How could a president of a constitutionally governed country seize control? When I say, "Let's review what happened in Weimar Germany," people object that conditions are not the same. This is whistling in the dark.
Fear Is the Only Condition that MattersWhen people are scared, when they feel wronged, conditions are ripe for a demagogue strong-man to promise that he, and only he, can fix things.
People in Germany experienced runaway inflation and felt humiliated by the constraining terms of the World War I peace treaties. Hitler effectively used rallies and the new mass medium of radio to deflect these fears onto one group -- the Jews. Propaganda films visually likened them to rats.
This still works. Government-sponsored radio in Rwando incited hatred so successfully that neighbors went next door and killed people they'd known for years with machetes.
The imagery that time out was cockroaches.
Trump doesn't bother with analogies: "They're criminals. They're rapists." In the case of MidEasterners, they hate America.
Cult Leaders Isolate Their FollowersLike any cult leader, Trump isolates his followers. He alone is the truth-teller.
Illegal immigration and crime are much, much worse than the mass media state, Trump warns. Journalists are the "lowest form of humanity." He excludes respected news providers from his rallies.
Fox News reinforces this view.
The Mythos of Good Guys versus Bad Guys
He creates an ancient mythos in simple language: Good guys versus bad guys. The phrase is repeated many times.
From Westerns to space cowboys and beyond, from war movies to spy thrillers, good guys versus bad guys is an easy narrative to follow.
Narrative cannot be argued against with logic and reasoning. It is a different way of thinking about reality. The only way to combat the appeal of this message is with an equally or more engrossing story.
The Legitimization of Hate
Trump gives voice to ill feelings were previously inchoate and hidden in many people. He is legitimized by coverage on all major media outlets. He holds prime time hostage on news channels by scheduling his rallies at that time and gains coverage on the 11 o'clock news on from mainstream carriers.
More and more people are exposed to this white supremacists ideology and allow nagging racially-based resentments to rise to the surface. As the Trump phenomenon is legitimized, these beliefs become central to their outlook and sense of self.
Hitler fascinated with rallies that were spectacles of marching troops, book burnings, and visions of a once- and future-great Aryan race -- Trump's people, white America.
The Most Primitive Terrors Are Racially Based
However one may wish to gussy up fears of The Other in the guise of economic problems, these fears are rooted at a primitive level of terror – fear of the races blending. Miscegenation is a crime beyond contemplating for many Trump supporters, unless it's a white guy raping a black woman and denying offspring as his. Miscegenation laws were on the books during the lifetime of many people still living.
Racial fears are at a tipping point, because the white race will no longer be a majority of the USA population in a few decades. "We have to take our country back" is about whites taking the country back from The Other.
White people wake up with night sweats about this, as one multicultural analyst recently wrote.
The Spectacle of Rallies and Risky Shift Thinking
Fear this deep and primitive is aroused as Trump's mass rallies. Shoulder to shoulder with other rabidly screaming racists, I no longer have to hate my inner bigot.
Risky shift thinking is what allows people to commit unspeakable crimes that they might not perform alone. People egg each other to be ever more daring. Consider, for example, the eruption of street violence after sports matches and the ever-present fear that any protest gathering may result in rioting.
The rally is the genesis of the lynch mob. What was previously unthinkable becomes doable.
The fear called into being by the Republican candidate's lies includes economic hardship and hopelessness to be sure, but these real life problems are deflected onto The Other – Mexicans, MidEasterners, and Asians.
It is much easier to get rid of people than to solve the problems of economic dislocation of increasingly automatized and globalized commerce.
The relentlessness of the message is what made it possible, in Rwanda for example, for the bloody, face-to-face genocide of at least one half-million people.
It Can't Happen Here?
It can't happen here, right? Those were some crazy black people in Africa. Germany was a long time ago. The Bosnia-Serbian genocide, who the heck cares what happens over there?
It can't happen here. Reconsider, if you please. What kind of nation allows assault weapons to remain on sale, after we have seen innocent children murdered in their schools and colleges, time and time again?
What will happen when that heavily armed mob is at the door of a presumed illegal immigrant with their assault rifles? American shakes its collective head over loss of its children; we will be watching the latest antics of our president when the aliens are ushered by gunpoint into containment areas. Not camps, no never camps.
Separation of Power Is Not Protection
People put lipstick on this pig by arguing our three-part government can resist any insane or inane proposals from the White House. Let me return to those thrilling final days of the constitutionally legitimate Weimar Republic:
Hitler seized power in a series of steps. I am not going to rehearse these now, but it took eight years before he finally declared himself Ringmaster. The Weimar Republic was a place of art and science -- all anathema to the German racists constituted around Hitler. Do we not have science deniers even now?
Hitler's militia arrested government officials and influential journalists the first night he seized power.
No militia in the US, you say? Look for parallels, not replication.
American Militias: Ready, Armed, and Willing
NRA supporters yammer on about gun rights. The linchpin of their arguments is the Second Amendment to the Constitution guaranteeing that citizens can maintain armed militias. This is not a metaphor or an arcane reference.Oregon public land was held by the crackpot militia of Cliven Bundy just this year.
Groups of preppers are ready for any such exigency. Militia communities have been considered on the fringe. Until now.
Now we have at leas 30% of the population supporting Trumpism, many of them of armed, some of them armed to the teeth.
That number can do a great deal of harm to a pacifist 70%.
Moreover, white supremacist groups have wanted, for as long as I can remember, to foment a race war.
Hate crimes are up 14%, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center.
Trickle-down racism is here, as Gov. Mitt Romney promised. I don't agree with most Republican ideas about governance. I salute the patriotism of the Republicans, including Romney, the Bushes, George Will, 50 bipartisan national security experts, and a host of other Republican and conservative credible figures, for denouncing Trump. I am not sure if they can be heard by the Trump loyalists who are too busy tuning into Fox News.
Wellspring of Hate Won't Stop Flowing After Election
Trumpism embodies a racist national zeitgeist that is ever lurking beneath the surface of our society. A primal instinct comes into play, the so-called reptilian brain. A demographic of working class men with privilege eroded -- and the women who love them – feel justified in making war against The Others as Trump barnstorms the country with rallies.
Pollsters and reporters suggest there may be a reservoir of secret Trump supporters. I believe it. Trump may be a guilty addiction.
It is a simple world of Good Guys and Bad Guys. It is the mythos overlaid with a mythos of white supremacy, nourished by lies and science denial. Even if Trump loses, the wellspring of hate that has been tapped is uuuuuge.