Archives for category: Trump

Today, Trump made a point of defending the Confederate flag, responding to NASCAR’s decision to ban it and Mississippi’s decision to remove it as part of the state flag.

Trump has become the nation’s leading defender of the Lost Cause, the great champion of states’ rights and white supremacy.

The New York Times reports:

President Trump mounted an explicit defense of the Confederate flag on Monday, suggesting that NASCAR had made a mistake in banning it from its auto racing events, while falsely accusing a top Black driver, Darrell Wallace Jr., of perpetrating a hoax involving a noose found in his garage.

Mr. Trump’s reference to the Confederate flag, and its role in a sport whose mostly white fans Mr. Trump remains popular with, was the latest remark by the president as he tries to rally his culturally conservative base behind his struggling re-election effort.

While NASCAR and other organizations have moved to retire symbols of the Confederacy, and lawmakers in Mississippi voted to bring down the state flag featuring the Confederate emblem, Mr. Trump has increasingly used racist language and references to portray himself as a protector of the history of the American South. He has called the phrase “Black Lives Matter” a “symbol of hate,” and he has repeatedly tried to depict pockets of violence during protests against entrenched racism as representative of the protest movement as a whole.

Trump’s campaign rests on an appeal to white nationalism and racism.

Steven Singer is a veteran teacher in Pittsburgh. He loves being a teacher. But he loves being alive even more. He doesn’t think it will be possible to open the schools safely because our government has failed to take the steps necessary to control the pandemic. Other nations have. But we haven’t, and now we are paying the price.

Singer writes:

Nearly every other comparable country kept that downward trend. But not us.

The United Kingdom, France, Italy, Germany, Canada…

But the United States!?

Ha!

You think we can wear masks in public to guard against the spread of infection? No way! Our President politicized them.

Stay indoors to keep away from infected people? It’s summer and the beaches are open.

And – heck! – we’ve got to make sure restaurants and bars and other businesses are open, too, or else the economy will suffer…A sane country would come together and provide people with federal relief checks, personal protective equipment (PPE), protection from evictions, and universal healthcare. But we don’t live in that country.

Instead we’re all just going to have to suffer.

Not only you and me, but our kids, too.

Because they will have to somehow try to continue their educations through all this madness – again. And this time it won’t merely be for the last quarter of the year. It will be at the start of a new grade when everything is new and fresh and the groundwork is being laid for the entire academic year.

I don’t even know what to hope for anymore.

Would it be better to try to do a whole year of distance learning?

I speak from experience here – April and May were a cluster.

Kids didn’t have the necessary technology, infrastructure or understanding of how to navigate it. And there was no way to give it to them when those were the prerequisites to instruction.

Not to mention resources. All the books and papers and lessons were back in the classroom – difficult to digitize. Teachers had to figure out how to do everything from scratch with little to no training at the drop of a hat. (And guess what – not much has changed in the subsequent weeks.)

Let’s talk motivation. Kids can be hard to motivate under the best of circumstances, but try doing it through a screen! Try building a trusting instructional relationship with a child when you’re just a noisy bunch of pixels. Try meeting individual special needs.

A lot of things inevitably end up falling through the cracks and it’s up to parents to pick up the pieces. But how can they do that when they’re trying to work from home or working outside of the home or paralyzed with anxiety and fear?

And this is probably the BEST option, because what else do we have?

Are we really going to open the school buildings and teach in-person? While that would be much better from an academic standpoint, there’s still the problem of a global pandemic.

Kids will get sick. As time goes on we see increasingly younger people getting infected with worsening symptoms. We really don’t know what the long term effects of this disease will be.

And even if young people are mostly asymptomatic, chances are good they’ll spread this thing to the rest of us.

They’ll bring it home to their families. They’ll give it to their teachers.

Even if we only have half the kids one day and the other half on another day, that won’t help much. We’re still being exposed to at least a hundred kids every week. (Not to mention the question of how to effectively teach some kids in-person while the rest are on-line!)

Even with masks on – and can you imagine teaching in a mask!? Can you imagine kids wearing masks all day!? – those respiratory droplets will spread through our buildings like mad!

Many of us are in the most susceptible groups because of age or health.

Don’t get me wrong – I want to get back to my classroom and teach my students in-person more than almost anything – except dying.

I’d rather live a little bit longer, thank you… A crappy year of education is better than mass death.

I am old enough to remember the original George Wallace, a hateful racist who was Governor of Alabama. He ran for president as a champion of white nationalism. His base is now Trump’s base. Trump is the second coming of Wallace.

This post says it succinctly.

Trump channeled Wallace in front of Mount Rushmore.

Racism is alive and living in the White House.

On June 10 the Lincoln Project, the effort of former-Republicans to defeat Donald Trump, posted this on Twitter: “Today @realDonaldTrump became the Confederacy’s Second President.” The reason: Trump’s relentless defense of “Confederate generals who fought against the United States of America to preserve slavery and uphold white supremacy.”

In the weeks that followed, Trump has only doubled down on this defense, denouncing Black Lives Matter protesters as “vandals” attacking “our heritage,” and making clear that his re-election strategy centers on the stoking of white racial resentment, perhaps to the point of race war…

If last year Trump abused the legacy of Lincoln, this year he celebrated an edifice that has come to symbolize white supremacy and the illegal dispossession of native American lands, created in 1927 by a man with KKK sympathies who also created the monument to the Confederacy on Stone Mountain, Georgia, that features Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and Jefferson Davis.

Following Trump’s Juneteenth weekend rally in Tulsa, the site of the 1921 massacre of hundreds of local Black citizens, the explicit racism of Saturday’s site was obvious, and made more obvious by Trump’s neo-fascist diatribe of a speech. CNN’s description is apt:

In a jaw-dropping speech that amounted to a culture war bonfire, President Donald Trump used the backdrop of Mount Rushmore Friday night to frame protesters as a nefarious left-wing mob that intends to “end America.” Those opponents, he argued, are engaged in a “merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children.”

