I generally disregard any politician, operative or pundit who calls people Nazis or fascists because it’s almost always over-the-top hyperbole. However, the tone of the Trump campaign certainly sounds and looks a lot like the early days of the Nazis and Mussolini’s fascists. In Italy and Germany following World War I, fascist leaders railed against minorities, communists and socialists while condoning mob violence against them.
But we don’t have to look to Europe. We can see the same strains of intolerance in our own history. White Democrats at the turn of the 20th century rallied working class whites to attack and disenfranchise African-Americans. In the sixties, Jesse Helms and George Wallace exploited racism and social upheaval to further their political careers.
Trump has built a campaign tapping into the angst and anger of working class whites, blaming immigrants and minorities for their woes. Last weekend, an African-American protester was physically assaulted at a Trump rally and after the incident, The Donald said, “Maybe he should have been roughed up.” Inciting and encouraging people to physically silence protesters shows a disturbing disregard for the First Amendment and looks a lot like American fascism.
Trump’s rhetoric has moved other Republican candidates to follow his lead. All of the GOP presidential field rushed to bash Hispanic immigrants after Trump called them “rapists” and saw his numbers rise. Nothing seems out of bounds and beating up on the people least able to defend themselves scores big political points.
In North Carolina, the mentality is creeping into Pat McCrory’s re-election campaign. In the wake of pay-to-play scandals and three years of cronyism, the governor is trying to shift the conversation to Syrian refugees and transgender bathrooms. He would much rather appeal to fear and prejudice than good government and sound policies.
Last week, after announcing that he was signing a letter to President Obama asking to halt the flow of refugees, McCrory sent out a fundraising email appeal with a screen reading “No Syrian refugees.” Clearly, the McCrory campaign saw the issue as a political opportunity more than sound policy.
Then yesterday, McCrory, out of the blue, asked Attorney General Roy Cooper to join a law suit in Virginia that would ban transgender teens from using school bathrooms designated for the gender with which they identify. McCrory’s move is a cynical attempt to force Cooper to take a stance on a divisive issue that has proven to be a wedge issue in other states. Really, though, it’s just another example of a Republican exploiting other peoples’ struggles for political gain. This time, it’s not refugees but transgender teens. What a bunch of bullies.
But then, that’s the legacy of the Trump campaign. Bullying people is good, minorities are targets, and people who stand up for them are the enemy. It’s a sad commentary on the state of the country. Let’s hope the forces of reaction lose and let’s hope that our leaders have the courage to stand up to them.