Thursday, 4 August 2016

Sometimes They Come Back

I haven't really written much about Trump's rise to public leader of the Republican Party because, really, what's the point? No-one who reads this is remotely likely to disagree with my opinion of the man, and if by chance a Trump supporter gets so lost among the internet weeds that they stumble onto my blog, what hope have I of persuading them of their error?

But that doesn't mean I haven't been paying attention. It doesn't mean I'm not concerned. And not just about Trump himself. Yes, clearly, the prospect of President Trump is beyond terrifying. Last I checked Nate Silver has Trump's chance of victory at around 15%. Long odds if you're betting your life savings in a casino, sure, but still vastly too high for me to sleep properly until November. Sure, it's only half the chance Silver gave Romney four years ago, and Mitt was resoundingly thumped come the day. Still, though. 15%. If you get pregnant today, it's more likely your child will be born under a Trump presidency than they'll be born on a Sunday.

That's not why I'm writing this post, though. What terrifies me - what truly scares out every atom of waste product my body contains - isn't Trump. It's the guy who comes after Trump.

Because what Trump has demonstrated, utterly beyond argument, is that the Republican nomination AND a minimum of 131 electoral votes (just under half of what's needed to win) is more or less automatically yours if you run as a fascist, even if your campaign is incompetent and your candidate is an idiot thug. Seventeen states, including the second-most populous in the union, will happily wave in a new era of bigoted tyranny even if the new generalissimo doesn't seem capable of tying his own shoelaces, let alone negotiating an international treaty.  In the current political climate the only way in which you might fail to secure the nomination is if someone else runs who's better at being a fascist than you are.

That's what terrifies me. Not that Trump will win, but that next time around everyone will be a Trump. But smarter Trumps. More well-disciplined Trumps. Trumps who knows when to reach for the dog-whistle. Trumps the GOP and its media allies can pretend aren't even Trumps at all.

This is not a wild hypothetical devoid of supporting evidence. The politicians and media on America's rightmost flank faced what I'm sure was an ugly choice in the weeks since Trump's coronation. They could admit this cluster-cuss was the inevitable result of two decades of rightward drift, political tribalism, and the cynical embrace of white supremacy. Or they could insist Trump was an aberration, something never to be repeated following his inevitable defeat.

To no-one's surprise, many if not most immediately made a mass dash for door number 2. The solidifying narrative in the right-leaning media would seem to be that Trump is not only an obvious political outlier, but one created by the left. When your reaction to seeing an actual fascist take control [1] is to blame your political opponents for claiming the last three guys also had some pretty extreme tendencies, you reveal yourself completely. You don't want to avoid horrifying extremists. You want to avoid horrifying extremists you can't give cover to. You don't want better people. You want better masks.

Well Ted Cruz is busy carving his mask right now, and he won't be the only one.

And that's just the crimes of those who've admitted anything is amiss. Plenty of career arseholes are acting as though this is simply business as usual. Mark Rubio, Paul Ryan and Chris Christie have all endorsed Trump (admittedly with varying degrees of enthusiasm). In doing so they leave us with only two possible conclusions: either these career-politicians would actually prefer Trump to Clinton, or that they secretly want him to fail but think a future in the modern GOP requires them to establish fascistic bona fides. The difference isn't really all that important. It doesn't matter if they want it themselves or just know their voters want it. Either way, the future isn't fewer Trumps. It's "better" Trumps.

Defeating Trump is of course utterly necessary to prevent the arrival of fascism in the United States. But it isn't sufficient. Sending Trump packing come November isn't a final victory, any more than the failure of the Beer Hall Putsch represented the end of Nazism (yes, I went full Godwin; fuck you). Hell, Hitler went to jail, and he still got to take control of an entire nation. At best, Trump [2] is just going to lose a national vote, and that by far less than he should.

Fascism doesn't slink away to die when you knock it down. It comes back. It comes back smarter. It learns where it went wrong and it adapts, like a flu virus in jackboots. And it keeps coming back until eventually it's smart enough or even just lucky enough to win.

And the people who once thought they controlled the American Right have decided they can live with that.

[1] Albeit one so lacking a coherent political philosophy that actually nailing down what type of fascist he is proves difficult, though incompatible goals and positions are nothing new to fascistic thought in general. 

[2] Who is almost certainly not going to be the next Hitler. But he might be the next Hitler's test-case.

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