Trump did reference the egalitarian promise of July 4 as a celebration of the Declaration of Independence. He cynically nodded to Lincoln’s “Emancipation Proclamation” and to the example of Martin Luther King, Jr, and he listed a pantheon of “heroes” that included Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and Muhammad Ali. But these were rhetorical flourishes, dissimulations designed to furnish a veneer of plausible deniability for the otherwise racist force of the speech. For Trump made clear to his white base that it is the current followers of Douglass, Tubman, and Ali who constitute a clear and present danger to “American Greatness.” The speech was nothing less than a call to arms, not simply to re-elect Trump but to vanquish enemies of the people: “Here tonight, before the eyes of our forefathers, Americans declare again, as we did 244 years ago: that we will not be tyrannized, we will not be demeaned, and we will not be intimidated by bad, evil people. It will not happen.”

While Trump cynically invoked King, it is hard to imagine a rhetorical performance more different from King’s “The American Dream” speech, delivered on July 4, 1965, at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia, at the height of the struggle for civil rights that Trump is intend on repudiating. King’s speech was a serious moral appeal, a call to realize the “promise” of American freedom. Trump’s speech, especially when considered in the broader rhetorical and political context in which it was delivered, is a cynical incitement to a racially-inflected culture war….

There are obvious differences between Wallace and Trump. Trump is in many ways a postmodern racist, a shapeshifter perfectly capable of denouncing “shithole countries,” describing cities like Elijah Cummings’s Baltimore as “disgusting . . . rodent infested messes,” mocking Black journalists such as Yamiche Alcidor, and demanding that women of color who oppose him “go back to where they came from,” while simultaneously glorifying “Louie Armstrong” and Jesse Owens. Trump’s Mount Rushmore speech was thus more rhetorically complex, and in many ways more insidious, than Wallace’s 1965 speech.

But both men are at heart reactionaries for whom July Fourth is an occasion to commemorate not Lincoln’s inclusive vision of a strong national government that emancipates its citizens from oppression, but the neo-confederate opposition to this emancipation. Trump celebrates not a nation of free, rights-bearing, democratic citizens, but a homogenous populace unified in struggle against against imagined enemies: “Uplifted by the titans of Mount Rushmore, we will find unity that no one expected; we will make strides that no one thought possible. This country will be everything that our citizens have hoped for, for so many years, and that our enemies fear — because we will never forget that American freedom exists for American greatness. And that’s what we have: American greatness.”

To this extent, Trump, like Wallace, appeals to a genuinely Confederate reading of the Declaration of Independence itself.

Donald Trump is our George Wallace, our Jefferson Davis, a man who yearns to restore the Confederacy.

He must be defeated.

Donald Trump somehow imagines that the nation–at least the white portion of the nation–shares his nostalgia for the Confederacy. He is prepared to fight to the bitter end to save statues of Robert E. Lee and others who rebelled against the United States of America and fought a war that cost more than 600,000 lives. He calls this our “great heritage.”

This is the same man who ridiculed Senator John McCain, who spent five years in a Vietnamese prison cell and was brutally beaten, yet refused the chance to go home early because he would not leave until his fellow Americans were freed. Trump said he was a “loser.” But he admires those who fought for states’ rights, dissolution of the union, and white supremacy.

The Boston Globe published this article about Trump’s allegiance to the Confederacy. Does MAGA mean “bring back the Confederacy”?:

WASHINGTON — Mississippi scrubbed the Confederate insignia from its state flag. Top Senate Republicans want to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. And on Wednesday, a crane lifted an enormous statue of Stonewall Jackson off its pedestal in Richmond, Va., the former capital of the Confederacy.

But while America begins to reckon with the racism of its history and its present, President Trump is defiantly defending that past.

As protesters and local governments around the country take down Confederate monuments and rethink the depiction of founding fathers who owned slaves, Trump has appointed himself their protector, tweeting seven times in a 24-hour span beginning Tuesday about attacks on statues and the nation’s “heritage.” He vowed to veto a defense bill if it strips Confederate officers’ names from military bases — a measure authored by Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren but also backed by key Republicans. And on Sunday, he retweeted a video that showed one of his supporters yelling “white power.” He took it down hours later after facing criticism but he did not apologize for the sentiment.

“It’s my hope that President Trump takes a step back and realizes this is 2020, not 1940 or 1950,” said Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, a Democrat who gave the order to remove the statue of Jackson and another Confederate officer from city property on Wednesday.

But a president who vowed to “Make America Great Again” has again focused his reelection campaign on the past — or at least one version of it. At a moment when the country is wrestling with difficult questions of race, he spent part of the week defending the honoring of Confederate generals and he will end it with an appearance Friday at Mount Rushmore, a monument that critics say has long promoted a sanitized, all-white story of American history.

“This is a battle to save the Heritage, History and Greatness of our country,” Trump tweeted on Tuesday, echoing how he urged the mostly white crowd who came to see him in Tulsa last month to “save that beautiful heritage of ours.”

Trump swept into office in 2017 after a campaign that scapegoated Mexicans and Muslims and won over many white voters. Now, as polls show his support slipping with white people thanks in part to his handling of coronavirus, he’s framing civil rights protests as an “attack” on white Americans and the removal of Confederate symbols and vandalism of other statues as an erasure of their history.

“It appeals to people who believe that America is America because it’s white,” said Michael Steele, the former Republican National Committee chair who was the first Black man to hold that position. “So you talk about erasing ‘our heritage’ — you hear those words, what does that say to you? No one in this country talks like that except for racists.”

Please read Ken Bernstein’s article and open the Lincoln Project’s latest video about the fraud who is our “president.”

Of one thing we can be sure. There will be no monuments or statues to Donald Trump. Not even at NASCAR.

To those who think that Donald Trump represents a new phenomenon in American politics, Sarah Churchwell’s essay in The New York Review of Books is a necessary antidote. Open the link to see the alarming photographs that accomparticle. Yes, it happened here. Yes, you should describe to the New York Review of Books.

She writes:

As militarized police in riot gear and armored vehicles barreled into peaceful protesters in cities across America, and its president emerged from a bunker to have citizens tear-gassed on his way to a church he’d never attended, holding a Bible he’d never read, many people recalled a famous saying often misattributed to Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novel It Can’t Happen Here: “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” Because Lewis’s novel is the best remembered of the many warnings against American fascism in the interwar years, he has latterly been credited with the admonition, but they are not Lewis’s words.

