The transition of a society from liberal democracy to fascism isn’t a sudden thing. The gradual transformation must have seemed normal and sensible to a lot of Italian, Spanish, and German citizens in the 1930s. It’s worth asking today how future historians will view the America of 2018. Will they wonder why we we went along, why we didn’t seem to notice what was happening?
Several signposts are already in the rear-view mirror. The President has called news reporters “enemies of the state” and openly incites violence against them. We had an open gathering of KKK members and actual Nazis in Charlottesville, described by President as “very fine people.” Trump has repeatedly praised President Duterte of the Philippines, who literally describes himself as a fascist, and particularly likes Duterte’s program of mass murder. He has asserted more than once that he is above the law. We have Rep. Steve King, R-IA, openly and repeatedly expressing his support for fascists. We have various Republicans saying, as Ted Nugent did, that Democrats should be shot, and that people who take down Confederate monuments should be lynched, and that it’s a good thing when reporters are beaten. We have death threats against a federal judge who blocked Trump’s Muslim ban. We have numerous incidents of anti-Semitism, including one at a Republican event. And we have actual Hitler-loving Nazis praising our current administration.
So what has been happening lately?
- Trump has called news coverage of his summit with North Korea “almost treasonous.” It was not the first time he’s used the word “treason” to describe the offense of not applauding Trump.
- Since the election, Trump has attacked the news media as “fake news” 225 times. Now he is “shocked” that five reporters have been shot dead in their newsroom.
- Trump, who made a policy decision to take more than 2,000 children away from their parents and put them in cages, says that people suspected of illegally crossing into the United States should be denied due process.
- In response to outrage about that, Trump says that Democrats want illegal immigrants to “infest” the U.S.
- Trump’s State Department has officially disputed the idea that national leaders have a duty to condemn hate speech and incitement, which is at least consistent.
- Trump says he wants Americans to treat him the way North Koreans treat Kim Jong-un.
That is an incomplete list of things that have happened in just the last two weeks. We should probably all be thinking about how history will judge us for resisting, or failing to resist, in 2018.