”

Trump’s frightening emphasis on “law and order” was reminiscent of Adolf Hitler and Richard Nixon. His campaign even admitted his studying Nixon’s convention speech on “law and order.” The only way that he can attempt to accomplish his promises is to establish a police state, with him as the supreme dictator.  Hitler used the Hitler Youth, the Gestapo, the S.S., and concentration camps to maintain order. Nixon had dirty tricksters, the Watergate burglars, the “Plumbers,” and attempted to use agencies of the government “to get his political enemies.”

 

Harry Truman said that even if Nixon could tell the truth, he would still lie just to stay in practice. Reagan’s administration, supposedly without his understanding, attempted to establish the Enterprise Corporation to secretly fund presidential wars without Congress’s authorization. Reagan’s people also sold missiles to Iran to get money to buy Soviet weapons to supply the Contra rebellion in Nicaragua. George W. Bush had Attorney General Alberto Gonzales turn the Department of Justice into a tool of the Republican Party, and his administration used a documented 950 lies to justify his invasion of Iraq. We can only imagine what Trump will do.

 

Vladimir Putin and ISIS will both benefit from a Trump victory. Putin and Trump are mutual admirers, and Trump’s opposition to NATO must be music to the Russian strong man’s ears.  Trump’s anti-Muslim tirades certainly reinforce the ISIS propaganda that all Americans are enemies of all Muslims. Even if he doesn’t win, the more votes Trump gets, the more new recruits ISIS will get. If he does win, more Americans will accept the “temporary” necessity of a U.S. police state because they will fear that all American Muslims will join ISIS.

 

The Donald may be a bloviating clown, but it’s possible that we may elect him as our “entertainer-in-chief,” as Chris Christie said of him. The former wrestler, reality TV host, and real estate developer has been described by his own party members in many ways. Marco Rubio has called him “a con artist.” Lindsay Graham said he’s “a religious bigot. The one who summed him up the best was Tony Schwartz, who was the ghostwriter for Trump’s book “The Art of the Deal.” He said that he was terrified of Trump because he’s “a sociopath.”

 

Beware of Trump’s saying “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it.” That translates as a plan to make the voters, the Congress, the courts, and the Constitution irrelevant.

 

And whenever I hear the Donald say, “I’m smart,” or “I have a good brain,” I’m immediately reminded of what I call “Peck’s Law.” When the Oscar-winning actor Gregory Peck was asked why he didn’t tell a maitre d’ who he was, he answered, “If you have to tell someone who you are, you aren’t.”

David Offutt at the Ronald Reagan deification shrine in Simi Valley, Calif: At his presidential library, the dark side of Reagan's presidency mostly ignored - the Iran-Contra affair is only briefly glossed over. Worshippers come in large numbers to hear his inspirational speeches.

David Offutt at the Ronald Reagan deification shrine in Simi Valley, Calif: At his presidential library, the dark side of Reagan’s presidency is mostly ignored – the Iran-Contra affair, which nearly destroyed his presidency, is briefly glossed over. Worshipers come in large numbers to hear his inspirational speeches.

By David Offutt

A version of this essay was published July 27, 2016, in the El Dorado News-Times as a letter to the editor.

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Responses

  1. Oh, David! You are just repeating Democratic party talking points. You have a good head on your shoulders, please use it to do critical independent thinking like you taught your students to do in Helena, rather than blindly following a corrupt, warmongering party.

    I’m not going to defend Trump. He has no track record in government, so we have little to judge him by. Before he entered politics, Trump called himself a social liberal, supported universal health care, and criticized the Republican party for being too conservative. Today, some Republicans oppose Trump because they believe he is a closet liberal, and they may be right. I consider Trump a wild card — we simply don’t know what he would do as president, other than on a few key issues like free trade where Trump has been very consistent over the years.

