The rise of fascism in the West and the need to be loved
A colleaugue of mine, posted a note on Facebook, comparing Trump to Berlusconi. This is what I think about it.
I think, actually, that a comparison to Mussolini would be more apt. What, with the planned military parades (and here), the presidental proclamation of making january 20th the “national day of patriotic devotion” (there is a screenshot of the proclamation if you follow the link), the America First (here is the origin of the phrase), the nepotism (and here), the establishing of a common outside enemy, the framing of a country that is on the brink of destruction, needing a strong man to lead it (this is all in the inauguration speech. I won’t be linking to that piece of drivel, but it is easy to find it online), etc.
The word fascism comes from the Italian word for a bundle or sheaf (of, as is commonly portrayed, wheat stalks). The underlying premise is that each individual stalk is easily broken, but when they are tied together, they are almost unbreakable. So, the downtrodden masses that are fighting against a common outside enemy are united and unstoppable. The theory goes.
So “the Donald’s” rhetoric and actions are pure fascism. He even likes to be called the Donald (like Il Duce, right?). The second World War did not touch the States as profoundly as it did Europe (it was almost exclusively not fought on their soil), so the Americans are seemingly not getting as edgy as the Europeans are. There are a number of articles in the US press talking about the president being a fascist,(and here and here), but so far they seem to be more theoretical, labelling him but not drawing a logical conclusion – assholes like that lead people into war.
One can (cynically) hope that this will only lead into a military dictatorship on the US soil and not spill over into a full-blown world conflict. But the chance of that is diminishing – the world is already reacting (and here and here and here). Think about it. The world did not want to get involved in the WWII when Hitler annexed Poland, they figured that if he was given a little, then he would stop. Much like Putin did with Ukraine, much like the Donald is planning to extort the other NATO members into paying “protection money“. I predict that the world will accept a little bullying in order to not plunge us all into war, but when it becomes clear that nothing is ever enough, it will reluctantly take a stand, which will bring a response and it will all escalate from there. The outlook is fairly grim in my opinion.
Why do I think the demands will not stop, if the Donald (or possibly Putin in Europe) is given some leeway? Because they never do. There is no previous situation ever, where strong-arming stopped because the bully has had enough. It sometimes stops when the victim has nothing left to give and the bully moves on, and sometimes it stops because a line is crossed and the victim fights back. But bullying does not just stop if the bully gets what they want. Why would it? Makes no rational sense.
The other issue is that Trump cannot get what he wants, the way he is doing it. He wants to be adored and respected. He wants to be seen as manna from Heaven. So he demands this. And his demands get him obeisance and smiles through gritted teeth, initially (because people hope he’ll go away and pester someone else). He is not content with this on some level, so he makes more extreme demands in order for people to prove their devotion. He just wants to be loved, don’t you see? This alienates more and more people, which makes him more and more unhappy, which results in more and more impossible requests, until someone snaps. In this respect, this a crossed transaction.
Trump says: “Prove to me that you love me – show me some respect, tell me how cool I am and how everything I touch turns into gold!”
The world says: “Well, so far there is not much to respect. We’ll see.”
Trump says: “That is not the way to treat somebody as cool and valuable as me. I guess you need to see what you are missing. I am building a wall! I am destroying NATO! I am decimating the social safety net! See what happens when you don’t love me? Now, apologise. Apologise for treating me so unfairly!”
The World, Mexicans, Women and other interest groups figure they need to find some sort of common ground, the basis for rational discussion. They are wrong. They are looking to discuss things, Trump is looking to be adored. If they give him that, he will stop squeezing them while he believes them.
The international community will not appease him for long. Because of history, because of egos, and because, ultimately, pretending to adore someone you don’t like much is a lot of work and grinds you down. They figure this is a game of chicken, and international negotiations, and playing chess. It is not. Trump will not blink first, because the things on the table are not the things he wants. So why blink? The world could either do what Melanija did, that is take one for the team and smile and let itself be screwed while picturing the piles of cash it can get out of the deal. Or not give an inch, but never escalate into war. Essentially do a Putin, but not be as sleazy about it.
The people from the States should stop deluding themselves. For those who did not vote for him, there will never be a silver bullet. The electoral college will not change their vote, the recount will not show anything, Trump will not suddenly pivot. There will also never be a time where the majority of the Trump voters will say: “Ah I guess this poverty, famine, lack of social care, environmental destruction, etc is all my fault, I am so sorry“. Stop with these delusions. The best you can possibly hope for is for people to not mention the screw-up and change the topic when it comes to their involvement. These erotic fantasies of people admitting their guilt and throwing themselves at your mercy are pure fiction. What will probably happen is that the administration will find a way to spin any fuck-ups in a way where they will be somebody else’s fault (see Brexit negotiations, if you want to see how this works in practice).
But for those who did vote for him and bought into the act – He will also not start caring about the middle and the working class. The way he figures it, he is awesome and should be liked by default. Why should he do anything? He is adored by default, right? So, he’ll screw you, and you will like it. If you don’t, he’ll screw you harder, and if you complain, you will stop existing in the Trump Universe, because in that Universe only people who like him exist.
What you should do is (a) stop fucking around with Democracy. I don’t care how entitled someone feels and how sure they are that it is their turn, you should listen to what people are telling you. If an unknown senator who wasn’t even in your party before the primary can seriously endanger your sitting champion and raise more money then her, well, you could have listened. It is not given that Bernie would have won. Who knows, it doesn’t matter now. But what matters is, that this is what you fucking get, when you tell people what to like. (b) Prepare to pick up the pieces if there are any pieces left. Your nature will be pretty much obliterated, your healthcare will be a joke and your standing in the world will plummet, but on the other hand, the only way is up :).
Here is my prediction of what will happen:
The Republicans will ram through every piece of legislation they can think of and pin it all on Trump. Once he is done being useful in an active role, they will impeach him. Well, not them. For impeachment to start, the simple majority is enough, so only a few Republicans will need to have a “change of heart”. In order to fire the guy, 2/3 majority is required. So, I expect that an impeachment hearings will start and then all of a sudden something will come to light “that changes everything” and now all of a sudden many Republicans will realise how incredibly “morally corrupt” and “treasonous” Trump is. So they will vote for impeachment and throw him to the wolves. Mike Pence will be the president and he will be better at it than the Donald. Oh, the public wants to get back the benefits they enjoyed before Trump? So sorry, Trump did that, not the Republicans. It is a good thing he was caught on time, because can you imagine what kind of things he could have pulled if he was not, they’ll say. We cannot just countermand the legislation that was already accepted and signed off on by the president, can we? That would set a dangerous precedent. When the time for re-election comes around, Pence will come off as so much better than Donald that people will vote for him out of relief.