As a student of history, I hear the oft-repeated refrain, “If we’re not careful, history will repeat itself.” For most of my life that phrase has elicited little more than an eye-roll or a dismissive grunt. But lately, I’ve been rethinking my previous skepticism. The arrival of Donald Trump into the American political landscape has been the genesis of my newfound confusion.
A friend of mine—a hardcore Bernie Sanders supporter—thinks Donald Trump is the reincarnation of Benito Mussolini. Another friend thinks Trump is the Antichrist—literally. While I share neither of these opinions, I do believe Trump is a modern-day fascist and the face of some of the most disgusting and horrible aspects of our society. We haven’t seen such a groundswell of racism, xenophobia and hatred from so many people since the 1960s, and to some extent, not even then.
As a child of the ’90s, I saw racism and hatred quickly fading: It was a set of beliefs quickly moving into the annals of history, something still practiced only by backward troglodytes. While racism certainly existed in abundance then, it wasn’t quite as obvious as it is today.
In many ways we have Trump to thank for that. To be sure, he is not the problem but merely a symptom of the underlying disease. His hate-filled rhetoric, his open calls for violence and his total disregard for the rule of law all combine to create a standard-bearer for a modern-day fascist regime.
This man is winning the support of fringe hate groups by using openly racist language. He convinced a theater full of Florida voters to give him the Nazi salute. He has taken several tips from the Kim Jong-un playbook and has been handsomely rewarded for it. And he is poised to become the Republican nominee for president of the United States, arguably one of the most powerful people on earth.
This is unprecedented in American politics except once: when the states declared Civil War, which is why Trump is so frightening. By himself he is harmless—little more than a demagogue with a bad suit and a stupid hairdo. But with a violent, virulently racist segment of the population at his disposal, his power increases dramatically. He now has a sizable part of the population convinced that gutting the constitution and agonizing international powers constitutes good governance.
This is no longer about left and right politics, blue versus red. A personable, charismatic and terrifying man now has a real shot at the presidency. For eight years, I listened to my liberal friends label George W. Bush as a fascist and every time I heard such nonsense I defended the president, despite a vast ideological gulf between myself, the president and his party. Why? Because Bush wasn’t a fascist. He was many things, evil and bad things, but he was no fascist.
Trump is a fascist, or as close as this country has ever seen. He positions himself at the head of the pack as a strongman, the only option for the white lower- and middle-class voters who feel they have been wronged by “the establishment.” He preaches his way is the only way, and that all others—both people and opinions—are worthless.
I pray that Trump does not win the presidency and that the Republican Party learns a painful, valuable lesson. I hope they have a serious Come-To-Jesus moment, realize this is the culmination of years of pandering to racists and religious extremists and will change their platform accordingly.
Whether that’ll happen or not, I have no idea, but one thing is for sure: Our country and its political system will be forever changed by this, and likely not for the better. The filthy, dirty underside of our society has been exposed and held up to the light and given a cheer by some of the most powerful people in the nation.
No good can come of this.