The adage probably originated instead with James Waterman Wise, son of the eminent American rabbi Stephen Wise and one of the many voices at the time urging Americans to recognize fascism as a serious domestic threat. “The America of power and wealth,” Wise cautioned, is “an America which needs fascism.” American fascism might emerge from “patriotic orders, such as the American Legion and the Daughters of the American Revolution… and it may come to us wrapped in the American flag or a Hearst newspaper.” In another talk that year, he put it slightly differently: American fascism would likely come “wrapped up in the American flag and heralded as a plea for liberty and preservation of the constitution.”

An American fascism would, by definition, deploy American symbols and American slogans. “Do not look for them to raise aloft the swastika,” Wise warned, “or to employ any of the popular forms of Fascism” from Europe. Fascism’s ultra-nationalism means that it works by normalizing itself, drawing on familiar national customs to insist it is merely conducting political business as usual. As José Antonio Primo de Rivera, the leader of Spain’s proto-fascist Falange party, proclaimed in 1934, all fascisms ought to be local and indigenous:

Italy and Germany… turned back towards their own authenticity, and if we do so ourselves, the authenticity which we find will also be our own: it will not be that of Germany or Italy, and therefore, by reproducing the achievement of the Italians or Germans we will become more Spanish than we have ever been… In fascism as in movements of all ages, underneath the local characteristics there are to be found certain constants… What is needed is a total feeling of what is required: a total feeling for the Fatherland, for life, for History.

Samuel Moyn recently argued in these pages against comparing Trump’s policies to fascism, because his administration is “pursuing causes with roots deep in American history. No analogy to Hitler or fascism is needed to explain these results.” But this presumes that fascism does not have its own deep roots in American history. It is arguable—not to say, exceptionalist—to presuppose that anything indigenously American cannot be fascist; this begs the question of American fascism rather than disputing it. Experts on fascism such as Robert O. Paxton, Roger Griffin, and Stanley G. Payne have long argued that fascism can never seem alien to its followers; its claims to speak for “the people” and to restore national greatness mean that each version of fascism must have its own local identity. To believe that a nationalist movement isn’t fascist because it’s native is to miss the point entirely.

Historically, fascist movements were also marked by opportunism, a willingness to say almost anything to get into power, rendering definitions even murkier. Trying to identify its core, the unsplittable fascist atom, has proved impossible; we are left with what Umberto Eco called fascism’s “fuzziness,” others its “hazy and synthetic doctrines.” There are good arguments against attempting through taxonomies to establish what’s become known as a “fascist minimum,” as if a checklist could qualitatively differentiate fascism from other authoritarian dictatorships. Some think anti-Semitism is a litmus test; others genocide. Does colonialism count? Aimé Césaire, C.L.R. James, and Hannah Arendt, among many other notable thinkers who lived through the first fascisms, certainly thought it did, arguing that European fascism visited upon white bodies what colonial and slave systems had perfected in visiting upon black and brown bodies.

Paxton has argued influentially that fascism is as fascism does. But conspicuous features are recognizably shared, including: nostalgia for a purer, mythic, often rural past; cults of tradition and cultural regeneration; paramilitary groups; the delegitimizing of political opponents and demonization of critics; the universalizing of some groups as authentically national, while dehumanizing all other groups; hostility to intellectualism and attacks on a free press; anti-modernism; fetishized patriarchal masculinity; and a distressed sense of victimhood and collective grievance. Fascist mythologies often incorporate a notion of cleansing, an exclusionary defense against racial or cultural contamination, and related eugenicist preferences for certain “bloodlines” over others. Fascism weaponizes identity, validating the herrenvolk and invalidating all the other folk.

Americans of the interwar period, though they could not predict what was to come in Europe, were nonetheless perfectly clear about one fact we have lost sight of today: all fascism is indigenous, by definition. “Fascism must be home grown,” admonished an American lecturer in 1937, “repeating the words of Benito Mussolini, that fascism cannot be imported,” but must be “particularly suited to our national life.” Logically, therefore, “the anti-Negro program” would provide “a very plausible rallying cry for American fascists,” just as anti-Semitism had for Germans. Others recognized that the deep roots of anti-Semitic evangelical Christianity provided equally plausible rallying cries for an American fascism. Wartime patriotism and the Allied triumph soon gave Americans permission to regard fascism as an alien and uniquely European pathology, but “the man on horseback,” the despot who could ride reactionary populist energies to power, had been a specter in American politics since at least as early as the presidency of Andrew Jackson in the 1830s.

One of the last, and most horrific, public lynchings in America took place in October 1934, in the Florida Panhandle, where a crowd of as many as 5,000 gathered to watch what had been advertised hours earlier in the local press. Claude Neal was burned and castrated, had his genitals stuffed into his mouth, and was forced to tell his torturers that he enjoyed their taste. After he was finally dragged to his death behind a car, his mutilated corpse was urinated upon by the crowds, and then hung from the Marianna Courthouse. The German press, quick to capitalize on reports of American lynching, circulated photographs of Neal, whose horrific death they described with “sharp editorial comments to the effect that America should clean its own house” before it censured other governments’ treatment of their citizens. “Stop Lynching Negroes is Nazi Retort to American Critics,” read the Pittsburgh Courier headline reporting German accounts of American racial violence.

The Courier was one of many African-American papers that not only saw affinities between Nazi Germany and Jim Crow America, but also traced causal connections. “Hitler Learns from America,” the Courier had declared as early as 1933, reporting that German universities under the new regime of the Third Reich were explaining that they drew their ideas from “the American pathfinders Madison Grant and Lothrop Stoddard,” and that “racial insanities” in America provided Nazi Germany with “a model for oppressing and persecuting its own minorities.” The African-American New York Age similarly wondered if Hitler had studied “under the tutelage” of Klan leaders, perhaps as “a subordinate Kleagle or something of the sort.”

