As usual, Paul Krugman is both blunt and correct: How did we get here?
The core story of U.S. politics over the past four decades is that wealthy elites weaponized white racism to gain political power, which they used to pursue policies that enriched the already wealthy at workers’ expense.
Until Trump’s rise it was possible — barely — for people to deny this reality with a straight face. At this point, however, it requires willful blindness not to see what’s going on.
For three plus years, credible/mainstream media sources have treated Trump as a legitimate–if unfit–Chief Executive, and the GOP as a normal political party. That approach finally seems to be giving way to a recognition that–as the saying goes– we’re not in Kansas anymore.
Genuine conservatives are appalled, as they should be; they understand that the appropriation of the label by would-be fascists will make it immeasurably more difficult to rebuild a responsible–or even civilized– GOP.
In the same issue of the New York Times that carried Krugman’s column, conservative columnist Bret Stephens described Trump’s worse-than-tone-deaf response to the protests: “Empathy is a word he can’t define, compassion an emotion he can’t experience, humility a virtue he can’t comprehend and kindness an act he will never undertake.”
In a column for the Washington Post, George Will–someone with whom I have rarely agreed–noted that there is “no bottom” to Trumpian awfulness, and insisted that we must defeat not just Trump but his enablers.
This unraveling presidency began with the Crybaby-in-Chief banging his spoon on his highchair tray to protest a photograph — a photograph — showing that his inauguration crowd the day before had been smaller than the one four years previous. Since then, this weak person’s idea of a strong person, this chest-pounding advertisement of his own gnawing insecurities, this low-rent Lear raging on his Twitter-heath has proven that the phrase malignant buffoon is not an oxymoron.
The Lincoln Project, formed by “Never Trump” Republicans, has aired some of the most hard-hitting ads highlighting Trump’s racist appeal.
As bad as it has been, things are now getting much, much worse.
I have previously characterized this administration as a marriage of the Mafia and the Keystone Kops. But I omitted the Brown Shirts.
Krugman’s column focuses on the way the Mafia contingent has used and abused the Keystone Kop contingent. Will and several other commentators from varying political perspectives have focused on the ineptitude, ignorance and (almost) comical incompetence of Trump and his cronies–the behaviors that remind me so forcefully of the Keystone Kops.
But the administration’s appalling response to the protests reminded me that there is a far more threatening parallel: the genuine “thugs” who are all too eager to smash and burn and incite, to turn peaceful demonstrations into justifications for imposing a police state that would protect white supremacy.
The demonstrations and chaos have reminded many of us oldsters of the rioting and mayhem that took place in the 60s. However, unless my memory is faulty–which is certainly possible– there are some very significant differences.
When I see the television coverage and cellphone videos of the current protests, I see an enormous white presence–it often seems 50/50–evidence that many, many white people understand (as those saccharine TV commercials during the Coronavirus conclude) “we are all in this together.”
Interestingly, in the videos I have seen of people breaking windows and looting, more than half of those caught on camera have been white. (Trump says they are “Antifa;” it is far more likely that they are his storm troopers.)
The final difference: Nixon may have been a crook. He was certainly paranoid, racist and anti-Semitic. But next to Trump, he was a paragon of benign sanity.
How these differences will play out depends on how many Americans–covertly or overtly–sympathize with the Storm Troopers, and how many understand that we really are all in this together.
I think it was Mark Twain who said history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme. It’s up to us to make sure that this rhyme ends on a positive note.