The American Discourse (Nazi Symbol)

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Republican Presidential hopeful Donald Trump speaks during the 2016 Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Candidates Forum in Washington, DC, December 3, 2015 (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

Jonathan Chait observes—

There is no better symbol for the Republican Party elite in the Trump era than Gary Cohn weighing the morality of opposing Nazism against corporate-tax-rate cuts and choosing the latter. But it is also a reminder that Nazism, which several generations of Americans have grown accustomed to thinking of as an exotic symbol of pure, abstract evil, in reality represents a political faction. Trump is not a Nazi. Nor, even, is Steve Bannon. They are, however, Nazi-adjacent, and actual neo-Nazis are excited about Trump, who has emboldened and empowered white nationalists in a way nobody could have fathomed until recently. They are just another part of the party coalition now.

—and it just seems worth noting this is what has become of the American discourse.

The important parallels here are not between Hitler and Trump. While Trump, like Hitler, is racist and authoritarian, his racism is not genocidal, his contempt for democracy is instinctive rather than ideological, and he crucially lacks any plan for massive territorial conquest. What makes the history pertinent, rather, are the eerie similarities in the behavior of the right-wing politicians who facilitated both men’s rise to power.

While the pundits make puns and the analysts get anal, an obscurely petty point seems relevant: If we recall the infamous corollary of Godwin’s Law by which the first to resort to a Nazi metaphor functionally loses the argument, then of course hindsight will reveal quite clearly those elements that really were challenging the standard by forcing the Nazi discussion in order to complain. That is to say, honor among thieves be damned because it is far too inconvenient, for if there is a standard of any sort, there are those who might dispute it for reasons ostensibly logical even if erroneous, but there are also those who will dispute simply for the sake of disputing. These are, in parlance, something of a suicide pact; much like a ducking stool, they reject the legitimacy of any social convention that will not deliberately destroy itself for the sake of their satisfaction. And these are the people who have come to power.

Consider what happens when we discard basic function. Who remembers the bigot’s appeal that it is bigoted to reject bigotry? Or the hatemonger’s plea that it is hateful to reject hatred? These notions challenge absolutes, and utterly disregard function; attend demands by which justice and equality require inequality and, therefore, injustice. They were not lying when they said people underestimated them; nonetheless, they are not satisfied until other people are harmed, and at some point we must take seriously the proposition that they cannot tell the difference between the harm of harming someone, and the harm of not being allowed to harm someone.

And these are the people who have come to power.

This is where the American discourse finds itself. This is #WhatTheyVotedFor.


Image note: Donald Trump addresses the 2016 Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Candidates Forum in Washington, DC, December 3, 2015 (AFP Photo/Saul Loeb)

Chait, Jonathan. “It Takes More Than ‘Adults in the Room’ to Control a Petulant Leader Like Trump”. New York. 14 September 2018.

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