The Nazis themselves saw a clear kinship. Recent histories have demonstrated that Hitler systematically relied upon American race laws in designing the Nuremberg laws, while the Third Reich also actively sought supporters in the Jim Crow South, although the political leadership of the white South largely did not return the favor. But the correspondence between the two systems was perfectly evident at the time, on both sides of the Atlantic. A Nazi consul general in California even tried to purchase the Klan, with the idea of plotting an American putsch. His price was too low—the Klan was nothing if not mercenary—but, as journalists remarked after the story came to light in 1939, the Klan could not afford to seem foreign; “to be effective,” its nativist agenda had to be pursued “in the name of Americanism.”

In 1935, African Americans organized around the country in mass protests against Mussolini’s slaughter of Ethiopians across the sea. “American Fascism Already Has Negroes,” declared the Jamaican-American journalist and historian Joel Augustus Rogers. Langston Hughes agreed: “Give Franco a hood and he would be a member of the Ku Klux Klan, a Kleagle. Fascism is what the Ku Klux Klan will be when it combines with the Liberty League and starts using machine guns and airplanes instead of a few yards of rope.” “We Negroes in America Negroes do not have to be told what fascism is in action,” Hughes told another audience. “We know.”

At the same time, in 1935, W.E.B. Du Bois published Black Reconstruction in America. This foundational work of African-American revisionist historiography appeared amid the tumult of the Scottsboro Nine’s persecution and as Jesse Owens’s medal haul at the Berlin Olympics was seen as both a joke against Hitler and a rebuke to Jim Crow America. In no way coincidentally, then, Du Bois implies in his study more than once that the white supremacism of Jim Crow America could indeed be regarded as “fascism.” Sixty years later, in a neglected but remarkable essay, Amiri Baraka made Du Bois’s notion explicit, arguing that the end of Reconstruction “heaved Afro America into fascism. There is no other term for it. The overthrow of democratically elected governments and the rule by direct terror, by the most reactionary sector of finance capital… Carried out with murder, intimidation and robbery, by the first storm troopers, again the Hitlerian prototype, the Ku Klux Klan, directly financed by northern capital.” It would take another twenty years for white American historiography to absorb the argument, when, in 2004, Paxton observed in The Anatomy of Fascism that a strong argument could be made for the first Ku Klux Klan in the Reconstruction South being the world’s earliest fascist movement:

[The first Klan was] an alternative civic authority, parallel to the legal state, which, in the eyes of the Klan’s founders, no longer defended their community’s legitimate interests. By adopting a uniform (white robe and hood), as well as by their techniques of intimidation and their conviction that violence was justified in the cause of their group’s destiny, the first version of the Klan in the defeated American South was arguably a remarkable preview of the way fascist movements were to function in interwar Europe.

After the KKK was resurrected in 1915, the second Klan claimed as many as five million members by the mid-1920s, a degree of proliferation in American society that represented one out of every three or four white Protestant American men. When Mussolini burst onto the world stage in 1921, many Americans across the country instantly recognized his project, as newspapers from Montana to Florida explained to their readers that “the ‘Fascisti’ might be known as the Ku Klux Klan,” and “the klan… is the Fascisti of America.” Comparisons between the homegrown Klan and Italian fascism soon became ubiquitous in the American press; the resemblance was not superficial.

The second Klan disintegrated in the late 1920s under the taint of corruption and sex scandals, but some of its erstwhile leaders soon began cutting their bloodstained cloth to fit new political fashions. The majority of the American fascist groups of the interwar period, more than one of which self-identified as fascist, began not as branches of Nazism, but as offshoots of the Klan. Their Christian nationalism was inextricable from their anti-Semitism, although it also led to a sectarianism that may have kept them from forging stronger alliances.

Many of these groups shared the fondness of their European counterparts for dressing up in “colored shirt” uniforms, to suggest organized force and militaristic might, to intimidate and exclude, including Atlanta’s Order of Black Shirts; the White Shirts, militant “Crusaders for Economic Liberty,” founded by George W. Christians, who cultivated a toothbrush mustache and Hitlerian lock of flopping hair; the Gray Shirts, officially “The Pioneer Home Protective Association,” founded in upstate New York; the Khaki Shirts (also “US Fascists”); the Silver Shirts, which William Dudley Pelley modeled on Hitler’s “elite Nazi corps,” and the Dress Shirts. By the end of 1934, American journalists were mocking the growing list. “Gray Shirts Make America No. 1 Among Shirt-Nations,” read one sarcastic headline, noting that unless other countries began cheating by combining colors, “it will be impossible to out-shirt us.”

But others took the threat more seriously. As James Waterman Wise repeatedly explained, “the various colored shirt orders—the whole haberdashery brigade who play upon sectional prejudice,” were “sowing the seeds of Fascism” in the United States. The Black Legion was an offshoot of the Klan that flourished in the Midwest, whose leader spoke of seizing Washington in a revolutionary coup, called the New Deal a Jewish plot “to starve the Gentiles out,” and espoused the extermination of American Jews by means of poison gas dispensers in synagogues on Yom Kippur. Anyone wondering “what fascism would be like in this country” should look to the Black Legion, with its “odor of Hitlerism,” its “anti-Catholic, anti-Jewish, anti-Negro, anti-labor platform, its whips, clubs and guns, its brazen defiance of law and order and the due processes of democracy,” warned a widely syndicated 1936 editorial. “These are the attitudes and equipment of fascism.”

The short-lived “Friends of the Hitler Movement” soon transformed into the more acceptable “Friends of New Germany” in 1933, before becoming the Bund. It held several large rallies in Madison Square Garden, including its 1939 “Mass Demonstration for True Americanism,” where a giant banner featuring George Washington was flanked by swastikas, and twelve hundred “storm troopers” stood in the aisles delivering the Nazi salute; footage from the rally was restored in 2019 as the short film “A Night at the Garden.” By 1940, the Bund claimed membership of 100,000 and had established summer camps in upstate New York, New Jersey, and Long Island where it trained American Nazi youth. The Bund’s propagandist, Gerhard Kunze, reported at the time that “the swastika is not foreign but one hundred per cent American. The Indians always used it,” while the emblem of another group, “The American National-Socialist Party,” was “an American Indian, arm outstretched in salute, poised against a black swastika.” They admitted to working to naturalize Nazism, seeking consanguinities with American symbolism.

