The New Yorker's John Cassidy wonders whether Donald Trump is floating dangerous ideas -- that the election is being stolen and that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are the founders of ISIS -- because he's trying to build a white natonalist movement in America:
[In] escalating [his rhetoric] with his use of the phrase “founder of isis” ... Trump is, on the face of it, harming his prospects for November. He certainly doesn’t sound like he’s trying to win over the soccer moms in Columbus, or the office workers in Tampa, that he needs to win the election. He sounds like he is talking to his angry base, and supplying them with an inflammatory narrative that can be trotted out for years, and decades, to come. It’s a tactic that politicians outside the United States, such as Jean-Marie Le Pen and Jörg Haider, have used to good effect in building up far-right nationalist movements.
Then there are Trump’s increasingly frequent references to the likelihood of his losing in November, and to the possibility that foul play will be responsible....
It is, of course, a staple of extremist parties of the left and right that democracy is a sham, and that elections count for nothing. And once you have delegitimized an election result, or an elected leader, you can justify all sorts of extra-electoral, and indeed anti-democratic, actions.
Cassidy concludes that Trump is saying all this because he's "self-centered, shortsighted, and insecure," and is now "flailing around for excuses to explain a humiliating defeat in the making." But Cassidy adds that a future neo-fascist could build on what Trump is doing now.
I appreciate the warning. However, I think Cassidy is overlooking the roots of Trump's rabble-rousing.
On stolen elections, Cassidy makes no mention of the years-long effort by Karl Rove and the Bush administration to push the notion that widespread voter fraud is the reason Democrats win elections, an effort that led to the current wave of vote-suppression laws in Republican states, particularly after the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013. Cassidy also overlooks the right-wing media efforts to demonize ACORN and identity voting irregularities where they really didn't exist.
Trump now says that the only way he'll lose Pennsylvania is if there's cheating, despite the fact that he's far behind in the polls. Where did he get that idea? From the saturation coverage Fox News and other conservative media outlets gave to an ultimately insiginificant act of alleged voter intimidation in Philadelphia by a couple of members of the tiny extremist group known as the New Black Panther Party.
Cassidy also fails to grasp that Trump's "founder of ISIS" remarks didn't exist in a vacuum -- he notes that Trump first said this in January of this year, but in 2015, as I told you a couple of days ago, many right-wing media outlets, as well as presidential rivals Rick Santorum and Carly Fiorina and future Trump surrogate Rudy Giuliani, accused Obama and/or Clinton of creating ISIS.
Cassidy thinks it's conceivable, though unlikely, that Trump is consciously laying the groundwork for a future fascist movement. Cassidy needs to recognize what Fox and the GOP have been doing for years: trying to hold together a coalition that's partly white nationalist and partly old-line conservative. They've doled out conspiratorial red meat to less informed, angrier voters, then trotted out "respectable" conservatives on Sunday talk shows and in the mainstream press throughout the week. The belief, until this year's primaries, was that the angry base could be kept in its place, even as it remained loyal to the party.
Republicans and Rupert Murdoch never entertained the possibility that someone who actually believed all the nonsense peddled on Fox could win the presidential primaries, even after Sarah Palin became a know-nothing superstar, and even after the Tea Party slipped the leash and started a mini-civil war within the GOP. But here we are, with a nominee who imbibed and believed all that crazy talk is now repeating it.
Trump can't see what harm can come from his rhetoric -- after all, Sean Hannity's been saying the same things for years. But Trump is modeling himself after people who know how to rouse the rabble and then sell them Mitch McConnell or Paul Ryan, even if they never quite figured out how to sell them John McCain or Mitt Romney. Trumpism is Murdochism without the safety valves. And Trump doesn't get that, because he probably thinks the safety-valve stuff is boring. But if he's leading the GOP in a fascist direction, he's doing so without knowing what the hell he's doing.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog