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Trump’s populism: badly needed reality check, or over the line?

March 7, 2016

This one is for Republicans and Democrats alike, but ESPECIALLY for anyone in the media or pundit class. Of course I’m writing this from a unashamedly lefty perspective, so remember that if you want.


 

I re-read the somewhat alarmist  Chris Hedges article, which interprets Trump’s popularity as a sign of an emerging fascist movement in US politics. Like, I actually read it, instead of speed-reading like I usually do for this stuff. The reason I speed-read it originally was because although the accusation is kind-of true, it’s also a bit over the top, and I interpreted it as an unnecessary slap in the face to Trump supporters — I didn’t read the last paragraph carefully enough. By the way, what prompted me to re-read it more carefully was this comment about working class resentment and the very long odds of any left-right “crossover” coalition against the two-party establishment, on NakedCapitalism.

So Trump supporters recognize that the Republicans (as well as Democrats) have been screwing them over, and this year (like maybe in 1992?) enough voters are trying something different that the possibilities open up — the best of which could be wonderful, and the worst, truly alarming.

Trump supporters’ recognition, that the existing political system is defective, should be applauded. Their choice of Trump as a leader should be questioned, but not ridiculed (I’ve been very guilty of this too). Lastly, the overall feeling of intolerance should be specifically rejected, but in a way that does not rely on insulting and offending the opposing side too irreversibly.

Is Trump a fascist? I think he is an opportunist who will go wherever his electorate takes him. I see him as more of a Berlusconi, not a Mussolini. (although Italy didn’t do too well under Berlusconi). The future Chris Hedges describes is a possibility, but is not set in stone.

I wonder if the way to unwittingly make Hedges’ American fascist scenario a reality (I mean beyond the post-9/11 rah-rah nonsense under Bush, and beyond Obama’s feel-good dronings) is to deepen the alienation of Trump supporters. Unfortunately, this is exactly what public figures speaking for BOTH Republicans and Democrats have been doing by insulting them every chance they get.

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