I’ve noticed two particularly troubling things as Trump’s America becomes more and more of a reality. That’s not to say there have only been two troubling things, but 600 words isn’t quite enough to address them all at once, so these are the two that really stuck with me.
Second, the already-flawed idea that we owe Trump any kind of “chance” has extended to a trend among mainstream media of humanizing the worst of Trump’s supporters through articles of which the main theses is always one version or another of “These Ain’t Your Daddy’s Neo-Nazis”—as though a suit and tie or a full set of teeth had never been worn by a fascist before, or as though a dental appointment and a trip to Men’s Wearhouse somehow make a fascist more palatable.
I bring these things up not to bitch about the quality of discourse in Trump’s America. As far as I’m concerned, anyone surprised by what he’s bringing to the table now hasn’t been paying attention. I bring these things up because they’re symptoms of the one thing that can finally make America surrender to Trumpism: complacency.
When we allow ourselves to be annoyed by the folks with signs in the street or allow ourselves to say that they’re not helping anybody, we surrender to complacency. When we extend respect to neo-Nazis by calling them the “dapper new faces” of “the Alt-Right,” we surrender to it in an even more insidious way.
There is no Alt-Right and there are no new faces: There is only the same angry, white faction there always was, and treating them like a new political entity plays directly into their hands. They want you to believe they are kinder and gentler, that their main concern is the safety of our borders and of the free market, but when they question whether President Obama is American or if Jews are “really people at all,” as Richard Spencer (pictured above), the neo-Nazi in charge of the National Policy Institute, did this week, they reveal themselves as the same old racists as before.
It is in the face of all this fascist rebranding that complacency, and cynicism about those who are vocally against it, is as bad as collaboration. Why should those who oppose the birth of authoritarianism in America and the open governmental power-plays by white supremacists not be out in the street making it clear to the worried populations of countries across the world, including this one, that neo-Nazis will never speak for the people at large? As long as the protests continue, complacency hasn’t yet won.
One of the few organizations that seems to understand this danger is, unsurprisingly, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. In a statement responding to Spencer’s speech—which was given (also unsurprisingly) at the Ronald Reagan building—the Museum compared his rhetoric with that of the Nazi party as it rose to power. “The Holocaust did not begin with killing; it began with words” the statement reads in part. “The Museum calls on all American citizens...to confront racist thinking and divisive hateful speech.”
There is a quote often repeated in leftist circles and attributed to Adolf Hitler that says the only way anyone could have stopped the Nazis was to have smashed the nucleus of the movement at the very beginning. The quote is difficult to verify, especially with the two weeks of German under your correspondent’s belt, but one thing can’t be argued with: Smashing the nucleus of a movement that hopes to bring white nationalist authoritarianism to the U.S. doesn’t sound like a bad idea at all. Hopefully we’re still close enough to the beginning to succeed.