Then, too, there was Father Coughlin. “I take the road of Fascism,” he said in 1936, before forming the Christian Front,” whose members referred to themselves as “brown shirts.” His virulently anti-Semitic radio program, regularly transmitting claims from the fabricated Protocols of the Elders of Zion, reached almost 30 million Americans at its height—the largest radio audience in the world at the time. Those listeners tuned in at the end of 1938 as Coughlin was justifying the violence of Kristallnacht, arguing that it was “reprisal” against Jews who had supposedly murdered more than twenty million Christians and stolen billions of dollars in “Christian property”; Nazism, he said, was a natural “defense mechanism” against the communism financed by Jewish bankers. Coughlin’s weekly newspaper, Social Justice, which had an estimated circulation of 200,000 at its height, was described by Life magazine at the time as probably the most widely read voice of “Nazi propaganda in America.”

But the American leader most often accused of fascist tendencies was Huey Long. As Louisiana governor (and senator), Long imposed local martial law, censored the newspapers, forbade public assemblies, packed the courts and legislatures with his cronies, and installed his twenty-four-year-old lover as secretary of state. Long was a racketeer, but his “Share Our Wealth” program did improve local conditions, building roads and bridges, investing in hospitals and schools, and abolishing the poll tax. His economic populism was also not predicated on furthering racial, ethnic, or religious divisions; he subordinated his white supremacism to his redistributionist political message. “We just lynch an occasional nigger,” he breezily declared when dismissing anti-lynching laws, though he also recognized “you can’t help poor white people without helping Negroes,” and so was prepared for his rising tide to lift all boats. When Long set his sights on the 1936 presidential election, Franklin D. Roosevelt was sufficiently alarmed to inform his ambassador to Germany: “Long plans to be a candidate of the Hitler type for the presidency,” predicting that by 1940 Long would try to install himself as a dictator.

Roosevelt was hardly alone in fearing that Long sought to be an “American Fuehrer”; Long’s political career gave plenty of reason for doubting his democratic bona fides. He inspired Sinclair Lewis’s Buzz Windrip in It Can’t Happen Here, the president-dictator who promises Americans $5,000 a year if they vote for him, as Long had done. But the name Windrip also suggests Rev. Gerald B. Winrod, the “Kansas Hitler” who led the “Defenders of the Christian Faith” and had been touring the nation lecturing on the millenarian role of Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini in Biblical prophecy since the late 1920s. That Lewis also viewed the Klan as a fascist movement is clear from an extended denunciation that opens the novel, in which Lewis rips through a genealogy of American proto-fascist tendencies, including anti-Semitism, political corruption, war hysteria, conspiracy theories, and evangelical Christianity, before ending on the “Kentucky night-riders,” the “trainloads of people [who] have to gone to enjoy lynchings.” “Not happen here?… Where in all history has there ever been a people so ripe for a dictatorship as ours!”

President Windrip himself is “vulgar, almost illiterate, a public liar easily detected, and in his ‘ideas’ almost idiotic.” His fascist regime, driven by Christian nationalism and a desire for ethnic homogeneity, turns both African Americans and Jews into enemies of the state, decreeing that all bankers are Jewish. It Can’t Happen Here suggests that in America, fascism’s most dangerous supporters would be those “who disowned the word ‘Fascism’ and preached enslavement to Capitalism under the style of Constitutional and Traditional Native American Liberty.” It would be “government of the profits, by the profits, for the profits.” Fascism’s cancerous version of nationalism means that an American fascism will always graft American pieties about individual liberty onto realities of systemic greed, printing “liberate” on flags waved by a huckster.

Dorothy Thompson, the celebrated journalist and anti-fascist campaigner and Sinclair Lewis’s wife at the time, similarly earned the sobriquet of “Cassandra” for prophesying that fascism in the US would look all too familiarly American when it arrived. (Thompson enjoyed the riposte that Cassandra was always proven right in the end.) “When Americans think of dictators they always think of some foreign model,” she said, but an American dictator would be “one of the boys, and he will stand for everything traditionally American.” And the American people, Thompson added, “will greet him with one great big, universal, democratic, sheeplike bleat of ‘O.K., Chief! Fix it like you wanna, Chief!’” A year later, a Yale professor named Halford Luccock was also widely cited in the press when he told an audience: “When and if fascism comes to America it will not be labeled ‘made in Germany’; it will not be marked with a swastika; it will not even be called fascism; it will be called, of course, ‘Americanism.’” And Luccock went on: “The high-sounding phrase ‘the American way’ will be used by interested groups, intent on profit, to cover a multitude of sins against the American and Christian tradition, such sins as lawless violence, tear gas and shotguns, denial of civil liberties.”

A few years later, Thompson wrote again in similar terms, saying she was reminded of what Huey Long himself had once explained to her: “American Fascism would never emerge as a Fascist but as a 100 percent American movement; it would not duplicate the German method of coming to power but would only have to get the right President and Cabinet.” FDR’s vice president, Henry Wallace, issued his own warning. “American fascism will not be really dangerous,” he wrote in The New York Times in 1944, “until there is a purposeful coalition among the cartelists, the deliberate poisoners of public information, and those who stand for the K.K.K. type of demagoguery.”

Wallace’s warning came amid the Roosevelt administration’s misguided prosecution on sedition charges of many of these figures, including Winrod, Pelley, Elizabeth Dilling (of the so-called Mothers’ Movement), and James True (who founded a group called “America First Inc.” and called for an American pogrom). This constellation had orbited around the America First Committee of 1940–1941 and its figurehead Charles Lindbergh, the celebrated aviator who, for a time, lent their conspiratorial anti-Semitism a veneer of legitimacy until he met with disgrace in September 1941 for a speech widely condemned as anti-Semitic and “un-American.” As the United States entered World War II, the meaning of “America First” underwent an abrupt volte-face from patriotic to seditious, becoming a byword for anti-Semitic Nazi sympathies.

