By now, you've probably heard about what Hillary just said:
Former senator and secretary of state says Nazi leader was initially elected and that ‘Trump is telling us what he intends to do’
Hillary Clinton has compared Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler as she offered a blunt warning about the dangers of a second Trump presidency.
Trump back in the White House, Clinton said during an appearance on ABC’s daytime talkshow The View on Wednesday, “would be the end of our country as we know it, and I don’t say that lightly”.
Something interesting's happening. Call it the Mainstreaming of Warning About Fascism. By now, you'll hear Trump called a fascist, authoritarian, aspiring dictator, etcetera...in more and more places. More and more establishment institutions. On MSNBC. Even once in a while on CNN. From Hillary's lips, and she of course has long warned of it. Here's another example, from the LA Times.
I’m afraid it’s time to panic. We’re less than a year from election day (as in, presidential election day), and polls show a twice-impeached former president on trial in four jurisdictions not only running away with his party’s nomination, but also beating incumbent Joe Biden. I’m typically not one to put much stock into political horse-race coverage — because, as 2016 showed, only one poll truly matters — but the Republican electorate’s refusal to exile Donald Trump months before it anoints a nominee suggests that this country’s flirtation with fascism wasn’t just a one-off, but rather a feature of American politics.
What's different this time around is that the warning are being sounded loud and clear. And that's a crucial and very real point of distinction. Because last time, they weren't. And that raises the question. Are Americans going to listen to the warnings this time around?
Let's rewind, not in the interest of scoring points, but understanding just why this difference matters. Last time around, what happened? Figures like me, and perhaps you, warned. Nobody much listened. We were attacked, mocked, insulted, humiliated. They called us the worst names there are in Very Serious American Discourse. "Alarmist!"
We tore our hair out, because we were trying to do a good thing. Just warn a nation that something was about to go seriously wrong. Remember those days? Every major newspaper would publish column after column saying things like "Don't Call Trump a Fascist!," and then imply that those who warned of such a thing were the real fools, the truly dangerous ones. LOL—how times change, huh?
So. This kind of thing happens often. It, too, is a classic pattern in social collapse. So classic it has a Very Famous Term associated with it: "It Can't Happen Here!" What happened as a result of this pattern rising before the last Trump era? It was the handmaiden of Trump rising to power, of course—and then abusing that power, too. Remember the last Trump era? Back then, the very same people who'd pooh-pooh the idea that Trump was a fascist before the election...would profess utter shock at his abuses of power just a few months or years later. Maddening, hilarious, painfully ironic.
This time is different. The warnings are actually being sounded, and that's a good thing. Nobody can say they weren't warned. Pundits and columnists and politicians don't have an excuse—the tepid, false one from last time around: "well, nobody told us he was a fascist!"
And that brings us right back to the central question. But are people going to listen?
Now, when you look at America, there's a very strange thing happening. Despite the warnings, Trump goes right on surging. He's beating Biden in many of the latest polls, even as the warnings grow louder. So clearly, right about now, people aren't listening to the warnings at all. (Sure, maybe you are, but we're talking in terms of averages here.)
So why aren't the warnings registering? There are a few possibilities, and just a few. One, people don't believe that Trump's all these things, or that democracy's on the brink—I think we can discount that one, because by now, we all know who Trump is, and what he intends to do: just the other day, he angrily vowed to sic the FBI on his opponents, not to mention the open agenda to purge and reshape the entirety of the government from day one.
That brings us to two: people don't care.
You see, in failing states, a curious thing happens. Or maybe a pretty understandable and predictable one. Concerned more with survival than fine moral value and history, people give up on democracy. In other words, democracy itself becomes a kind of luxury. Have you ever wondered why poor countries struggle to become democracies? Or why even if they succeed, for a few years, plunge right back into various forms of autocracy, after coups or power seizures or revolutions or what have you?
That's not a coincidence, that's a relationship. Democracy is a luxury. There's a very clear line between poverty and autocracy because when life is a bitter, brutal struggle, who has...time...room...space...energy...money...for democracy? And in a deeper way, who really cares about its values, these noble abstractions of truth, justice, freedom, and so forth—when you're struggling to put food on the table, when your kids don't seem to have a future, when life itself seems under constant, perpetual existential threat?
This is sort of what happened in America. America didn't become, say, Bangladesh. But it did fail to become a genuinely wealthy society, like those in Europe, or Canada. A place where prosperity, being widely shared, yields a much more solid sense of stability, certainty, security, upwards motion. Instead, America become something much more like what I often call the world's first poor-rich country, a place where the majority live paycheck to paycheck, struggle to pay the bills, and life is a dog-eat-dog Darwinian battle, where only the strong survive, the weak perish, and the most ruthless and cunning of all seem to rise straight to the top.
In that context, it should be a lot more understandable just why what's happening in America now...is. Let me now spell it out.
Last time, the warnings were stifled, minimized, denied, ignored.
This time, the warnings are falling on deaf ears.
That's chilling. You see, looking at America today, there appears to be no real indication that these growing warnings are...working. Trump continues his resurgence, despite it all.
You might say: sure, on the Democratic side, the warnings are issued, heard, and heeded, true. But even that's not fully true. Consider the following, which should be seriously alarming:
While the president’s stance on the Gaza crisis has most recently warded off younger voters, the polls find that it is primarily economic concerns that has voters fleeing back to Trump: Fifty-nine percent of those polled trusted Trump more when comes to the economy, compared to 37 percent for Biden. Even voters under 30 who were polled trusted Trump more than Biden when it comes to the economy, with the former president holding a 28 percentage-point margin in that regard. Only two percent of those polled said the economy was “excellent,” a result of years of escalating inflation and interest rates.
That should numb the ice cold heart of the Democratic machine. Even young voters trust Trump more on the Single Most Important Issue, which is the economy. By almost 30 points.
That's most likely why the warnings are falling on deaf ears. The Most Important Issue is the economy—not...fascism. Now, we can argue about the moral valence of this. Surely the survival of democracy should be the most crucial issue to everyone. But remember the point about democracy being a luxury? This is exactly how societies collapse—survival becomes the priority, and nobler issues are relegated to distant, secondary, tertiary, quaternary concerns.
This is a bleak, bleak picture. And yet the reason that I go on and try to warn about macro forces is precisely this. Looking at a nation like America, still in profound socioeconomic distress—just 2% of people say the economy is "excellent," and in America, the economy is everything, existential, live-or-die—what we'd expect to see is...implosive politics still on the rise. And that's exactly what's happening, meaning...
The warnings are falling on deaf ears.
So what's to be done about all this? Should Americans be warned more loudly, aggressively, relentlessly? That's a difficult question. We'll discuss it in future posts. For now, I want you to understand the dynamics above. Things are different this time around. The warnings are being issued, loud and clear, which is a good thing. But they're not being heard and heeded. Is that better or worse than the warnings being squelched, like last time around, when the idea that Trumpism was implosive was denied and mocked? Tough stuff to reflect on. But if I were the Dems, I'd be thinking long and hard about all this, and how to change it.
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