    Is Trump a demagogue? I distinctly remember you using that term at Central High School. One definition is a politician who tells lies to get elected. By that definition almost all politicians are demagogues, certainly including the Clintons. Another definition is a politician who arouses people’s emotions. Well, not all politicians arouse people’s emotions — both Bush presidents were boring and uninspiring. Obama, on the other hand, has often appealed to emotions. This week’s Democratic convention featured emotional speakers who tried to tug at our hearts — mothers who had lost children to the police state (never mind that Democrats support the police state), and an 11 year old child who worried that her parents might be deported (never mind that Obama has deported more people than any other president). My friend, *THAT* is demagoguery.

    If Trump is a demagogue, so is Hillary, and so are most politicians.

    Is Trump a fascist? Like “demogogue,” “fascist” has many definitions, to the point that it means whatever someone wants it to mean, therefore it is meaningless. The fascist label is often trotted out to smear someone we don’t like.

    If fascism rejects pacifism and embraces war, as Mussolini firmly stated, then who embraces war more — Hillary or Trump? Trump wants to be friends with Russia, while Hillary participated in and continues to support aggression against Russia. Hillary advocated war against Libya, while Trump has generally taken a dim view of foreign wars (admittedly he has not been consistent on the subject). Hillary advocates more intervention in Syria, including a no-fly zone that, if attempted, would trigger a conflict with Russia (Russia controls the skies in Syria). Conclusion: while Trump is no pacifist, he is less militaristic than Hillary, and therefore less fascist.

    Since you mentioned Huey Long, Huey was criticized in his day because he did not support or serve in WWI. Huey believed that we should take care of our problems at home instead of meddling in foreign countries. To me, that is the opposite of fascism.

    T. Harry William’s Pulitzer winning biography of Huey considers whether Huey deserved to be labeled a demagogue, and concludes that for the most part the label does not fit because Huey was relatively honest — he sincerely believed in his platform and he mostly delivered on his campaign promises. That is the opposite of demagoguery.

    Did Huey rule Louisiana as an “absolute monarch?” No, he was publicly elected and had the support of the people. Louisiana law at the time required that the bond measures to finance Huey’s programs — fascist things like free public education, free public roads, and a free public hospital — had to be approved by public referendum. Huey eliminated the poll tax so that poor people, including blacks, could vote for the first time.. Does that sound like
    “absolute monarchy” to you?

    Did Huey sometimes bend rules, twist arms, and make backroom deals to get his progressive programs passed? You bet, just like LBJ and FDR. If Huey was a demagogue-fascist-monarch, then so were LBJ and FDR.

    (By the way, your former co-worker Vera Miller encouraged me to attend LSU specifically because T. Harry Williams taught there.)

    Re: “Vladimir Putin … will … benefit from a Trump victory.” What would be wrong with that? Putin wants peace and prosperity — are Democrats opposed to peace and prosperity? Russia strongly opposes fascism and did most of the heavy lifting to defeat the fascists in WWII. Democrats, on the other hand, have long supported neo-Nazis in Ukraine, starting with Harry Truman and continuing to this day with the Obama administration’s “fuck the EU” coup and subsequent war in Ukraine. Democrats support the Ukrainian neo-Nazis while Trump does not (to the consternation of many Republicans). Conclusion: Democrats are more pro-Nazi than Trump.

    Is Trump a sociopath? He may well be. Many powerful people have sociopathic/psychopathic tendencies, because psychopaths are drawn to power like a moth to a light. One can argue that Truman was a psychopath (nuking Japan and firebombing Korea), and JFK (risking nuclear war over the Bay of Pigs and the missile crisis), LBJ (Vietnam), Bill Clinton (his sec. state Albright said killing 500,000 Iraqi children was “worth it”), Obama (1st president to have a kill list), and Hillary (“we came, we saw, he died” cackle cackle cackle). As I see it, most American presidents have been psychopaths, and certainly Hillary is a psychopath. How is Trump unusual in that respect?

    I will not vote for Trump, and if he becomes president, I will not be surprised if he does horrible things, because every president in my lifetime has done horrible things. But I KNOW that Hillary has done horrible things and it’s reasonable to expect that if elected, she will continue to do horrible things.


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