That did not stop Huey Long’s former deputy, the Rev. Gerald L.K. Smith—who had built his own political career on denunciations of presumptively Jewish “international bankers”—from running for president in 1944 on a promise to fix the nation’s “Jewish problem.” Smith’s party was called America First.

Now, in 2020, we find ourselves with an America First president. Arguments that Donald Trump can only be understood in relation to the modern conservative movement in America, best framed by the turn to the right under Barry Goldwater or Lee Atwater’s famous Southern Strategy, assume a rupture with American politics of the interwar period that was not necessarily evident at the time. To give just one example, Goldwater was described more than once during his presidential run in 1964, by both his supporters and his critics, as an “America First” politician.

Nor is it only Trump’s critics who see fascist tendencies in his administration’s rhetoric glorifying violence and disregarding the rule of law, democratic processes, and civil liberties; the president and his supporters regularly embrace traditions of American fascism themselves. “America First” was initially the favorite slogan of American xenophobic nativist movements and politics from 1915 to 1941, starting with Woodrow Wilson’s loyalty test, demanding that immigrant “hyphenate Americans” prove they were for “America First,” followed by its use as a rallying cry to keep America out of the League of Nations and from ratifying the Treaty of Versailles. Warren G. Harding also ran on an America First campaign in 1920, even as the slogan was being appropriated by the second Klan, which regularly marched with the legend on banners and used it in recruitment ads. It was invoked on the floor of Congress by supporters of the nativist and eugenicist Immigration Act of 1924. Then it was assimilated by self-styled American fascist groups of the 1930s, including the German-American Bund and the virulently anti-Semitic “America First, Inc.,” before it was adopted by the America First Committee of 1940–1941, when Lindbergh used it to convince Americans that “Jewish interests” were seeking to manipulate the United States into taking part in a European war.

Trump himself has echoed the “Nordicist” rhetoric of interwar Klansmen and American fascists when he said he would prefer more immigrants from Norway and fewer from “shithole” places like Haiti and Africa. He has praised the “bloodlines” of Henry Ford, who circulated the series of articles titled “The International Jew,” which promulgated the Protocols of the Elders of Zion across America during the 1920s. In that same decade, Fred Trump, then a young man (later, father of Donald), was arrested after a brawl involving Klansmen broke out at a Memorial Day Parade in Queens. Donald Trump was reported to own the speeches of Hitler during the 1990s; he denied ever reading them—but then he is also incapable of telling the truth.

And lately, in response to the killing of George Floyd in the spring of 2020 and the Black Lives Matter protests that swept the nation and then the world, Donald Trump announced that he would hold a rally for his supporters in Tulsa—one year short of the centenary of the worst anti-black pogrom in American history, which left as many as 300 African Americans dead, 8,000 homeless, and the city’s black community destroyed. Trump’s rally was to have taken place on June 19, a day known as “Juneteenth” that has come to be celebrated as an anniversary marking the end of slavery in the US and the emancipation of African Americans. For complex historical reasons, the deferral of liberty and the franchise, the belatedness of free and full citizenship under the law, the active suppression of black rights, all resonate in the Juneteenth celebration. (After widespread outrage at the clear provocation, Trump’s rally was postponed a day, to June 20, still in Tulsa. Trump proceeded to take credit for educating the country about Juneteenth.)

Trump is no student of history, but someone around him clearly is. But it is also true that Trump’s thundering ignorance does not mean he doesn’t understand the racist and fascist rhetoric he deploys. We need not argue that he is a mastermind plotting a fascist coup to recognize that Trump has a demonstrable sense of how white supremacism works in America, without ever having troubled to organize his thoughts, such as he has, about it.

And this, too, was how fascism always operated in practice: it was nothing if not opportunistic. What Paxton calls its “mobilizing passions” catalyze fascism, which is propelled, as he notes, more by feelings than by thought. Only “the historic destiny of the group,” matters to fascists, he adds: “their only moral yardstick is the prowess of the race, of the nation, of the community. They claim legitimacy by no universal standard except a Darwinian triumph of the strongest community.” Its “hazy and synthetic doctrines,” combined with its ultra-nationalism and anti-intellectualism, mean that fascism is never a coherent set of ideological doctrines. Force takes the place of ideology, as the fascist strong man performs for his followers their sense of rightful dominance and rage that other groups, in embracing equality, reject their entitlements.

American fascist energies today are different from 1930s European fascism, but that doesn’t mean they’re not fascist, it means they’re not European and it’s not the 1930s. They remain organized around classic fascist tropes of nostalgic regeneration, fantasies of racial purity, celebration of an authentic folk and nullification of others, scapegoating groups for economic instability or inequality, rejecting the legitimacy of political opponents, the demonization of critics, attacks on a free press, and claims that the will of the people justifies violent imposition of military force. Vestiges of interwar fascism have been dredged up, dressed up, and repurposed for modern times. Colored shirts might not sell anymore, but colored hats are doing great.

Reading about the inchoate American fascist movements of the 1930s during the Trump administration feels less prophetic than proleptic, a time-lapse montage of a para-fascist order slowly willing itself into existence over the course of nearly a century. It certainly seems less surprising that recognizably fascistic violence is erupting in the United States under Trump, as his attorney general sends troops to the national capital to act as a private army, armed paramilitary groups occupy state capitols, laws are passed to deny the citizenship and rights of specific groups, and birthright citizenship as guaranteed under the Fourteenth Amendment is attacked. When the president declares voting an “honor” rather than a right and “jokes” about becoming president for life, when the government makes efforts to add new categories of ethnic identity to the decennial census for the first time in the nation’s history, and when nationwide protests in response to racial injustice become the pretext for mooting martial law, we are watching an American fascist order pulling itself together.

Trump is neither aberrant nor original. Nativist reactionary populism is nothing new in America, it just never made it to the White House before. In the end, it matters very little whether Trump is a fascist in his heart if he’s fascist in his actions. As one of Lewis’s characters notes of the dictator in It Can’t Happen Here: “Buzz isn’t important—it’s the sickness that made us throw him up that we’ve got to attend to.”

Ignorance is usually not a good defense when you get caught. In Trump’s case, it is the default response when things go wrong.

