The idea, “When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross,” was a sentiment echoed by different writers in the 1930s to warn that we were not immune to the same calamity that had engulfed Germany.
I believe when fascism comes to America, it will be disguised as the Republican Party. The slogan, “Make America Great Again,” is strikingly similar to Adolf Hitler’s exhortation, “Make Germany great.”
Ronald Reagan used the MAGA slogan, too, but Reagan was no fascist. He never kept a book of Hitler’s speeches by his bedside as Donald Trump’s first wife says he did.
When you purge a political party of everyone but the crazies, it’s inevitable a crazy gets elected. Our situation is exceptionally dangerous because it appears that Trump was elected with Russia’s help.
Trump has been undermining the institutions that make us less susceptible to fascism. Republicans stand idly by and cheer. Russian President Vladimir Putin does, too.
He’s raised the possibility of jailing reporters. He’s threatened to revoke broadcast licenses of the networks. Judicial openings are filled with unqualified lawyers. Scientists have been fired from agencies and replaced with political hacks.
Hundreds of career diplomats have been purged from the State Department and diplomacy is in the hands of Trump family members. Nuclear war with North Korea is a distinct possibility, especially as Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation inches closer to Trump and his family.
Fascists divide their population to keep them warring among themselves: black vs. white, Christian against Muslim, Democrat vs. Republican. Truth is obsolete and has been replaced with “alternative facts.”
“Alternative facts” did not originate with Trump. Republicans began experimenting with it in the 1988 presidential campaign, with the Willie Horton commercial. The ad falsely insinuated that Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis, while Massachusetts governor, freed black convicts to prey on innocent white people.
In the 2004 Georgia Senate campaign, Republican Saxby Chambliss, who received multiple student deferments during the Vietnam War, declared Bronze Star, Silver Star, Purple Heart recipient U.S. Sen. Max Cleland a fraud because his injuries were self-inflicted when a grenade fell off his belt.
And in the 2004 presidential campaign, a group of Vietnam veterans calling themselves the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth claimed that Democratic nominee John Kerry had fabricated his war exploits. They had served with Kerry, just not during the time when he had earned his multiple combat commendations.
At least half of Republicans still believe Trump’s claim that Barack Obama is foreign born.
I’m old enough to remember when there was a liberal wing of the Republican Party. No more. The purge of impure Republicans from the party began in the Reagan years and accelerated. Liberal and moderate Republicans retired or abandoned the party rather than face the vitriol, lies and repeated primary challenges from the right.
Those in the party today, with painfully few exceptions, are mostly far-right extremists who see Mueller’s investigation as a threat that must be stopped. They’ve derailed their own investigations. They’re attacking Mueller and the FBI with disgusting lies. Mueller, a registered Republican, Vietnam War hero and a lifelong public servant of unquestioned integrity, is now portrayed as a Hillary Clinton-supporting Democrat who lacks character and credibility.
Some GOP members have even called Mueller corrupt and demanded he be fired. If Mueller provides overwhelming evidence that Russia stole the election, Republicans will do nothing. Trump isn’t going to relinquish power over “fake news.” Forget the 2018 election. What’s to prevent Russia from stealing that one, too?
Dark days lie ahead. Which side you choose to support in the coming months will determine whether the republic that Benjamin Franklin and the Founding Fathers gave us is something we can keep.
Henry Riekert, a former community columnist, lives in Jessamine County. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.