The following is a guest post by Richard Lowery, Jr.
The political Left, many media outlets and the chattering classes in general may possibly have gone off their rockers. Their over-reaction to Mr. Trump reminds me of the 15 year old girls who screamed and jumped around at Beatles events during the 1960’s; looking back at those grainy visuals, regardless of what you think about the Beatles, one could agree that the screaming girls were not experiencing a deeply thoughtful intellectual moment. But for the most part the screaming girls were normal people temporarily behaving abnormally, while it appears that many anti-Trumpsters are abnormal people who are habitually behaving abnormally.
I was at a diner the other morning having a delicious breakfast of fried eggs, fried corned beef hash and a side of fried home fries. The only thing not fried were the five cups of coffee. The TV was rambling on in the background with some kind of news show and I was half paying attention to it. I recall that they showed Mr. Trump giving a speech, then they showed another person talking, then they showed some people yelling, then they showed Mr. Trump again, then they showed another person talking, and then they showed some old footage of Mr. Hitler. The same Mr. Hitler who started WWII, ran concentration camps and did a bunch of awful things. Uh-oh! There must be connection between Mr. Trump and Mr. Hitler! Really? Oh no! Heaven help us! What do we do now!?
Liberals throw around the political F-bomb – “fascist” – with the same propensity that Howard Stern throws around the vernacular F- bomb. (1) After a while it loses it shock value and just becomes standard fare. George Bush is a fascist. Mitt Romney is a fascist. Ted Cruz is a fascist. Scott Baio – the actor from “Joanie Loves Chachi” TV fame - who supports Mr. Trump must be a fascist. Wait… hmmm… Mr. Baio did wear a black leather jacket on the TV show and it is true that SS storm troopers were notorious for wearing black uniforms – need we require any more evidence?
And of course, we have been treated to the musings by such astute commentators like Meryl Streep who stood atop a dais at a celebrity award show to preach a bunch of baloney about the scary dangers of American culture to a roomful of fellow beautiful Hollywood people who adoringly applauded her numskullian remarks as their well preened heads affirmatively bobbled about in clueless agreement.
And of course we witness the Washington Democrats who skip inaugurations, boycott Senate confirmation hearings and publically perfect the annoying art of exaggerated whining. (3)
And of course we are blessed with the press who displays the same objectivity about Mr. Trump as a bug exterminator displays toward a cockroach. (4)
And of course all the protests with the signage adorned with the word fascist. The Left loves a protest as much as the Animal House frat guys loved a food fight. The only difference is that the frat guys’ food fight usually made more sense. (5)
Aside from making some liberals look like a bunch of agitated under-medicated mental patients who just had the TV channel changer ripped from their hands, this type of hyperventilating nonsense adds nothing to building an environment of reasoned debate on topics where there are legitimate questions about Mr. Trump’s policies and does little to engage others who may wish to actually discuss the issues at an IQ level that is greater than 10. Mr. Trump is not a Mr. Hitler or a Mr. Mussolini or a Generalissimo Franco. If he were a Franco, then this would make him a Franco-American and I personally do love Spaghetti-O’s, which hopefully does not make me a fascist. However, Mr. Trump may in fact be a Mr. Jackson. (Andrew, not a Michael)
At different times in U.S. history populists with half garbled messages have championed themselves as representing The People. About every generation is afflicted with these types. Effluent loudsters like Andrew Jackson, William Jennings Bryan, Huey Long, George Wallace, Ross Perot and now Mr. Trump periodically catch the fancy of segments of the population and outflank the political accoutrements that were either intentionally erected or have gradually evolved to prevent these characters from changing their mailing address to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Most of the time they are knocked down by the laws of political gravity or self-implode prior to achieving King of The Hill executive branch status. But once in a great while events turn in their favor and they navigate through the electoral gauntlet to achieve success.