You could write a book about what Trump doesn’t know. He doesn’t know that Greenland is not for sale. He doesn’t know that Finland is not part of Russia. He doesn’t know that Frederick Douglass is a historical figure, not someone living today. He doesn’t know that climate change is real and dangerous to the planet. There are so many things that he never learned in school or in his adult life.

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post figured out that the White House now uses “he didn’t know” as an all-purpose excuse. When the story about Russians paying a bounty for dead American and coalition forces in Afghanistan was published, the White House defense was that no one told Trump. Long ago, this was called “plausible deniability.” In the case of Trump, it is perfectly reasonable to assume that he didn’t know. What he thinks he knows is wrong (hydrochoroquine does not cure COVID-19, drinking disinfectants does not prevent getting the disease, windmills do not cause cancer, the pandemic is not over, etc.).

Milbank writes:

If things weren’t already bad enough for President Trump — economic collapse, botched pandemic response, mass unrest — U.S. intelligence believes Trump’s “friend” Vladimir Putin paid Taliban fighters bounties to kill U.S. troops.

But the White House is ready with a defense: The president has no earthly idea what’s going on.
Totally in the dark.

Not a clue!

“The CIA director, NSA, national security adviser, and the chief of staff can all confirm that neither the president nor the vice president were briefed on the alleged Russian bounty intelligence,” White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany declared at Monday afternoon’s briefing.

So, asked NBC’s Kristen Welker, Trump was kept “out of the loop by his own intelligence community?”

“It would not be elevated to the president until it was verified,” the press secretary explained.

Shouldn’t the president have been told about such a serious matter?

“There are dissenting opinions,” McEnany ventured.

Reporters pointed out that intelligence, by definition, is generally unverified, and that the bounty intelligence was solid enough that U.S. officials shared it with the British.

McEnany indicated Trump’s advisers didn’t find it “necessary” to brief him.

But “given these reports,” asked Jeff Mason of Reuters, “does the president have a specific message for Moscow?”

“No,” McEnany said, “because he has not been briefed.”

In fact, McEnany suggested, Trump still hadn’t been briefed on the Russian bounties by Monday afternoon, even though administration officials were, at that hour, briefing lawmakers.

Previous presidents have claimed not to have been briefed about things they shouldn’t have known about, as when then-Vice President George H.W. Bush claimed he was “out of the loop” on the Iran-contra affair during the 1980s. But this is quite unusual: The White House insisting the president was out of the loop on something he should have known about. It’s as though Trump’s ignorance is a point of pride.

The out-to-lunch excuse has been getting more use as things get worse for Trump. On Sunday, Trump shared a video in which a man chanting “white power” (Trump’s tweet thanked the “great people” in the video) and deleted it only after an outcry that included Republicans. McEnany claimed Trump “did not hear that particular phrase” when he watched the video.

By Trump’s own account, he was kept in the dark by China on the coronavirus. He was oblivious to the significance of Juneteenth or of Tulsa when he scheduled a campaign rally on that day in that city. And John Bolton, Trump’s former national security adviser says Trump was unaware of many things, including Britain’s status as a nuclear power.

Ignorance may be the only bliss for Trump as his presidency dissolves into failures. As other countries keep the coronavirus in check, states that followed Trump’s encouragement to reopen early — Florida, Arizona, Texas, Georgia, South Carolina — are seeing record levels of infections. His allies are calling for a campaign shakeup as polls show the unpopular president trailing Democrat Joe Biden by nearly 10 points.

His rally in Tulsa was a debacle. His dalliances with white supremacists (McEnany declined Monday to disavow the display of Confederate battle flags at Trump rallies) has galvanized the opposition. Bolton revealed that Trump sought reelection help from China. And now, Russians have apparently put bounties on the heads of U.S. troops.
McEnany opened her briefing with a statement decrying “anarchy in our streets,” “chaos,” “shootings,” “rioting,” “domestic terrorism” and “rampant destruction.” Standing against anarchy, she said, “is President Trump’s vision for the future.”
That’s quite a reelection pitch.
But, in one sense, McEnany has a point about anarchy: When it comes to the nation’s troubles, our head of state is MIA.
Trump’s own secretary of health and human services is saying the “window is closing” to get control of the situation — but Trump’s spokeswoman says that “we’re encouraged to see that fatalities are coming down” and that mask wearing should be a “personal choice.”

Okay, so Trump isn’t going to act to stop the virus’s resurgence. How about action to stop Russia from paying for the killing of U.S. troops?

“The president is briefed on verified intelligence,” McEnany said.

“If he hasn’t been briefed,” the Dallas Morning News’s Todd Gillman asked, “how is he certain that Russia didn’t put out these bounties?”

The press secretary replied by condemning the “absolutely irresponsible decision of the New York Times to falsely report that he was briefed on something that he in fact was not briefed on.”

How dare the Times report that Trump was informed! Get it right: This president’s ignorance is total — and you can quote the White House press secretary on that.

Randi Weingarten is not only president of the AFT, she is a lawyer. Below is her reaction to the Supreme Court ruling. She calls it a “seismic shock.” She sees the decision as one more step in the relentless rightwing effort to defund and privatize public schools. She thinks the decision set the stage for an even more radical decision, one that requires states to fund religious school tuition as some states (think Florida, Indiana, Ohio) currently do.

Randi is right, but I was actually relieved that the decision was not far worse. I was afraid that the current Supreme Court, with Trump’s addition of two super-religious justices (Gorsuch and Kavanaugh), would overturn all Blaine amendments and require states to pay religious school tuitions in full. But the decision was far narrower. It said that any state that has a program to fund private schools must admit religious schools to the same program. So Montana, which has a private scholarship program, must include religious schools on the same footing as other private schools. That means that the Espinoza family has won $150 per year for all their troubles.

People like Betsy DeVos and her American Federation for Children, Jeanne Allen and her Center for Education Reform must be terribly disappointed that the decision did not tear down Thomas Jefferson’s “wall of separation between state and church,” thus compelling states to pay full tuition for students at religious schools, regardless of their ideology, their quality, or their lack of certified teachers. That didn’t happen, thank God!

