"I've heard this sort of speech a lot in the last 15 years and trust me, it doesn't sound any better in Russian."
Garry Kasparov, Russian dissident and former chess world champion
Hmm, I wonder how it would sound in German.
Many in the media took note of the massively authoritarian overtones in Donald Trump's Republican presidential nomination acceptance speech. How could they not? It's hard to ignore them in a speech whose official written text actually has the repeated phrases "law and order," "I am the law and order candidate," and "I am your voice" in capital letters. Not to mention containing this stunner: "Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it."
But in all the handwringing and handwaving over the obvious, the media missed something even more alarming in Trump's madly messianic address. It wasn't that it was subtle, it just wasn't as screamingly obvious as the stentorian authoritarianism. Or, as I've called it for months, neo-fascism, since Trump mixes his dictatorial tendencies with the ever insistent faux populism that fascists use to gain the popular support that authoritarians usually lack.
Trump referred repeatedly to the alleged great crimes of Hillary Clinton. And he wasn't talking about the mostly non-serious e-mail scandalette. No, he was talking, in his notorious conspiracy theorist-in-chief fashion, about something much more nefarious.
Think of it as his updating of the "Stab-in-the-Back" myth that fascists and conservatives invoked to take over Germany's Weimar Republic. That was the notion, quite false, that Germany was defeated in World War I not by force of arms failing the Kaiser's stupidly warmongering policies, and America's intervention in that war, but by a conspiracy from within. A conspiracy of cosmopolitan elites mostly liberal and leftist in orientation. Starting to sound familiar?
So we had the spectacle of Mussolini fan "Duce" Donald Trump laying out how great things were in 2009, when Barack Obama -- whom Trump so famously claimed a few years ago, in blatantly birtherist fashion, is not really an American citizen at all and is thus ineligible to be president -- took over from George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. Funny, that's not how he put it when he was running against Jeb Bush.
"Let's review the record. In 2009, pre-Hillary, ISIS was not even on the map. Libya was cooperating. Egypt was peaceful. Iraq was seeing a reduction in violence. Iran was being choked by sanctions. Syria was under control. After four years of Hillary Clinton, what do we have?"
Total chaos, naturally, not that the utterly destabilizing invasion of Iraq had anything to with it. Trump, of course, now claims that he opposed the invasion while Hillary supported it. He's lying. He backed the invasion of Iraq, just as he backed the Hillary-backed intervention in Libya he now falsely says he opposed since the aftermath turned so sour.
"I am your voice," bellowed Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, in his paraphrase of Louis XIV's notorious "L'état, c'est moi."
And things are equally bad at home, in the Trumpist version of reality, with the financial meltdown Trump, in classic vulture capitalist mode, personally profited from given short shrift and the long-hollowing economy played up, along with very deceptively cherry-picked stats used to make it sound, quite preposterously, as if illegal immigrants are behind a purported massive wave of murder, cop-killings, and terrorism.
"Our convention occurs at a moment of crisis for our nation. The attacks on our police, and the terrorism in our cities, threaten our very way of life," the billionaire bully boy declared. This, he claimed is a "more dangerous environment than I have ever seen or anyone has ever seen."
The alleged crime wave was caused "by this Administration's rollback of criminal enforcement." Which would certainly be an impeachable offense if it were true, right?
In reality, violent crime in the US has dropped under the Obama administration, plummeting to a 40-year low. Cop-killings? Far fewer under Obama than under Ronald Reagan. Fewer than under any of Reagan's other successors.
But then Trump, a chickenhawk draft dodger during the Vietnam War he supported back in the day but doesn't talk about now, has led such a sheltered and cosseted life in the moneyed elite that he laughably thinks little old Oakland may be the most dangerous place on the planet. What a weenie.
Behind all that he decries in the supposed ongoing downfall of America is a conspiracy of elites. And their chief agent of chaos? Hillary Clinton.
"She is their puppet," he shouted. "They pull the strings."
This is her crime, the crime for which he said weeks ago she must be imprisoned, the crime for which the chants of "Lock her up!" were heard all week at the Cleveland convention.
In fact, Trump claimed, she deleted e-mails "so the authorities can't see her crime."
Which of course betrays Trump's real message about Hillary's frankly non-serious e-mail "scandal." The real scandal in his view is not that she communicated in a potentially insecure manner, it's that her mode of communication enabled her to cover up her crimes.
"Corruption," says Trump, "has reached a level like never before."
And at the center of it all is Hillary Clinton and "her terrible crimes," Hillary Clinton and "her egregious crime."
What Trump is saying, not that it is in any way subtle, is that Hillary is at the center of a conspiracy by as he put it in his Cleveland address, "globalists" and "a group of censors, critics, and cynics" to drag America down.
It's his updating of what a German historian of the post-World War I period and the Stab in the Back myth described as the reactionary construction of events: "A morass of corruption, degeneracy, national humiliation, and ruthless persecution of the honest 'national opposition.'"
That sounds pretty familiar to anyone who listens to the Trump speeches which have oddly been featured on cable news, despite the fact that he is a rambling speaker with a poor voice, or watches Fox News, doesn't it?
Fortunately, unlike the Weimar Republic, our American Republic is, while troubled, in many respects by the very people who claim to love it, still in relatively good shape.
So Trump has to lie and bluster his way forward, hoping to manipulate a shallow, ADD, hyper-partisan media culture -- without which he would never have enjoyed this sort of success -- into getting just enough Americans to buy into the con job notion of a national emergency that only his strong man act can effectively deal with.
Since he starts with a big reactionary base, upwards of 40 percent of the country (never forget that 42 percent of Americans disbelieve the science of evolution), he doesn't have to win over that many more voters. Considering that easily conceivable events might give Trump an edge, we are in a situation of continuing peril every day till the election on November 8th.
Which is why, no matter how well things may go for Hillary Clinton, and the election is terribly close now in the polls, this grave threat to our republic won't be put down until this benighted campaign season is finally over.
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