Let us consider Mr. Jackson. His political heyday was the 1820’s and 1830’s - a period that had a high level of distrust of elites – kind of like today. In his fine book on the history of the American Whig Party, historian Michael Holt writes that during this time “Anti-banking sentiment ignited resentment of established elites everywhere. Now farmers and urban working men joined the Radical ideologues in denouncing bankers who seemed to cause calamitous fluctuations and to escape their consequences.” The panic of 1819 had resulted in a depression, widespread economic dislocation and had “awakened tens of thousands of men to importance of politics…(who)… turned to the government for relief from their economic plight or for retaliation against the forces that they believed had caused it. Thousands voted who had never voted before.” All this hullabaloo spilled over into presidential politics. Resentment filled the air and people believed that something had gone wrong with the system. Scapegoats were identified, saviors were sought and things needed to be shaken up. “The presidential election of 1824 revealed the degree of change… (Jackson) though himself a wealthy slaveholding member of Tennessee’s plantation gentry … was a perfect standard bearer for angry voters bent on venting resentments….” He was “a foe of the haughty East. More important Jackson was clearly a political newcomer (and) all who wanted to throw the establishment out of Washington, or at least out of the White House, could cleave to him.” Mr. Jackson was brash, profane and was feared by much of the political old guard. He won the White House by defeating a well- known figure and scion of an established political household from the Adam’s family. (John Quincy, not Gomez) (6)
Change a few names, update a couple of issues and the above is a reasonably accurate recap of Mr. Trump and 2016. A strident well-to-do guy appears at the right moment (for him) who is an irreverent political outsider that will “tell it like it is”. He captures the fancy of large segments of people who distrust the current system in part due to economic and societal disruptions to beat the professionals – including top dog political families – and becomes president through legitimate means within the system.
Certainly, we need not support the Trumpian theatrics or accept the wisdom of Mr. Trump’s propositions. We can believe that some of his policy proposals are unconstitutional, financially unsound, unnecessary, unsavory or even scatterbrained. But let us debate them on their merits. And let us cease tossing about labels like “fascist” every time a hare brained Trumponian tweet is transmitted and to recognize that Mr. Trump is a populist – of the raucous American variety, not the alarming European strain - that events raised to the highest office in 2016 just like did they for Mr. Jackson in 1828 and 1932. I hereby futilely propose a moratorium on the use of the F-bomb. (the political one, not the vernacular one)
There is much about Mr. Trump’s style and positions with which to disagree, but lowering the temperature from a hot steam level to maybe a rolling boil would do all of us a favor. This goes for both sides. It may not happen, but it is just a thought. (8)
Richard J. Lowery Jr.
- The term “fascist” at one time did not necessarily carry derogatory overtones. Prior to WWII the fascist movement received praise from some respectable corners. WWII changed all that and today it is an all- purpose label for negativity. It is used indiscriminately by people who are unable to define what it means. George Orwell wrote that, “The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far it signifies ‘something not desirable.” George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language”, (Horizon, London, 1946)
- Image found at: http://www.historyforsale.com/scott-baio-magazine-photograph-signed/dc37238
- Lest one thinks that only a few far left protestors willy-nilly toss the work fascist at their opponents, it is not uncommon for “responsible” Democratic Party leaders to engage in this gassy rhetoric. For example, “In 2000 Bill Clinton called the Texas GOP platform a ‘fascist tract’” or “The Reverend Jesse Jackson ascribes every form of opposition to his race-based agenda as fascist.” Jonah Goldberg, “Liberal Fascism”, (Doubleday, New York, 2007) pages 4 to 5.
- Regarding the press and the usage of fascism Mr. Goldberg writes, “The New York Times leads a long roster of mainstream publications eager to promote leading academics who raise the possibility that the GOP is a fascist party and that Christian conservatives are the new Nazis.” Ibid
- Left-wing protesters are flexible with their deployment of the work fascist and Pro-Choice demonstrators are quite fond of the term. For example, the San Francisco Chronicle reported on a peaceful Pro-Life event that was crashed by “loud and confrontational” pro-choice crowd carrying signs that said, “Fight the Fascist Right” and “No to Women Hating Christian Fascist Theocracy.” The Pro-Choicers rounded out their message with other signs that read “Fuck Your Agenda”, “Religious Terrorist”, “Abort More Christians”, “Kill Your Kids Motherfuckers” and “Catholic Taliban.” Jon Shields, “The Democratic Virtues of the Christian Right”, (Princeton University Press, Princeton, NY, 2009) page 91.
- Quotations are from: Michael F. Holt, “The Rise and Fall of the Whig Party”, (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1999) Chapter 1.
- Images found at: http://www.businessinsider.com/donald-trump-twitter-full-list-2017-2 and constitution center.org.
- Jackson generated much resistance. This was a fluid time from a U.S. political party standpoint. The Whig party rose – in part – in reaction to what was perceived to be the President’s domineering and strong arm tendencies. The Whigs cobbled together disparate factions to become the primary opposition party. They had success and failures. Perhaps Mr. Trump’s detractors would do better by reading about the victories and disappointments of Mr. Jackson’s American opponents to help generate ideas for their counter strategies rather than using tired old European revolutionary dogma like the word “fascist”.