The public schools, the schools that nearly 90% of all American families choose, the schools that educated the overwhelming majority of the American people, have survived a close call. If Biden wins in November and Ruth Bader Ginsburg remains healthy until Biden’s inauguration, we will in time have a Supreme Court that supports public schools.

Randi warns:

WASHINGTON—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten issued the following statement after the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue:

“This ruling in the Espinoza case is a seismic shock that threatens both public education and religious liberty. It is a radical departure from our Constitution, American history and our values. As Justice Sonia Sotomayor said in her dissent, this ruling is ‘perverse.’

“Never in more than two centuries of American history has the free exercise clause of the First Amendment been wielded as a weapon to defund and dismantle public education. It will hurt both the 90 percent of students who attend neighborhood public schools, by siphoning off needed funds, and, in the long term, those who attend religious schools by curtailing their freedom with the accountability that comes with tax dollars.

“The court’s narrow conservative majority joined with Donald Trump, Betsy DeVos, and other wealthy donors and special interests to attack public education and turn the First Amendment on its head. What’s even more disturbing is that some justices wanted to go even further.

“While the court didn’t invalidate the 38 state constitutional provisions that preclude public money from going to religious schools, it came very close. The financial backers of this case will now use it to open the floodgates to litigation across the country.

“I hope the court and the plaintiffs understand that by enabling this encroachment on religious liberty, they are also opening up religion to state control and state interference. With public funding comes public accountability. Upending the carefully constructed balance of free exercise and separation of church and state not only undermines public education, it is a grave threat to religious institutions and organizations.

“In this time of national crisis, we have seen the importance of our public schools. Children across the country rely on public education for far more than just academics: Thirty million kids eat lunch in school, 12 million eat breakfast in school, and schools provide millions more with their healthcare. We should be prioritizing additional resources for public education and other vital social programs, not diverting them to private purposes.

“We are not going to give up. In fact, we are only going to fight harder. Parents, teachers and their unions stood up and fought back—and we will continue to do so each and every day, whether in court, in Congress, in state legislatures or at the ballot box.

“When it comes to Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos’ attacks on public education, we will see them in November.”

The New York Times reports that members of Congress want intelligence officials to explain the claims that Russia paid a bounty to Afghan militants to kill soldiers who are American or other Coalition forces.

Trump denies that he was briefed. Is it credible that such an important development would not be transmitted to the president?

Democrats and Republicans in Congress demanded on Monday that American intelligence agencies promptly share with lawmakers what they know about a suspected Russian plot to pay bounties to the Taliban to kill American troops in Afghanistan, and threatened to retaliate against the Kremlin.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leaders of the House and Senate, each requested that all lawmakers be briefed on the matter and for C.I.A. and other intelligence officials to explain how President Trump was informed of intelligence collected about the plot. Mr. Trump has said he was not made aware of an intelligence assessment about the plot; officials have said that it was briefed to the highest levels of the White House and appeared in the president’s daily intelligence brief.

“Congress and the country need answers now,” Ms. Pelosi, Democrat of California, wrote in a letter to John Ratcliffe, the director of national intelligence, and Gina Haspel, the C.I.A. director. “Congress needs to know what the intelligence community knows about this significant threat to American troops and our allies and what options are available to hold Russia accountable.”

In the Republican-controlled Senate, James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said he had asked for information as well and expected to know more on the matter “in the coming days.”

“We’ve known for a long time that Putin is a thug and a murderer, and if these allegations are true, I will work with President Trump on a strong response,” he said in a statement. “My No. 1 priority is the safety of our troops. Right now, though, we need answers.”

The C.I.A. declined to comment on Ms. Pelosi’s request.

Members of Congress were caught off guard on Friday when The New York Times first reported that American intelligence had found that a Russian military intelligence unit had secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants in exchange for killing American troops and their allies in Afghanistan. National Security Council officials met in March to discuss the intelligence, but the White House has taken no known action in response.

The Times further reported on Sunday that American intelligences officers and Special Operations forces in the country had informed their superiors of the suspected Russian plot as early as January, after a large amount of American cash was seized in a raid on a Taliban outpost.

American officials believed that the death of at least one U.S. service member was tied to the bounties, and they are reviewing other combat casualties in search of other potential victims, officials familiar with the matter have said.

The White House has not challenged that the intelligence assessment exists, or that the National Security Council held an interagency meeting about it in late March.

But Mr. Trump and his press secretary, Kaleigh McEnany, have both claimed that he was not briefed on the intelligence report. Mr. Trump said in a tweet late Sunday that “Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible, and therefore did not report it to me” or Vice President Mike Pence.

Lawmakers were left uncertain what to believe, and even members of Mr. Trump’s party sounded uneasy on Monday when asked about the president’s statements.

Representative Mac Thornberry of Texas, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, said Mr. Trump’s tweet suggesting he had not been made aware of the reports was “a very concerning statement.”

“Anything with any hint of credibility that would endanger our service members, much less put a bounty on their lives, to me should have been briefed immediately to the commander in chief and a plan to deal with that situation,” he said.

William Barr wrote an unsolicited memo before he was appointed to his current position as Attorney General. It was intended to discredit the Mueller investigation. It sets forth an expansive view of the powers of the president and supports Trump’s view that the president is above the law. As Trump put it, “the president can do whatever he wants.” Barr agrees.

To learn more about the Barr memo, read the following reviews of it.

This commentary by the ACLU links to the memo.

This analysis by Neil Kinkopf of the University of Georgia School of Law highlights this startling passage:

I would like to focus attention…on the ramifications of Mueller’s theory of the President’s constitutional powers for the rest of the government. Those ramifications are vast and proceed from the memo’s most jaw-dropping passage: “Constitutionally, it is wrong to conceive of the President as simply the highest officer within the Executive branch hierarchy. He alone is the Executive branch.”

Barr rejects the fundamental idea of checks and balances. He rejects the principle that no one is above the law. He asserts that the president is.

He is pushing out or firing prosecutors who are independent, like Geoffrey Berman in New York.

Under Barr’s leadership, the rule of law is being eroded. This should concern us all, regardless of party.